Too many professional services firms spend far too long trying looking for one out-of-the-box differentiator to beat all the rest. Only rarely is it possible.
Some professional services firms make the lame claim that their differentiation is their people. Let’s face it, all people are different, but good and great and kind and generous and community-spirited and glamorous and well-connected and committed and ethical and friendly folk are in just about every professional services firm.
Here’s what our research reveals as powerful differentiators which corporate and institutional clients can both discern and regard as important.
Most importantly, this cluster of six differentiators drives their buying behaviour.
- Understanding the client and their business – not just superficially, but intimately.
- Always putting the client’s interests first.
- Delivering value for money – and being accountable for results and outcomes connected with their investment in your work.
- Your strong commitment to help – enthusiastic support for them, willingness to work with them to realise their purpose, and never shying away from the task.
- Ease of dealings and communicating well – making it comfortable for them.
- Flexibility – doing it their way and accommodating client needs and changes.
There is a second cluster of differentiators of professional services firms which clients also detect.
For most clients surveyed, these differentiators are less closely linked to their current buying behaviour and intentions regarding selection of future professional services providers.
- Technical expertise – mostly a given, however, in rare areas, this is the key differentiator.
- Technology – nice to have, but not core to most service segments.
- Brand, profile, and reputation – many brands are acceptable to most of these consumers and reputation impacts more in the negative than positive.
- Range of services – the quest of so many professional services firms for the “one stop shop” is not valued by many large consumers.
- Wide geographical reach – highly relevant only to a restricted subset of these clients.
- Quality systems – clients mostly can’t tell whether they make any difference at all but think they’re probably a good thing.
The lesson: if you want meaningful differentiation, focus your efforts on the first six items which we find closely link to buying behaviour among corporate and institutional clients.
Tender readability remains a problem for some in the 21st century. I still see submission documents that cling to a handful of really old hat tender presentation and formatting techniques. I suspect this is because some of these ‘rules’ are viewed as being more appropriate to a ‘formal’ style of document such as a tender. […]