It’s every professional’s nightmare, the frightening thought that your client is talking with a professional from an arch-rival firm. The last thing you want is some other attorney, consultant or CPA telling your clients (or your targets for that matter) just how their firm’s expertise, insights and services can help solve the client’s number one business problem.
But the reality is this is happening and it’s happening more often and in many more ways than you may have realized. In today’s hyper-connected world professional services firms can be talking to your clients 24×7. Consider the following scenarios:
- A GC is reading WilmerHale’s alert “EU Proposal on Regulation of Alternative Investment Fund Management” while on a trans-Atlantic flight
- A CFO has logged into Deloitte’s tax webcast “U.S. and Canada: Bridging the Great Divide“
- A head of HR is listening to Mercer’s podcast on “Preventive steps an important part of H1N1 response” while driving into work
- A CTO is rubbing shoulders with consultants from Tata Consultancy Services at the “Houston CIO Executive Summit“
- A CEO is reflecting on the Harvard Business Review article by Bain consultants Eric Almquist and Jason Lee entitled “What do customers really want?“
- A Chief Risk Officer just got a Linkedin connection request from an old colleague who is now a risk management consultant at Protiviti
Any one of these executives might be influenced to pick up the phone, send an e-mail or at least be open to a meeting with one of these firms that has demonstrated they understand the client’s business issues – and have insights on how to help the client succeed.
“Only the Paranoid Survive”
As Intel founder Andy Grove famously said “only the paranoid survive“. In a competitive marketplace law, accounting and consulting firms need to proactively gather competitive intelligence and respond to the marketing and relationship development moves of their competitors. Begin by asking some of the following questions:
- Do we know what our client’s key issues are?
- Do we know which of our key competitors are talking about those issues?
- Are they talking about the same issues as us?
- Do we have something relevant and different to say?
- Are they talking about different issues? If so, should we be talking about them too?
- Are there issues we’ve spotted that no one else is addressing?
- Are our competitors doing a better job than us of talking in the language of the client’s industry and business?
- Have we considered that other professionals (who are not our direct competitors) are offering solutions to the client’s overall business problem that marginalize our involvement as advisors (and reduce our fee potential)? For example, who is a client with an employee pensions issue talking to? Their CPA? Their employment attorney? Or a benefits specialist from a consulting firm such as Mercer or Watson Wyatt?
- Do we know where (physically, in print, and online) our competitors are communicating their insights? Do we know which of these venues our clients frequent?
- Do we know which professionals are building a name for themselves as true thought leaders in our key specialties?
- Is our thought leadership leading? Are our communications, speaking engagements, digital media and other relationship development activities putting us front of mind or behind the curve?
Firms that fail to get answers to these questions risk waking up one day to discover their nightmare is real. And it may end up being worse than they imagined. They may find their prized client isn’t just talking to another firm but working with that other firm on an important new engagement.
Rest assured that other firm didn’t get there by chance.
Are you leaving your client relationships to chance?
It’s now 4pm. Do you know who’s talking to your clients?