Just how do you position yourself, in a very crowded market place?
The question is important. Your answer, crucial.
At the airport you’re in the business lounge. Bored with flicking through The Economist, waiting for your long-haul flight. A silver-haired man in his fifties sits down beside you, adjusts his suit and takes a sip of his hot coffee. Feeling friendly you remark ‘hi’.
You both play the obligatory ‘small talk’ game for a while.
Then, he asks you the question. The one you’ve answered hundreds of times before, without too much thought.
“What do you do?”
It’s a question that I often tell consultants and coaches to think very carefully about, before replying.
How do you answer?
When I led the advisory company, Trinity Consulting Group, and was asked in situations like these ‘What do you do?”, I never replied “I run Trinity Consulting Group” or “I’m a senior consultant” or “I’m a master coach”. To have said that would be a huge, lost opportunity to make an impact. And, far too vague to give the person asking any clear idea.
Yet, that is exactly how a large number of professionals respond.
What I did say was something like:
“We coach, as a collective, the senior leadership team… of global companies… to accelerate their business results… especially at times when they are facing difficult, strategic problems in their market”.
I had several versions of this response. And, used variations depending upon who I was talking with.
Sometimes this resulted in ‘Oh, that’s interesting’. Occasionally, it would develop into a conversation on who were our clients, how we operated, and more. A number of times, this resulted in a relaxed social conversation, with a senior executive, that sounded like a ‘softer’ version of a first prospect meeting. Which was, precisely, my intent.
And, all because I had positioned myself carefully in responding to their initial, socially-driven, question.
We gained new business this way. More than once.
If you’re alert, you will note that my response, to the enquirer, has four main elements:
1) Coach the senior leadership team (targeted at the top tier only, as a team collectively, and not anything further down the organisation)…
2) Global companies (in terms of our target, size did matter!… international organisations, not national or local)…
3) Accelerate business results (focusing on the company performance, not the people or strategy or culture… not to improve it, or increase it, but to accelerate it – which is a word that suggests not incremental growth but exponential)…
4) Facing difficult, strategic problems in their market (not a context of ‘business-as-usual’ circumstances, or when an issue was localised).
Now, here’s the important thing. In and of themselves, each single element is specific. But, taken together they paint a picture of working a highly specialised niche. It deliberately includes a very small part of the market place, and excludes the vast majority of it.
Ironically, being niche gets you more work.
Interestingly, some of our work, as a direct result of this precise positioning, was gained ‘outside’ and adjacent to our niche.
Some may ask, how did we carry out these assignments, in our chosen arena? Well, many of you would immediately recognise a few of the consultancy methods. And, a number of them were our own creations. Additionally, coaching made up a reasonably sized part of our solutions with the client.
But, please note, n-o-n-e of your methods should play a part in your response to the ‘What do you do?’ question.
It only plays a part, later, in “How do you do it?” follow up.
Here’s the lesson in answering “What do you do?” Position yourself as helping clients with their end result. Not what it is that you do to help them get there. That part is simply your methodology.
Methods are numerous. Results are not. Clients know it.
I will be writing much more about this issue, including further ways of dealing with it, in the other areas of Clientonomy. To access this, when it becomes available, simply go now to the top right of this page and sign-up for the private newsletter.
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Now, what issues, questions, comments does this post raise with you? How do you position yourself? Are you clear enough? Has it worked for you? What are the problems? What successes have you had? What about working in multiple niches?
Please use the commenting boxes below to let the readership know your viewpoints. I want to hear them.
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I look forward to hearing your points of view.