If you could have any super power, what would it be? People typically want the power to fly, or x-ray vision, or the ability to spray maple syrup from their fingertips. As a consultant, though, you want to don a cape, strike a superhero pose and proclaim in your deepest voice, “I am the Amazing TrustMaster!”
Trust, more than any of the other Six Pillars of Consulting Success, determines which consultant a client will choose for their project. That’s why I write and teach extensively about the three components of Trust and how to build trust with individuals. But there’s more to this super power than winning individual projects.
When you move beyond Trust-building with individuals to Reputation-building at the organizational level, multiple buyers across the company will consider you the first consultant they should call. You’ll receive inquiries from decision-makers you may have never even met. How cool is that?
Similar to people scanning a product’s user reviews on Amazon.com before making a purchase, executives listen carefully to internal reviews of a consultant. Your reputation inside the company dictates your ability to branch out into additional divisions, functions, geographies, etc.
To build a five-star reputation inside a client, focus on two elements: Credibility and, more importantly, Customer Experience.
The three techniques below will increase your Credibility across the enterprise.
Building Credibility at the Enterprise Level
- Seek Internal Endorsements – Some clients won’t allow you to use their name or company in a testimonial; however, that’s rarely a problem if the testimonial is used inside the organization. Use case studies, scorecards and results from your projects to generate internal buzz about the outcomes of your projects.
- Maximize Long-Term Value – When consultants think about one decision-maker they typically strive to maximize the value for that client in the short term. At the enterprise level you have to consider how each project fits into your overall plan to maximize Total Captured Customer Value. That requires a more patient, high-level viewpoint. When you counsel, “I’d love to do this project for you, but let me show you why it’s not in your long-term best interests…” you demonstrate your dedication to the organization and build a reputation that transcends any individual.
- Outlive Your Projects – Even after your individual projects end, continue to build your reputation as a thought leader and regularly contribute helpful articles, references and tools. There are many, ongoing opportunities to increase credibility, including sharing insights and introducing valuable contacts.
In terms of Customer/Client Experience, the following nine practices will help you become the fabled, Enterprise TrustMaster!
Improving Customer Experience at the Enterprise Level
- Do Good Work – This almost goes without saying. At the organizational level you may be overseeing many projects. It’s your responsibility to stay on top of project quality, manage client expectations and ensure every engagement creates customer delight.
- Be Prompt and Responsive – Clients take note of rapid turnaround and prompt, professional follow-up after meetings. They take note and they talk about it.
- Be Easy to Do Business With – Beyond your day-to-day interactions, is working with your firm a breeze? Signs include: quick, painless negotiations; easy access to client portals and data; contact information is readily available; expense reports are detailed and accurate.
- Polish Your Touchpoints – Why leave your client’s experience to chance? Think through your key touchpoints and write down your protocols. You should have a “pre-flight” checklist for every encounter with a client, from initial meetings to proposal follow-ups to meeting summaries to periodic project updates. Every interaction matters, and no matter what is happening in your world, you should come across as positive and enthusiastic when you talk to a client.
- Create a Relationship Action Plan – If you want to work across an organization, you have to think, plan and act across the organization. The first step is mapping out the key individuals and creating a plan for meeting them and building relationships.
- Always Look Professional – Invest in top-notch materials. Like it or not, the quality of your cards and stationery make a statement about your firm. Similarly, the design of your deliverables and even the quality of your presentation templates influence the client’s experience.
- Repair Harm Immediately – Nobody expects you or your team to be perfect, but how you handle errors and gaffes is a critical part of the customer experience.
- Create Opportunities to Add Value – Focus on soft benefits to the client like prestige, status, or quality of life. Something as simple as noticing your client is mailing a personal letter and saying, “I’m running by the post office, would you like me to mail that for you?” adds value and makes the customer experience positive.
- Engage the Customer in Their Own Experience – Every project benefits from at least one, in-person work session. In addition, ask the client to touch base with you regularly, or to fill out a periodic project health assessment.
When you dust off your metaphorical cape and become a Trustworthy superhero, you’ll find more and more clients dialing your hot-line.
I’ve offered twelve practices that will power up your organization-wide Trust-building abilities. Help make it a baker’s dozen by offering another best practice below.
*This article is Part 4 of a seven-part series in which I show you how to win more follow-on and pull-through business by mastering the Six Pillars of Consulting Success at the “enterprise” level.
[Expanded versions of the articles will be pulled together into a single ebook, which will be available shortly after Part 7 of the series is released.]
Text and images are © 2019 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.