Oh to see ourselves as others see us

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(With apologies to Robbie Burns)

All consultants must, from time to time, give thought to how others see them. After all, their success depends on their ability to win and keep clients.

Reputation, the ability to do well at credential presentations, and showing an understanding of an organisation’s needs, are key parts of this – it is how people’s perceptions are formed.

Do clients think the consultancy is capable? Too big, too small, too inexperienced, or too expensive?

For our part, we need to ask ourselves: have we understood the brief?  Can we communicate our ability effectively?  Are we seen as driving what is wanted, being a good fit and easy to work with?

These are the sort of questions that we try to answer when we talk to prospective clients.

BCV (Before Coronavirus) we surveyed a number of senior marketing executives to help us better understand what financial services organisations sought from their communications advisers.  The results gave us interesting insights into what they valued and, in some cases, what they thought about us.

It has helped overcome some of our insecurities such as size (it doesn’t matter) and cost (some go for expensive, some don’t), and reinforced our view on what clients see as key strengths, such as understanding technical information, industry knowledge, developing and placing content, and being part of the team.

As some respondents were happy to put their name on their replies, we were truly able to see ourselves as others see us.

It was satisfying to see characteristics we believe are our strengths repeated back to us. For instance, dealing with senior consultants, not feeling they were training people who were inexperienced, getting value for money, the importance of developing and placing content, and ability to relate to executives quickly so that their time wasn’t being wasted.

So it was a very worthwhile exercise and confidence boost.

Having said that, the survey also showed it’s a case of horses for courses.  There’s a place for a variety of consultancies big and small.

We know that no matter how hard we might be trying, relationships with clients sometimes change and come to an end.  We also know that we are not going to win all competitive pitches and that there are no prizes for coming second.

But for all businesses, understanding how they are seen by their clients or customers, and what their most useful skills or attributes are, are a necessary part of their success.