We meet with clients every day. And we never miss a chance to ask them what they want from their professional service suppliers. When it comes to credentials meetings and pitches one of the most common bugbears – we’re told – is the trotting out of meaningless clichés. How many of these sound familiar?
“We pride ourselves on our proactivity”
“We’re highly innovative”
“We’re incredibly passionate”
These statements sound great but rarely stand up to much scrutiny. As ever, claims without proof are just corporate hot air.
However, what client does not want proactivity and innovation delivered by passionate people? They all do. They just need you to prove it, not say it.
So what can be done?
1. Proactivity: “From so many of our advisers, all we hear is, ‘what do you want?’ over and over. What we want to hear is ‘to achieve what you want, here’s what you should do and why and how.’ If you inspire me, you’ll become my consultant and not just my supplier.”
Clients are looking for demonstrable effort beyond normal day-to-day client service or just getting the job done. Going above and beyond the call of duty will differentiate the experience of dealing with your firm from dealing with any of your competitors.
Clients work under enormous time and cost pressures: they need help in getting ideas adopted internally and you can help. Not only by providing better answers but by thinking about how that answer can be best delivered. Think beyond the current brief, what client side politics might be at play? How is your client/client’s division/client’s company performing at the moment? What is the company culture? What really matters to your client? What must you fight for and what is easy to compromise or trade? Being precious or slow when the client needs pragmatism and speed is damaging. Be timely – know when to be firm and when to bend. Help the client to shine…and do it with urgency and in a language that her company will appreciate and understand.
2. Innovation: “In a world where increasingly the supplier offer is a commodity, the key rational differentiator is often difficult to tell. If you’re in the league tables, you’ll all have the capability. But over and above these things advice, insight and innovation can really differentiate.”
Your client is spoilt for choice – there’s no shortage of companies that can transact the business you can transact. But, if you dig deeper, find out more, use time productively, you’ll come up with more useful answers than the competition. Who would you listen to? Someone who says, ‘this is what I’ve found out about you and your business and here’s what we can do to help you with your issue’, or someone who says, ‘here’s what I’ve done for other people just like you in the past and here are a few general ideas on what might work’? Easy choice. If you say you’re innovative, what can you show to prove this claim? What evidence of intelligent innovation within your field or on any client business can you demonstrate? When your company’s best and brightest turn up for the client having really thought about the client’s issues it will stand out a mile.
3. Passion: “Those advisers who have the patience to build relationships and understand me and my business will be ahead when it comes to decision time.”
Passion is one of the most over utilised and misrepresented words in business today. Expressed glibly, ‘we’re passionate about your business’, ‘we’re a passionate group of people’, it’s as if saying it enough will bypass the need for true understanding. Passion in business should be a genuine interest in the client and their business that goes beyond the immediate brief so that you act in the client’s best interests at all times. Whatever the financial pressure, don’t be a cynical salesperson. Be judicious in what you take to the client. The point of having the client’s ear is so that you listen precisely to what they need – not that you sell them what you want to sell them.
If you are calm, but recognise the need for urgency, if you give honest counsel and exhibit unceasing hunger to help, if you are able to bring bad tidings but remain unshakeably onside, and solve the problem by being resourceful yet acting ‘as humbly as the dust’, you will have a client for life. And that’s a cliché we’d all be happy to overuse.
The Caffeine Pitch Academy transforms business development in professional services including real estate, finance, marketing and law by teaching what it takes to win business: the principles and practices of successful pitching & salesmanship. Contact [email protected] to learn more.
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