Being a more commercial adviser is often talked about in the professional services, but many people are often unsure what it means – let alone how to demonstrate their commercial awareness.
Demystifying the commercial adviser
In client feedback, clients who describe their adviser as commercial often say that this individual makes their life easier and is responsive, supportive and good at communicating with them. They add that the advice they receive reflects a good understanding of them and some even go on to say that their advisers are innovative and proactive in their approach.
Those advisers who are viewed as having a strong commercial awareness are certainly valued highly by their client contacts and, as a result, enjoy great client loyalty and endorsement.
In this blog post we list a handful of ways to adopt – and demonstrate – greater commercial awareness on a day to day basis with your clients and contacts.
Commercial awareness essentials
Be a source of strength and wisdom
Clients value those advisers who align with their ways of working. This means recognising the pressure on your client contacts in terms of their time, deadlines and stress. Find out what your contact needs to deliver to their client or internal decision-maker, as it’s important to have an appreciation of what they have to do with your advice. It really helps if you can be user-friendly in your approach. Base your recommendations on recent similar situations, what others are doing and where the market is heading.
Listen then adapt
Clients will be reassured if they feel you’ve listened to their issues and have adapted your advice accordingly. Whenever in doubt, ask your contact further questions that further clarify your understanding of the situation they’ve described. Don’t assume. You don’t necessarily need to know the entire strategy of the business, or even everything about the project in hand, but you should understand
- the wider context of your advice and
- how it will be applied in their organisation, and in the situation you are advising on.
Clients really value the proactive adviser who alerts them to issues or opportunities and seems to be thinking of them from afar. At a simple level proactivity can be demonstrated by being an additional pair of eyes and ears in their sector and highlighting a piece of relevant news to them. The client will certainly be impressed if you can come up with ideas to help them win more business- or make what they are doing easier, more efficient or more profitable. Consider warning your client of any forthcoming important deadline and offer to help them if they’re struggling.
Communicate correctly… for them
Many client frustrations often stem from a lack of, or confusing, communication from their adviser. Whilst your contacts probably don’t want you to update them with each minutiae of information, they do want to be kept informed. The key is to find a subtle balance. This comes from respecting they are busy and keeping what you say clear and concise.
Also, select the communication channels they prefer, and ask them about the frequency of communication they will find appropriate. And when a project finishes, use your commercial sense to maintain appropriate contact to see if you can add further value to the relationship. Show initiative and think, is there anything else I can do to move this forward and help this client?
Take the initiative with difficult decisions
Becoming an adviser that clients can rely on also involves having difficult conversations with them when required. Being commercial means, for example, standing your ground on fees where appropriate and recognising the value you bring to clients. It also means:
- informing them of potential over-runs earlier rather than later
- giving your opinion
- where necessary, challenging your client’s current thinking when you know it is in their interests to consider other options.
A client will be impressed, not just in the content of your advice, but also in the way you deliver it. Key to your success here will be how you scope the task at hand, plan and project manage it. That means ensuring that you and your client have an agreed understanding of the results expected. It also means breaking the project into stages and allocating responsibilities to members of your team with the right expertise. Effective communication (both with the client and within your team) will also help you to monitor the progress of the project and assess it against the agreed deliverables, including budgeted cost.
Take a broader focus
Commerciality involves giving options and fresh perspectives, as well as being super responsive and an excellent deliverer. It’s not easy, but being seen by clients as ‘more commercial’ than your competitor counterparts is a major step towards truly differentiating your approach. Adopting a commercial mind-set means recognising your technical advice is only part of the story. Asking why the advice is needed, and who your client is hoping to influence with it, can radically improve the perceived commerciality of your input.
In a highly competitive landscape advisers those who are perceived by their clients and contacts to be ‘commercial’ tend to be more successful and attract more business. If you are keen to improve your commerciality, start with these 3 simple activities:
- Make your client contacts ‘look good’ to the key people they need to impress
- Think more broadly about how you could help their organisation achieve the results it seeks
- Become an adviser that they can rely on every time
And if you feel you need to adopt greater commercial awareness amongst your team, do get in touch to discuss our coaching, training and e-learning support for this skill.