I came across this table on a scroll through LinkedIn, I think it’s fair to say that these stats make for fairly sobering reading if you work in professional services – particularly in the field of recruitment. I wonder if it’s justified? Do we train and develop our teams effectively? Many businesses still send their employees on traditional sales-based courses which perhaps are no longer fit for purpose when the end user of the service has a lot more information at their fingertips. How do we go about building up trust in a services market which is totally saturated, where people feel they must shout loudest to be heard?
The relationships which you develop within your network should be the bedrock upon which your business should be built. Let’s think about internal relationships initially; does anyone really believe that you can be credible when you don’t have the regard of your own colleagues? Being a people person doesn’t necessarily mean knowing every personal detail about your colleagues, but it does mean that you’ve taken time to understand what is important to that particular individual. If we can’t build relationships with those pulling in the same direction as us, how can we be expected to create one with someone who doesn’t value what we do yet?
Then we come to the hard bit: creating a network of people who will recommend you to their own connections when the time comes. This bit takes time, persistence and effort – perhaps the reason that so many people try to skip past it. In professional services, your true value can often be measured by your ability to connect people and facilitate introductions, in parallel of course to your business acumen. This is because it takes a whole lot of meetings: seminars, coffees, events, lunches, dinners etc. to meet, engage with and get to know people. Trust is something which comes later but to get there, you need to be prepared to do the ground work and believe that you can take something away from every meeting. The upshot of continually developing your network is that as you build a reputation for enabling and delivering, more and more people will want to work with you and help you in turn. In building our first office in Northern Ireland, we have adopted the approach of “Know us, Like us, Trust us”, which we felt was the right way to grow a business in that market. We have been prepared to put the ground work in to build the relationship, spend time with people, and hopefully gain their trust and advocacy through our delivery capability.
With that in mind, how can we demonstrate that we will do what we say we can do? It’s one thing to have a great PR team and quite another to be able to provide real evidence that you can deliver. Crucially, this must start with listening to your customer and truly understanding the problem that they are trying to fix. Do you follow up on meetings with a synopsis of the conversation and your understanding of their requirements with relevant action points? Do you make reference to your experience of similar situations and how you helped to resolve them? Do you have customers who would be happy to speak to them about their own experience of working with you? All these outcomes point towards positioning yourself as an expert in your field.
There are two ways in which “brand” could be perceived: business brand and personal brand. Let’s think about personal brand initially – how do you position yourself? From social media, day-to-day meetings and any piece of work that we present, every communication that we deliver has an impact on how we are perceived. It’s crucial that you consider your target market in each message: who does it help? How will it be perceived? Does it showcase your expertise in the given field? Showing that you understand the critical issues that affect your customers, helps to build their trust in your abilities.
The business who you represent also has a large part to play in your brand. Working as part of a business whose values align with your own makes a massive difference to how credible you are. Ensuring that the management team, along with the marketing department, are in agreement with regards to target market and key messages can ensure that each communication can add value to what you are trying to build. It’s so important that each interaction that your business has with external stakeholders helps to provide more comfort around the business’ ability to deliver. When the business’ branding aligns with your own, you then become authentic.
Pulling it all together – the reality
What it comes down to is being prepared to be patient and taking a long-term view of shaping your place in the market. Deciding to take the best route forward to create value in you and your business is not always necessarily as ‘the crow flies’. Staying true to your beliefs and behaviours, maintaining activity levels, and staying focussed and strong during the difficult moments will eventually payoff in markets where integrity and trust are valued. As your investment in building long term relationships begins to pay off, moving you into the ‘trust us’ phase, its then where your delivery capability becomes crucial to continued progress. Maintaining that growth will come down to holding your nerve and doing the right thing – even when no one is looking!
*Image source: HR Grapevine