kate-mercer-leaderslabThis post has been written for us by Kate Mercer, Director at LeadersLab UK.

Kate’s helping us to develop from being two companies that have come together with a lot of good intention, into a single well-managed business.

Let’s say you’ve been tasked with finding expert outside help to support you in an important piece of work for which you don’t have the relevant expertise in house.

You may need support in developing your team and organisation, from the likes of Leaders Lab maybe. Or you need someone to help with your online marketing. Or you are buying new systems, software and consultancy to improve your manufacturing processes. All big projects, with big price tags attached.

You’ve conducted your research, drawn up a brief, gone out to tender and shortlisted three potential providers. You personally have met with them all and are satisfied that each of them could do the job you are asking them to do. You like some of them more than others though you are convinced that they are all equally credible. But how to get buy-in from your colleagues on the senior management team?

Let’s assume it’s relatively easy to convince your colleagues of the technical credentials of each potential provider – you’ve seen testimonials and called a few satisfied clients, and you know you can prove that on the technical level each provider could do the job. You’ve put together the figures on the budget needed and the potential return on investment, and you know they are all convincing.

And yet you know that, for you, one of these providers seems to be head and shoulders above the others. You know you would love to work with them, and you want your colleagues to choose them. What on earth has given you this impression and how are you going to convey to the team that somehow you feel in your gut that these people will be easier and more enjoyable to work with than the others?

Well the trouble is that old ‘gut’ feeling: it’s very probably right, as your gut often is, but you lack the language to explain what you’ve spotted in simple terms that your colleagues will understand. Here’s what they need to hear…

You’ve probably spotted:

  1. That in meetings with your front runners, they seemed to focus predominantly on you and your needs. They asked lots and lots of questions, and only told you about themselves in direct response to a question from you, or when it was the right way to address one of your issues. The also-rans talked at you: they presented their solutions in inventive and attractive ways, but somehow never missed an opportunity to slip in a plug about themselves or their way of doing things.
  2. Your front runners were completely honest with you. If they couldn’t do something, or didn’t know something, they told you. They then remembered that issue and came back to you later with a solution that would meet your needs even if it meant referring you to someone other than themselves. They didn’t bluster, try to bluff, or claim they could do everything, but you were left with the clear impression that they would do pretty much anything it took to make sure you achieved your aims and ended up successful.
  3. Your preferred providers spent a lot of time clarifying face-to-face and in detail how they would work with you throughout the term of this lengthy project. They clearly recognised, as you instinctively also know, that you are going to be working together for a long time, so the success of the project is not all going to be about the technical excellence of the solution you are together putting in place, but equally about how well you communicate and work together.

They’ve made you think about how you’d prefer to be communicated with and they’ve come to documented agreements with you on how frequently you’d like to meet, when and in what form you like to get reports, how you’d like to resolve any disputes or misunderstandings and how your company’s decision-making process works.

In fact, they have not only offered to meet the rest of your senior management colleagues – they insist that it’s a prerequisite to running a successful project. The other providers have simply presented their material in formal meetings and in attractively-presented documents, and clearly assume that the content of their service offering will simply speak for itself.

That’s why you want to work with them, isn’t it?