My NYC Taxi Cab Advice

Last Friday evening during rush hour in New York City, I was walking down the street in a tough neighborhood. I was walking a little briskly to a busier intersection to find a cab (that's what you do in NYC) when all of a sudden this cab pulls up from behind me until he was parallel with me. I thought: what a surprise. On a Friday evening during rush hour and this cab pulls up right behind me. What luck!  So I hopped in.

I asked him, "How did you know I needed a cab?" I expected him to tell me: Hey idiot, you were in a suit, in the wrong neighborhood, on Friday night--need I say more?

He didn't. Instead he said, "I had to pull over and call my girlfriend." So much for karma.

We had a long ride--so we started joking about me in this neighborhood (I was doing work with a nonprofit). Then he asked what I did. I told him. He said he was going to college and did not know what he wanted to do.

I said,  "Whatever it is, be a good one." How? he asked.

I said, Really? Do you really want to know. Because I will tell you.

He said, Yes so enthusiastically I could not help myself. I said here's a lesson that turned m life around: read for one hour each day in your field. Whatever your field is -- read a book, take notes, and apply the lessons. Do this for one hour each day and you will not believe what happens.

I went on: One hour a day equals about a book a week (for me it's one book every two weeks). Get up an hour earlier each morning. Study. It does something to your brain, but it does something to your outlook on life. You start vibrating this positive energy. Other people feel it. More importantly you feel good.

This only happens if you read something in your field or inspirational. I told him to go to the library; they have free books there. (You can't beat free can you?)

I told him if he really wanted to be rich, add to this formula: check out the CDs from the library. Get the CDs of Brian Tracy and play them in your taxi over and over. I said, "you have a CD player in here don't you?" He pointed to the CD player excitedly.  Confirmed--check.

I went on, "First, and most importantly, the CDs will reprogram your mind. They act as a coach and remind you what to do. Second, the people in the cab will either think you're a genius or nuts. The people who think your nuts are the people you probably hang around today. The people who think you are a genius are probably rich, well off, happy in their work. And they are looking for enterprising people who are working on themselves--to make themselves better--people who are taking a responsibility for the direction of their lives."

He then said something odd: "My goal is to retire at 35."

I did not laugh, but I wanted to. "Thirty-five," I said, "you're just getting started and you're thinking about retiring? If you do what I am saying, by thirty-five you will be so successful, you will see work not as work, but as a hobby. Work is for poor people. People who are successful see work as part of their well-being. They are not workaholics; they are, instead, on a mission. The most successful want to grow and get better-- and make a difference in other peoples lives. 'Work' isn't work for them--it's a game." Then we both said "It's a hobby" at the same time. He was clearly getting my message.

This went on for forty-five minutes back to my hotel. I asked him: "Am I being too direct? Am I giving you advice you don't want to hear?"

"No," he said, "Everything you said is what I have been searching for. You got me excited. I cannot believe I met you. This is like God sending you to me in a way to help me. Everything you said here in this ride is what I needed.  I cannot believe I picked you up. I am going to college and I am not sure what to do. Now I have a plan."

I like helping people. But I have learned not to push people on success anymore. But I must admit I was excited that he was excited. He even got a call from his girlfriend during the ride and told her he could not talk right now that "this man (me) is giving me the best career advice."

We were getting closer to my destination. He said -- "I want to write you and ask you which books to read." Like I said, he was very excited.

I gave him my email address. But I said: "Go to the library first. Do it tomorrow. Ask the librarian where the books on the subject of 'success' are. And go pick out some books--but don't become worried as you will see a ton of books on how to be successful. Pick out one or two that speak to you. After you do that, then I will give you my favorites--I want you to do this first as my favorites may not be your favorites."

He last words to me were: "I will email you tonight!"

That was Friday night. That next day, Saturday, I looked through my emails. Nothing. I wanted to carry through with my promise. I felt good about helping him--if I could. I was committed: So I looked through my spam filters. Nothing.

Sunday morning--I am still committed to helping if I can. So I did the same thing: I looked at my email. Nothing. Spam filters: Nothing. Went back twice, just to be sure. Still nothing.

This is a lesson that I have learned a while ago about people who ask me for advice. When I give them the advice, I don't worry about whether they will do it or not. I am not as free and casual about it. But maybe someone will listen. So I give them "the advice." I say "You have to learn. Learn what other successful people did and do. Become an expert in your field. One hour of reading and study in your field every day will make you an expert in three years; nationally renown in in five years; internationally renown in seven."

Not many will follow this advice. Few want to work hard for something. They give up at the first sign of hard work. The information is available for the asking. It is free --that's what gets me. Free. The rich and successful people put it all out there.

Some people just plow through life--unhappy--wondering why if I go to bed at 11:30PM every night, watching the bad news right before going to sleep, why I am so tired the next morning?  They are not looking for ideas and "stealing" the ideas of the successful to apply to their lives as a means to by-pass some of the "tough breaks." They don't go to bed early, they don't wake up early. They don't use that "golden hour" in the morning to study and train and prepare themselves.

Maybe you heard this before: Ben Franklin said "Early to bed ..." well you know the quote. At least I think you know it. Did you think he was just writing a poem or trying to be cute? And old Abe Lincoln said, "I shall study and prepare myself, for some day my chance will come." 

So what's this mean? It means that this taxi cab driver was handed the keys to a Mercedes Friday night. Perhaps even a Maserati. He was handed the keys to a lifetime of potential opportunity at minimum and if applied certainly a modicum of success. But he didn't grab them. He didn't take the keys. Somewhere between my hotel and when the sun came up the next morning, he lost his enthusiasm. He did not follow through.

To me it was a little disappointing. For you it means one less person to compete with.

Client Leadership - What Warren Bennis Can Inspire

If you have not heard of Warren Bennis, then you are probably not familiar with one of the best pieces of writing on leadership. Warren was a professor at the University of Southern California and was probably one of the most notable experts on leadership. He has written many books, and it's hard to say which one is best or what one resonates with me the most. All his books seem to resonate with me.

He was, in my opinion, an artist. I believe he tried to be a scientist, with his study on leaders, but when it came down to putting his findings into words, the words turned out sentences and the sentences turned out paragraphs which are pieces of art. Some say the writing is a form of poetry. But art is probably the better description, as his words speak softly about the humbleness of leadership and it's duty to others and the key characteristics that the good leaders exemplify.

It's difficult to describe the flavor of gentleness and at the same time the passion I am trying to convey about the strength of his writing. I love his book, On Becoming A Leader. I am reading it, for what, maybe the tenth time? This book after reading it so many times embodies the art I am trying to describe. The rightness and the subtly of the messages Bennis of what is important and have us as readers synthesize requires rereads of the many ideas and concepts. And yes, that's the right word, synthesize. It requires the reader to synthesize his writing.

I can recall reading his first book that launched him into the limelight Leaders: Strategies for Taking Charge. I didn't understand a word of it. I was young, a newly minted manager, stumbling around trying to motivate people and trying to get people to be what I thought was important--or said another way--like I was, which I thought was a good idea. What a disaster that was. I am surprised I wasn't fired. Or at least demoted. But people put up with me. And my subordinates? Well they smiled and did what they wanted.

Applying Leadership to Our Clients
I look back at that time in wonderment. But who cares about me. This is about clients. How can leadership be applied to winning and keeping clients?  One word: a lot. Okay, that's two words.

Mastery of what you do is important to clients. Leadership is a component of mastery. And mastery is a component of leadership. One without the other is empty. You can't lead others without mastery of understanding people, your services and solutions, and how you help your clients. Without these you can't advise clients.

Here is Warren Bennis: "The leader hasn't simply practiced his vocation or profession. He's mastered it. He's learned everything there is to know about it, and then surrendered to it. For example, the late Freed Astaire mastered the choreography, and then surrendered to it. He became one with it, so it was impossible to say where he stopped and the routine began. He was the routine."

To win and keep clients, the best professionals master their business. They become one with it. It is hard to say where the professional stops and the business begins. The client who says, "I feel like he is part of our organization" reflects the outer edges of what I referring to.

Here is Warren Bennis again, "Such mastery requires full concentration, the full deployment of oneself."

Dedicate yourself and your business to your clients. Become one with your clients' business. In the end, the client will appreciate the value that brings to their business. Most importantly, you will appreciate it--as you will see the decided and marked difference this brings to your business and fulfillment.

Differentiate or Die

"If you can differentiate a dead chicken, you can differentiate anything," said Frank Perdue.

Differentiation takes some thinking. Nothing comes easy except for not thinking.

Sure, the marketplace is tough. There are more competitors than ever before. Our products, services and ultimately the final solution proposed to the client, all look alike. Or do they?

Your products, services, and solutions only look alike if you do not know what the client wants and why they want it. And your solutions only look alike if you don't know how to align the advantages your "solution" to what the client wants and address the client's critical issues. Understanding why a client wants a particular solution is important to defining your solution and finding points of differentiation.

Looking back at your current clients and understanding why they bought from you and your firm is another critical and required step. You can also learn a lot by understand why your competition beat you. Looking back over your company's past wins and losses, and applying those insights against what this new client wants can give you something your new prospective client does not have: insight. This insight is valuable, but only if you can frame it in such a manner that your new prospective client not only understands intellectually, but also appreciates the value of your insight. Insight must have some significance to the person(s) to whom you are  talking to.

Frank Perdue understood this. And he understood this from a mass market appeal. If he could understand this, so too can you. Not because you are smarter than old Frank was, but because Frank had a much tougher product to differentiate to the average consumer who usually bought chicken "on sale" or bought the lowest price per pound. After all, what's the difference between two dead chickens? Now that's a hard question to answer.

Your product, services and solution has multiple points of differentiation. Frank had to stretch to find his. How could he possibly differentiate a dead chicken from another brand lying right next to his in the supermarket?

Still not feeling great about differentiation?

Maybe you ought to thank God you don't sell water.

Great Sales People Cannot Fix Declining Sales

The world of selling has changed since yesterday. A lot of the changes we see in the world today have come through technology--primarily how people interact and get their information. These technological changes have also brought about other changes. Frankly "brought about" is a polite term that masks the dramatic and sweeping changes we have seen in corporations and government that all of us are far too familiar with. These changes are "oh yeah, so what" things now because they are now "normal." Nevertheless these changes are critical to how we operate today.


One of the big changes brought about by technology is the broad and sweeping competitors that come from all over the globe. You may remember a time when your major competitors were companies from the US. Now competition comes from India, China, even the old Soviet block countries who would not even dream of competing in the western world of business as it was for them, against their philosophy.


Think about that for a minute. But don't stop thinking there, because what was once accomplished through face-to-face selling is now being accomplished through a website. Sales people used to fight for a customer's business on the basis of their product's features and functionalities and benefits versus your product's features and functionalities and benefits.

Today many of these same products or similar products all look the same--except for minor variations that are difficult to articulate. This is commoditization. Commoditization  makes price the ultimate distinguishing factor for so many decision-makers. If price is the ultimate deciding factor, what is the role of the sales organization?

Who needs a sales force to show the customer their product is cheaper? Who needs a sales force for that? The correct answer is you don't. This is one of the biggest mistakes managers and executives don't understand they are making when they want to boost sales.
The best sales person, cannot make a commodity not a commodity.

Looking for Lowest Price is in Our Blood

The idea of shopping for the lowest cost product is not new. What is new, however, is we forget to recognize is how deeply this has become ingrained in our culture. Just look at the hoards of people who wait for "black Friday" hoping to get a better deal, or the rise of eBay where people are hoping to win something at a lower price point because everyone is bidding to buy something at a lower price point. Something else we do not recognize readily, is how this mindset has impacted our  marketplace.

Commoditization has seeped into our strategic services and solutions. Product and service marketing people have become lazy and have not taken the time to figure out how to reposition their services and solutions to pull their products and services and their companies out of the quicksand.

The Search for a Quick Fix

The easiest and seemingly simplest solution to declining sales and revenues is to hire "good sales people to get us out of this mess." The thinking goes, these "good sales people" have a rolodex of names, contacts who are so loyal to these "good salespeople" that they just buy from them; and these sales people can hit the ground running.

This approach is a solution with it's foundation based in a hiring strategy. This hiring strategy is rooted in a very false premise, that people (future customers and clients) will buy anything from  sales people. Even bad products.  Or so that's theory anyway. By the way--it's a theory that has proven false over and over again. Actually it's an ignorant or even stupid premise. I could go into a lot of detail here why it is an ignorant premise but I won't--except if you think about this premise, it means that sales people have such a loyal fan base of customers that this fan base of customers will buy anything they sell.

This way of thinking is done by some very superior minds. Except they are superior minds in other aspects of the business. But not the client-facing aspect of the business.

A Dose of Reality--the Market's Reality

The thinking is too narrow and it is too incomplete. If you have a bad product (or service) a great sales person is going to have poor sales--period. The problem here is, great sales people before being recruited are smart enough to know to ask the recruiter, "What is the product and why isn't it selling?" The great sales people may ask the same question differently by asking, "What makes your product better than all the rest?"

Here's a chart for you to review and digest. See if this makes sense to you. If it does, and it should, it is a simplified version of what we are discussing.

You cannot talk your way out of this.  These are the facts. A great salesperson, even if you could persuade him or her to come over and join your firm, will not come to sell a less than good product or service. This factor, is one of the reasons these salespeople are truly great. Another factor that makes them great is they will not sell inferior products or services to their clients.

Here is the warning I am trying to make: don't make the mistake of not looking at your products as the culprit or at very least part of an overall solution strategy.

There is good news. At least I hope it is anyway. Very few firms sell only a product or service alone. There are other components that go into an overall solution. More on this in the next post.


The Mask of Authenticity

There's a lot of buzz right now about being authentic. So more and more people are putting on the mask of authenticity.

"I am being authentic," they silently scream. Some not so silently. Some people are just plain rude and ill-mannered. And these are professionals who make a lot of money by most people's standards.

What we need is less authenticity and more politeness, more decorum, more professionalism. If you need to be authentic do so, but please, don't mistake being authentic for rationalizing your ill-mannered behavior. And don't think being "authentic" will make you better if you aren't.

I remember a group of engineers sitting around a conference room table talking about how to win business. Even though none of them had been outside of the cement walls to even meet a client, let alone explain how the solution may meet the client's needs, they all had an opinion--strong opinions. The harder they voiced their opinions, the more it sounded like they had years of experience winning business.

One senior engineer said, "Just be yourself. That's all you need to be." As if that was the key to winning business and the final statement.

Not being an engineer and someone who spent a lifetime in front of clients, I couldn't take it any more. It was not my best showing when I said, "Yeah, like you were when you interviewed for this job and you wore a suit and tie and you practiced and rehearsed all the possible questions the interviewer would throw at you."

I am not sure they got my sarcasm. But they would have if they would have looked at the clothes they were wearing (they were dressed in clothes I wouldn't be seen cutting my grass in). That is they were not wearing the suits they interviewed in, when they were "just themselves."

I think this sums up what I am trying to say. One client said to me, "I want people to be themselves. Unless they are assholes. Then I want them to be someone else."

Be yourself if you are a Prince (or a Princess). But since most of us aren't, (I'm not that's for sure), we have to work at being charming, delightful, and professional. Maybe authenticity has more to do with the slogan of 12-step programs: fake it until you make it.


If You Think Keeping Clients Satisfied is Hard, Try Losing and Having to Replace One

Does it seem to you that companies are only paying lip service to customer satisfaction? Have you gone to the store and asked for help only to feel like you are being extremely bothersome?

A Culture of Poor Service, Low Expectations, or Have We Become Boiling Frogs?
When we call our service provider for cable TV or internet services, how long have all of us been put on hold to change a service, get someone to help us, question a charge, or set up an appointment for installation?

And why is it that I am saying "thank you" instead of the customer service rep saying "thank you"? Who teaches these customer service people, who seem to be more surly every day, to say, "No problem" to our "Thank you"? Why am I even saying "thank you" to them?  When did this start?

I think Chick-fil-A has it partially right when they wait on us, with, "My pleasure" in reply to our "Thank you" as we reach across the counter for our trays of food.

But even then, shouldn't their response be "No, no, no! Thank YOU!!"? With a big emphasis on the YOU.

Have we just become numb to bad service? Have we all just given up? Have we become the boiling frog in the pan of hot water that we don't even notice that the water is beginning to boil?

And, because we are numb, has our low expectations drifted into providing poor service to our clients too?

Are We Expressing Our Appreciation Very Well? At All?
Many of you don't provide commodity services, don't place chicken sandwiches on trays, and don't answer cable service problem phone calls. We provide strategic, big ticket items. Which makes this all the more important. When clients choose our firms to solve their big problems or achieve their big goals, shouldn't our management (or you!) make a big deal of reaching out to their organization's leadership to let them know how much we appreciate their business?

Didn't we all do this at one time? Why not now use this as an opportunity to differentiate yourself at the professional level by having this conversation to explain that we want to create such a great value-based relationship. Even more, that we look at this as an opportunity to develop a lifelong approach to keeping their business by keeping them satisfied. And even more--helping them establish value to their customers.

Shouldn't management be saying to clients who buy our services and solutions, "Look. You placed a great deal of confidence in us with your order. I want you to feel free to tell me how we are doing ANY TIME. Here is my business card--my cell phone number and my email address. Let me know what we need to do if you are ever even slightly unhappy. Call me day or night--weekend or holiday." Do people still do this? And really mean it?

I think too many people say after winning a piece of business, "God, (there are no atheists in this business) now we have to implement this." Or they think this, I have to get to back to my laptop and look at the 400 emails that I missed (that say nothing by the way).

I believe all clients could use better service. I believe all clients want better service. Who doesn't? And without the almost silent groan of being bothered.

Has the cable service call center industry with its poor service seeped into our business culture? Where is that. "I am so glad you called. Tell me how I/we can be better?" Or even the, "You bet. Let me see what we can do to help you" attitude we all once had when our clients asked us for help.

Perspective: A Matter of Looking Backward from the Future
For perspective try losing a client--lost revenue and margin (i.e. profit, jobs, yours and mine). And then remember the hoops you went through trying to steal a competitor's client to replace that business you lost.

I can tell you this much--if you think your client was hard to deal with, your competitor's clients are even harder to deal with.

My point is this in case I am being indirect: KEEP YOUR CLIENTS HAPPY. It is the little things that count. Both good and bad. Do you do little things for your clients? Do you let them know you did this little thing for them? It's the little things that add up to become big things.

What Do Clients Want? The Little Things Matter
What kind of little things do clients want? In my research (see the book Clientize, the study of exceptional professionals, below) I found that clients want someone who manages their account to understand their priorities, solve problems before being asked, take responsibility when problems occur, report ahead of time--issues and challenges and how you recommend they be addressed, ideas and opportunities--even if your firm does not provide the services.

Of course this only scratches the surface. But they want professionals who are observant, not oblivious.

Become Observant and Get Aligned With The People
Doing the little things is a matter of being observant. Look for ways to help. Straighten up the picture that is hanging off center. Read their earnings report to understand their challenges. Understand the clients pressures--from an organizational perspective and a personal perspective (stuff flows downhill).

Make working with you easy. How? Talk the client's language--if they speak ROI--you speak ROI. If the client speaks using words like: "I need a clear picture to see how this would work." You don't try to explain to them how it works. You draw a picture on the whiteboard so they can see a clear picture.

Don't say, "I understand how you feel. I feel we can get a firm grasp on the situation if we get hold of the data we can dig out of this."  If you are not sure what I am referring to here, then look at Clientize. Clientize helps you gain the perspective of the client--the specific individuals you are dealing with. Here's a hint: feel, firm grasp, hold, data, dig.

Why is this important? Because you want to speak the client's language to gain and provide quick understanding. If you don't you are going to make the client feel like you are walking up the down escalator at Macy's the say before Christmas.

Grab a Mirror and Check Your Attitude
More important, maybe you'll find that it isn't your clients that are difficult to deal with after all. Perhaps it is the image in the mirror and the attitude you reflect to your clients and the staff supporting your clients.

Clientize--Why Clients Buy From Exceptional Professionals
Want to win clients and keep them for life? Find out what exceptional professional do in the study of clients and how professionals make the difference in creating lifelong clients.

Buy the book on Amazon right now. Click this link to Clientize.

Clientize--"A Landmark Book" The Survey that Will Change How You Approach Clients

How To Win Clients--What Exceptional Professionals Do
"Clientize: Who Gets In, Stays In and Why is a landmark book, with thoughtful analysis, certain to become a widely referenced guide for illuminating the darkness surrounding clients selection behaviors. Murphy provides an extensive assessment, examining the mistakes wrought by self-centered professionals and his 7 Strategies to Win Lifelong Clients should serve as a 'gut-check' for conscientious professionals everywhere; reminding us of our vulnerabilities and forcing us to validate our strengths."— Patrick J. McKenna, seasoned management consultant, co-author of First Among Equals and acknowledged contributor to The Trusted Advisor.

The 400-page client survey and study that will change how you approach winning clients and how to keep them for life. The survey that reveals what exceptional professionals do--and how you can move from good to exceptional without tricks or manipulation, but by being genuine, observant, caring, and focused on the client's needs first and foremost.

This book is now available for Amazon Kindle users. You can get the book here for a limited time only for a deeply discounted price. Click Here for your Copy of Clientize--Who Gets In, Stays In, and Why


Be Genuine. Unless, of course, you are an jerk. Then be someone else.

We have all heard the admonition: "Be genuine." And we have heard, "Be who you are." But I am here to tell you that it's okay to be who you  are, unless you are a jerk. Then, be someone else, please.

We all know people who are genuine. And they are prima donnas. Some are defensive. And then there are the ones who are sociopaths.  These are the people we wish would be a little less genuine; and just for the record, be someone else. Please.

A client said to me a while ago, and I still believe it holds true today, it's easier to do business with someone you like than it isn't. In fact, clients (note this is plural) have told me in my interviews with them, they avoid doing any kind of business with people they don't like, if at all possible. They said they will take a technically inferior solution over having to deal with a jerk for the long haul.

Why is this?

Honesty--We Think We Are

The answer is: it's too hard to deal with some people. Certain people are so negative. And they justify their negative point of view with: "I'm just being honest." Let's face another fact: A little less honesty please.

Honesty is often in the eyes of the beholder. Of course I am not talking about lying or cheating or stealing. I am talking about the honesty that is colored by our own lens of the world. We tend to judge other people's motives and ideals based on their color, religion, political party, and where they went to school.

Too Much of the Wrong Type of Judgment

And please don't tell me you don't judge others, because if I told you, "He went to Harvard," your immediate reaction would probably be one or more of these: He must be smart. He had money. He couldn't get into MIT.  (that last one is a joke so lighten up people)

Of course if you really truly don't have an opinion about this, then I am happy to see that the Dalai Lama has decided to read this post. Thank you Mr. Lama.

Be Nice

So let's stop kidding ourselves. Don't be genuine. Instead be nice, and be smart. But please be nice. No more backroom engineering how the world should revolve around me. No more subterranean thinking of how can I score a point and look good or make someone look stupid in the next meeting.

Be genuinely nice. Pass the credit to others. Be able to say, "That was Mary's idea. I liked it so much I am now using it like it's mine. But truly, it's Mary's."

In addition, be able to say, "I don't know" when you really don't know. Be certain and feel proud, that you truly don't freakin' know. Be certain of your  uncertainty; because in reality we really don't know how things will turn out; and there is too much to know about everything. So get with the "I don't know" program.

Of course, I am not saying become a doormat. Nice doesn't mean not looking out for yourself, but it does mean not looking out for yourself too much, especially when your pride comes into play.

Do, however, be certain of this certainty: clients will buy from people who are nice, considerate, smart, savvy, and who are competent. Remember, confidence before competence, is pretense. I read that somewhere. And since I am truly being honest, I am uncertain what it means. But I do get the gist of it.

We Are All Someone Else's Asshole

Last. a note of caution.  A successful financial advisor once told a group of us, "We are all someone's asshole." That left me thinking. I hope this give you a place to pause and think.

PS - an addition here: "Confidence before competence, is pretense," I believe came from Stephen Covey out of his Principle-Centered Leadership book. I have to look it up, because I did Google it, and I came up with nothing. If I find he didn't say it, maybe I can take credit for it. Nah. Someone else said this; I am not as smart as I think I am. I'm just being honest, because I did not go to Harvard (or MIT).


How To Increase Your Value in the Eyes of Your Prospective Clients

Here are a series of questions that you may want to know the answers to in order to differentiate you and your services and be a success with your clients:
  • How do professionals increase their value in the eyes of their clients? 
  • What is it that the best professionals do that allow them to grab the attention of prospective clients who are too busy to see anyone else?
  • Why do clients prefer to do business with one firm over all the others?
  • How do professionals turn onetime customers into lifelong clients?
These are questions I have been asking for years. I have been, in a word, obsessed. I have wanted to know the secret to why certain firms won a majority of clients business ever since I entered the workforce.

I am pleased to say, that I believe I have actually "discovered" the patterns of why clients choose one firm over all the others vying for their business.

I used to think clients bought products and solutions and services based on their advantages over competing products, solutions, and services. Then I thought it was advantages as well as costs.

Perhaps these aspects were reasons why clients bought at one time. But, as everything does with time, things change. Today clients are more sophisticated, have less time to just meet with vendors, and are walking the razor's edge because the people responsible for delivering client shareholder results, need ideas, solutions, and strategies to achieve their business objectives. And if you cannot help achieve their business objectives, you are noise.

Here is what clients want from you today--if you desire to become the best professional you can possibly be.

Enhancing Your Clients' Strategic Plans

The best professionals, the top people in their industry, have learned the value they bring is highest when it is aligned to their clients' strategic plans. This means your value comes from your ability to properly apply your services to the most critical aspects of your clients' strategic plans.
As a professional, you do not have to be a strategic planner for clients; it does mean that clients have to have strategic plans and do the strategic planning. Strategic plans are always the client's responsibility. The responsibility for strategic plans cannot be outsourced. Yes, strategic plans can be helped along with the likes of consulting firms like BCG, McKinsey, and Accenture. Accepting the plans and implementing them belongs to the responsibility of the client's stakeholders. Helping clients achieve their objectives is where you as a professional comes in.

Your Role and Responsibility as a Winning Professional

The best professionals understand their value comes in the execution of the strategy, and therefore this defines the professional's role and responsibility. The role and responsibility of the professional providing strategic services and solutions is to accelerate the objective of the client's strategic plan, ensure its success and the desired outcomes, and if possible, increase the overall measurable business results.

As a professional, you must understand the value you and your services bring to clients. You are able to reduce time, ensure the objectives are achieved and improved through your services. You apply your services to the client's business operations. In the end, to be of value, you, not your firm, not your colleagues, and certainly not your client, has to know how you and your services impact the following:
  1. Reduce the time horizon to achieve the client's strategic objectives,
  2. Ensure the objectives are achieved, and/or
  3. Increase or improve the value of the client's objectives.
If you cannot address one or several or all of the criteria, you are not thinking strategically or your services are a commodity.

Action Exercises

  1. Make a commitment to study your current clients' measurable business results that they have gained through the use of your services and solutions. Do this today. Tomorrow is too late.
  2. Every project you begin needs to start with a baseline of the client's current achievements and operations. This means how is the client currently performing? How many widgets are being produced? How much does each widget cost to produce? How long does it take to produce one widget? Ten widgets? How much executive time and attention is devoted to the production of widgets? Could the time and attention be devoted elsewhere, somewhere more valuable? (the answer is always yes) Baseline, baseline, baseline. Always baseline. So many consultants, professionals, and technicians never think to baseline because they are too busy and are impatient to get started. Don't be one of them.
  3. Be able to articulate your value in terms of the measurable business results (MBRs) using the criteria (one through three) above. Write the answers to these questions in as complex language as you desire. The point is do it--don't try to perfect your answers here or you will never get started. Perfection is your enemy at this point. Then, once your answers are written, rewrite and rewrite until you can boil all your technical jargon out of your statements to the point where your 16-year-old daughter or son can understand them (if you can get them to sit down long enough). Make your statements in plain English. Be able to say them articulately and clearly when writing and speaking.
  4. Put your value where your mouth is. Your value is so crystal clear and you are so assured of the value you can bring to your clients that you are more than willing to place these terms in a statement of work or contract. Don't believe you can deliver? Then you are not going to compete the way you can and should and you will be relegated as a commodity competing on price and margin reductions for the remainder of your career (which may not be that long).
  5. GO OUT and MEET as many prospective clients that have similar needs to the results you can deliver. Test your message--until you break through the noise and clutter that is preoccupying the client's mind and gain the client's attention through results rather than the superlatives all the other vendors are hawking--because now you stand out. You are different. You bring value and you have moved to the top of the heap, and you are in an entire different category of providers from the perspective of the client. You have moved to delivering value and achieving their strategic objectives, up from a vendor hawking features, feeds and speeds.

The Triple Filter Test - by Socrates

In ancient Greece, Socrates was reputed to hold knowledge in high esteem. One day an acquaintance met he great philosopher and said, "Do you know what I just heard about your friend?"

"Hold on a minute," Socrates replied. "Before telling me anything, I'd like you to pass a little test. It's called the Triple Filter Test."

"Triple filter?"

"That's right," Socrates continued. "Before you talk to me about my friend, it might be a good idea to take a moment and filter what you're going to say. That's why I call it the triple filter test. The first filter is Truth. Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to tell me is true?"

"No," the man said, "Actually I just heard about it and..."

"All right," said Socrates. "So you don't really know if it's true or not. Now let's try the second filter, the filter of goodness. Is what you are about to tell me about my friend something good?"

"No, on the contrary..."

"So," Socrates continued, "You want to tell me something bad about him, but you're not certain it's true. You may still pass the test though, because there's one filter left: the filter of usefulness. Is what you want to tell me about my friend going to be useful to me?"

"No, not really."

"Well," concluded Socrates, "If what you want to tell me is neither true nor good nor even useful, why tell it to me at all?”


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