To misquote a line from the Monty Python film ‘A Life of Brian’ “What have consultants and external resource providers ever done for us?”
I’ll answer that question with a story. Imagine you’ve been shortlisted to attend an interview by an important prospect. Time to bring your ‘A’ game. So you assemble a strong team. They all have experience of interviews, presentations, and question and answer sessions. They’ve had success in the past.
Just to make sure, you put up one of your most senior and experienced directors to demonstrate how important the contract is to you. They have the ‘clout’ and credibility to make an impression and talk about the strategic importance of the client and the contract.
Is that going to be enough to win the client over?
It will, if your competitors cobble together a second rate team of people with no bidding experience; people who have a bit of time to spare, rather than real experts. Even better if they don’t field anyone senior who can tell the client how strategically important they and their contract are.
Alas, this is not how it works. Your competitors will be working just as hard to put up experienced people and to ‘sell’ their commitment.
What looks from inside your organisation like a competitive advantage is, in reality, just levelling the playing field. And once a succession of senior executives has paraded before the selection panel telling the same story of ‘strategic importance’ and ‘valued business’, what has the client got - other than noise?
A similar message and a similar pitch, over and over. In the mind of the client, it’s ‘advantage nobody.’
You think you are the best - and so you should! But it’s what the client perceives that matters.
Now consider this. Professional team sports are not won by the most talented group of players. If they were then team managers and coaches would be irrelevant. Brian Clough would have achieved nothing in football management and Man City could save a fortune on Guardiola’s salary. Strategy, tactics, and having a clear plan for how you will win are essential, however good the elements that make up the team.
Sometimes it’s a case of staying in the game and waiting patiently for the opportunity to strike the decisive blow (not going out gung-ho to win by throwing everything at the opposition from the start).
Having the best team (not necessarily the best players) is the key to success. Creating strong teams is not something that happens overnight, nor is it a matter of chance. Teams need to bond well together. They need an almost instinctive understanding of each other and have complementary skill sets.
They need to sense when to step in and cover one another when circumstances dictate. Can you achieve this simply by putting people in a room together for a day or two and hoping that they bond?
It takes preparation, hard work, understanding and compromise by each and every person nominated to be in the team. How can you achieve this in a relatively short space of time?
Assuming time and budget are both in short supply (and when aren’t they?) one of the best ways to improve team performance to get people as familiar with one another as possible. To give them maximum understanding of their role and where this fits within the team. Let them interact with one another in a controlled environment so that they start to understand how each other thinks and behaves. But how to do this while keeping them focused on the immediate project and with limited time?
This is where a skilled coach comes in. They will create the safe atmosphere where individuals can become more familiar with the project and their role within it, while at the same time understanding their colleagues, the needs and concerns of the client (from the client’s perspective) and how their solution would resolve these.
At the same time the coach must retain the group’s focus on the immediate task at hand – to perform well at the interview. A mixture of ‘gentle persuasion’ and massive experience of facilitating such workshops in the business winning environment leads to team cohesion and a plan that everyone understands.
An external coach comes with no ‘political agenda’, nor are we uncomfortable about telling senior execs that they may not be behaving in the best interest of winning the business. Our only agenda is to help get your team in to the best possible position to win, by creating the most effective team possible. This is our particular expertise. We are as good at this as you are in your chosen sector.
We have an intimate understanding of how different behaviours can be perceived by others and how to ‘coach’ people to be aware of their own and others’ styles. We help people to make subtle adjustments to their own style in response to how clients communicate with them. Such adjustments are not merely temporary, they result in long term communication improvements.
Our final task is to ensure that we achieve as much of the above as possible while making sure that the team doesn’t look ‘coached.’
‘So, apart from helping us to clarify a winning plan, improve individual performance, communicate better, focus on clients’ critical objectives, be more distinctive, more persuasive and more focused in our bids, what have external coaches and consultants EVER done for us?’
If that’s got you thinking and you’d like to talk about these ideas a bit more, please contact me via [email protected] or ring Hugh on 01963 240555here to edit.
I have many years of senior sales and account management positions.
This experience taught me how to interpret exactly what clients are seeking, and what they need and expect to see and hear from the successful bidder. We draw on this experience to give your team an additional competitive advantage by building on their existing strengths while improving their team-working and self-awareness.