You don’t have to be a commodity. Even if what you sell is a commodity, you don’t have to be a commodity in your client’s eyes. How you behave and the results that you provide can separate you from the pack.
You can do the work and become a something your client values. You can be a strategic advantage.
Understand Their Business, Their Business Motivations, and Their Personal Motivations
You become a strategic advantage for your clients by learning their business. You don’t need to have the knowledge of a good general manager in their industry (though that wouldn’t hurt), but you do have to understand how their business works. It helps to understand their business model and to know how your client makes money. It’s useful to know what they promise and deliver to their clients.
A good working knowledge will help you to ask the right questions and to understand how you can help them with their business goals. Your dream client wants you to—scratch that, needs you to—understand their business motivations. They need you to know what outcomes that they need to move to their desired state so that you can help them to do so. They deeply hope you are the one that will (finally) help them.
Your clients also have personal motivations, too. Maybe they need results in order to advance within their department. Maybe producing a result that gets them out of their current department motivates them. Maybe they want to run the company, and they need your help to make a name for themselves by moving their department forward. Strategic isn’t always just about the business.
Understand How Your Business Creates Meaningful Value
It seems like this should go without saying. It doesn’t go without saying. To be a strategic advantage for your clients, you have to know how your company creates value.
Understanding what you do means understanding your company’s business model, understanding your sweet spot, and understanding how you really help your clients.
You can’t be everything to everyone, but you need to be something special to someone.
It’s tough to be a strategic advantage and someone worth paying more to obtain when you have a mismatch in the value you create and the value your prospective client needs.
Knowing how you do your best, most meaningful work, and knowing how that helps your client is critical to being a strategic advantage.
Help Them Make Money
Today, it’s about financial performance. You become a strategic advantage for your clients when what you do helps them to make money. It can be through increasing their revenue, decreasing their costs, or improving their profitability.
You might need to be able to prove out a return on investment, but much of the time the elimination of soft costs—removing the burdens that accompany some processes, etc.—can be enough to help your client make more money.
You need to know how you help your clients make money, and your doing so makes you a strategic advantage.
Help Them Serve Their Clients Better
In some cases, the very best way to be a strategic advantage for your clients is to become part of the value chain that delivers the value to their clients. In fact, just thinking of what you do in this light can help you rethink how you approach and discuss what it is you do to create value for your clients.
You can become a critical resource for your clients when what you do helps them to serve their clients more effectively. What do you do that directly helps your clients help their clients? What could you do? What should you do?
When you are in the deep end of the pool with your clients in serving their clients, you are a strategic advantage.
Help Them to Build Consensus
Your clients need your help in building consensus around what needs to be done to get the results and outcomes that they need. Your clients need help aligning their own organization around a solution. Your solution.
You can be a strategic advantage by knowing how to work through the stakeholders within your client’s company and ensuring that the value you create works for them as well. More and more decisions are made democratically, with leaders relying on the advice and consent of the people the decision will affect.
You become an strategic asset when you help your client align her organization in a way that helps them produce the results that they need.
Own the Outcomes
If you want to be a strategic advantage to your clients, you have to own and deliver the outcomes that you sold and that you promised. You become a strategic advantage when you take responsibility for overseeing and managing the result that you sold. This doesn’t mean that you necessarily own the transactions. Instead, it means that you own the outcomes.
It means that you are the strategic orchestrator of the team you and your client have assembled to create their future desired state.
How do you become a strategic advantage for your clients?
What do your clients need you to do to become that strategic advantage?
What do you do that makes it more difficult to be a something more than a commodity? What part of that can you stop doing?