Clients hire your consulting firm because they trust you to help them solve their problems or achieve their aspirations; because they accept your authority in your area of expertise.
Conversely, any crack in your perceived authority will weaken trust with prospects and with clients. That can trigger a precipitous drop in perceived value (and fees), likelihood to do business with your consulting firm, willingness to accept your recommendations, and eagerness to engage your firm for follow-on work.
Perception of authority, not actual authority, affects trust.
That’s why you’ve seen other consulting firms score impressive engagements although, based on their actual knowledge, experience and competence, they had no more right to win than a fluffy cat at the Westminster dog show.
Of course, as a consulting firm leader, you are used to portraying confidence in your competence. It’s a fundamental component in your ability to close contracts and to deliver results your clients happily accept.
But what about those times you’re not confident, or those times when, inexplicably, clients and prospects don’t perceive you as an authority?
Also, what about the perception of your colleagues’ authority? You may rely on others to lead parts of projects, entire projects or entire client relationships, if those associates aren’t perceived as authorities then trust, relationships and engagements are at risk.
You can sound more authoritative—credible, believable and compelling, without sounding arrogant, presumptuous or pompous.
Unfortunately, studies show that certain people start off at an advantage or disadvantage due to their gender, ethnic background, religion, socio-economic status, vocal register and even their height, perceived level of health or affection for fluffy cats.
Most of those factors you can’t control; however, the dozen distinctions below can be learned, developed and mastered.
If, for instance, you want someone in your consulting firm other than you to be able to effectively lead clients, you can evaluate them on the factors below (and others suggested in the comments), then create an improvement plan.
A Dozen Tips to Sound More Authoritative
Slumping, bent posture
Purposeful hand gestures
No hand gestures, wringing hands
Modulated tone and volume
Tears, angry outbursts, whoops of joy
Active listening, responding to questions
Poor listening, answering wrong questions or no questions
Overly casual or formal attire
Effective story telling
Telling stories that are clipped, ramble, have no clear point
Good use of rhetorical devices: repetition, analogy, metaphor
Boring language, confusing or inappropriate rhetoric
Humility, valuing other perspectives along with your own
Persistent arrogance, clearly placing others’ opinions above your own*
Confident, inclusive humor
Nervous, uneasy humor*
Reference to relevant examples and personal experience
Generic or irrelevant examples, clear lack of experience
Help improve the list. What is missing?
I would also like to hear from you about differences. For instance, are there any recommendations you think should be modified or eliminated for certain people or situations?
Text and images are © 2023 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.