Clients buy innovation consulting when their careers are at risk. The innovation consultant needs to listen in order to collect as much information related to his client’s career dynamics. Here’s more how to sell innovation consulting?
I/ Clients buy innovation consulting when their career is at risk
The most important element to understand is that a client will make a decision to call upon an innovation consulting firm if his/her career is at risk. This is the most important driver of getting to any decision. If this condition is not met, then, more often than not, decisions regarding starting on innovation project will tend to drag on, and on and on over many weeks, many months. Today most French companies are primarily owned by investors that want to get out as much money as possible when they sell their stock. This creates, at every level of the organization, great instability.
- One time, in my career, I was working with a member of the executive committee on an innovation project. When we first met, we agreed to draft a proposal.
- But, by the time it was signed, he had been notified that he was out. Fortunately for me, the project was still on. So we started working with a new team until, 6 months down the road, this team was out, too.
- When we finally delivered the results, we presented our results to a new team, which was basically the third we had been dealing with since the beginning of our discussions.
I’m amazed to see how high the turnover has become at executive levels.
II/ High C-level turnover is cross-industry trend
Executive team turnover is high because of multiple consequences including:
- Mergers and Acquisition
- a change in the company’s strategy requiring a new set of skills
- wary investors
In this kind of erratic context, where unpredictability seems to be the rule more than the exception, it makes sense that leaders focus more on surviving through all these changes, than working for the corporate good. I apologize if this sounds cynical. But this is the reality as I see it.
So to sum up : executive leaders don’t have the time to invest in understanding every single supplier expertise. Executives just need to know that the chosen supplier will help them :
- survive on their job a little longer
- rise in the company by getting more responsibilities and more clout.
So, my first point is the following: people make decisions if and only if they sense that their careers are at risk. They hire innovation consultants to help them survive on their job. Now, what is this mean about listening and what to listen to?
III/ Listening means collecting information on career dynamics
This means that when an innovation consultant meets an executive leader he needs to understand, beyond the facts, beyond the operational context, the career-related elements that are often conveyed implicitly and that deal with career advancement and internal rivalries. Often, when a client says that he wants to bring more value to the company, what this means for him and his career, implicitly, is that he wants to acquire more clout, play a more important role and enjoy greater C-level visibility in order to become indispensable to the corporation. If the client can achieve this, he’s almost assured to stay on the job, survive, and grow within the company. That’s why innovation consultants are hired, and that’s what innovation consultants must deliver to their clients. So I hope that this helps understand what listening ought to achieve.
In a forthcoming post, I’ll provide a more specific definition of what innovation listening means. I’ll show that it can be broken down into multiple categories.
In the meantime, why do you think clients buy innovation consulting? What are they looking for?