The power of alignment – how easy is it to use your advice?

The power of alignment – how easy is it to use your advice?

In our personal life, whether in the digital world, or the physical world, we often chose services, in a large part, based on how easy they are to use.  This ‘ease of use’ is often driven by how supportive they are of us achieving our desired outcomes.

Let’s take an example, buying a camera.  People buy cameras for many different reasons, it could be they want to record their family growing up, they could be going on a special trip, or be a passionate wildlife photographer.  Each of these people will have different desired outcomes, which in each case isn’t buying a camera, it’s producing great pictures to show to people.

For a retailer, understanding these desired outcomes could be the difference between making a sale, or not and therefore it’s important piece of the jigsaw.

With the advent of e-tailers we have seen a significant consolidation of the number of physical camera shops on the high street.  Those that have survived have done so by creating very loyal customer bases.  Often what they can provide over the e-tailers, is the ability for buyers to seek pre and post purchase advice.  This is often focused on their needs and context, and helping them achieve their desired outcomes. In return they’re willing to pay a premium for this, and will likely buy additional items and services from the retailer over time.

So why is it, that in the context of professional services do we often miss the target in relation to being ‘easy to do business with’, or making our advice ‘easy to use’?  After all, as with personal life often it’s this ‘ease’ that creates positive customer feedback, repeat business, and customer loyalty.

How much time do we spend really understanding the client’s desired outcomes? How our advice will be used? The audience and users for that advice?

And even if we do spend time understanding these, and other key issues, how often during the creation of the advice do we come back and check our advice against them?

So what can we do about this?

Often the answers are all around us if we look for them. Think about your favourite brand, or shop, or airline.  What is it that they do that keeps you coming back?  How do they understand your needs?  Your desired outcomes?  And how do they adapt their service to you?

Finding ways to really understand your client’s desired outcomes is fundamental to commerciality as it links to some of the other habits such as: agreeing the scope; creating practical solutions; and communicating for impact.

So, just step back for a few moments and think about the last few engagements you’ve worked on.  How easy do you think your client found it to use and apply the advice you gave?

If you can’t answer this question quickly and easily, then it may be that a focus on habit 1, understanding your client’s desired outcomes, is a good starting point for you to increase your commerciality.

In House Advisors - how commercial are you?

In House Advisors – how commercial are you?

As a Commercial Director, I remember with sharp focus, a board strategy development workshop.  When looking at the challenges that faced us, one of my colleagues, quite vocally threw on the table that we lacked ‘commercial innovation’.  Being the only person in the room with the word commercial in my title all eyes looked to me.  The challenge was of course, no one really understood what this mythical thing called ‘commercial innovation’ actually was!

Whilst on that occasion I was the person in the spotlight, it’s a spotlight that can and often does fall on leaders of any function or in house advisors, be that finance, legal, or procurement.  And often the focus is around how well aligned are you with the business outcomes and how in tune are you with the clients’ needs.

Whilst from my experience functional teams and in house advisors, in general, are populated with skilled professionals, they often are perceived as support functions rather than key strategic enablers.  To change the dial on this what is needed, and often lacking, is evidence of how they understand and deliver in alignment with the business and client desired outcomes.

In my experience a small amount of investment in this area can pay disproportionate returns.  The best place to start is probably the simplest, to ask for feedback.  What you will often find is this action, whether performed by your team or an independent party, will firstly provide you with a wealth of insights, and secondly often turn the most ardent adversary into a strong advocate.  From experience and research, often one of the biggest complaints about in house advisors is that they ‘lack commerciality’.  Using the ‘7 habits of a commercial adviser‘ is as relevant to in house advisers as it is to your external advisers and as a framework can help you to understand your internal clients views and aspirations. It can help you develop focused plans and actions which can make your time in the spotlight a more pleasant experience!