Thursday, March 29, 2007

Are You A Vendor or Advisor? A Professional Client or Client from Hell?

I’m not a vendor and neither is any advisor I hire to help my business advance. A vendor is a guy who sells hot dogs on the street corner in Manhattan...not a high-end professional services expert.

The nature of client-advisor relationships is eroding; threatened on one side by commoditization through Internet “procurement” processes and by the relationship-breaking consequences of Sarbannes Oxley on the other. Because of the nature of advisory services, a company’s decision-making process is best based on judging both a potential service firm’s technical skill as well as their advisory skills. That is, both what is done and how it is done by both the advisor and their client makes an enormous difference to the success of a client advisor engagement. In the current climate, what does excellent client advisor behavior look like and how do we measure it?

If the world is, indeed, flattening to the extent that some aspects of professional services can be outsourced overseas, what’s left for professionals in the U.S.? What’s left is to get better than ever at being great advisors.

Similarly, as companies increase their outsourcing efforts, what’s left for top executives is to improve their skills at managing outside services providers as if they were inside employees. This blog is intended to be a dialogue about how professional services firms and their clients can turn potentially commoditized company-vendor situations into high value client-advisor relationships. I suggest five key competencies that will foster the most successful engagements for both professional services firms and the organizations that hire those advisors.

· Collaboration – successful professional services providers consistently demonstrate a team-oriented approach to their client and colleague relationships. Successful clients operate as if the professional service advisor is a virtual part of their organization while, at the same time, respecting all legal and ethical boundaries.

· Creativity – successful professional services providers consistently demonstrate innovative approaches to solving client problems and to growing the client-advisor relationship. Successful clients consistently encourage their providers to provide innovative approaches to solving client problems and to growing the client-advisor relationship

· Content and Value-orientation – successful professional services providers will consistently demonstrate thought leadership on behalf of their clients. Successful clients look beyond fees and pricing of professional service firms to the total value provided.

· Capability – successful professional services providers consistently maintain and demonstrate their subject matter expertise and capabilities at the highest levels of their profession. Successful clients appropriately staff engagements with client-side personnel who meet their obligations to client-advisor projects to ensure successful deliverables.

· Credibility – successful professional services providers consistently demonstrate integrity and the ability to build and sustain trust at the highest levels of their client-base. Successful clients consistently manage professional service firm relationships in a forthright, high-integrity, intelligent and humane manner.

For more about these ideas and how they are being championed check out

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