Saying No

In the spirit of the holiday season just passed, we wanted to share a few thoughts on one of the greatest gifts Eyelevel has given us—the ability to decide whether or not to work on a project or with a particular client.  As we have written about in earlier posts, when we are engaged on a client’s behalf, we are completely focused on meeting and exceeding the expectations for that project.  A big part of our confidence in being able to deliver consistently for our clients is ensuring we are highly motivated and committed to an engagement before we agree to work with the client.  Not every working relationship will be perfect, but we believe that by honestly evaluating each potential consulting opportunity on a few dimensions, we can increase the likelihood of success and mutual benefit.

  • Does the client have a reasonable understanding of the audience?  Nothing is as likely to predict failure as a client with exaggerated expectations for what is possible.  This often disastrous condition can take many forms—a belief that a product or market is at a more mature stage than it is; attempting broad market capture with a flawed product; unrealistic pricing; underestimating the length of the sales cycle…  This list could go on for a while, but the key for us is gaining a sense early on about how good a read a prospective client has on their target customer base.

  • Is the client flexible enough to adapt?  Picking up on the prior point, some clients come to us explicitly because they recognize they do not have their finger on the pulse of the market.  Others may think they do but could use some guidance.  We are pleased to work with clients along this spectrum, but only if they are open to hearing and acting upon the findings we share with them.  There is nothing more frustrating than a company repeatedly trying to put a square peg in a round hole—i.e., attempting to achieve premium pricing in a commoditized market—despite clear and convincing evidence of such futility.  This is particularly important to us in those engagements where we act in a business development capacity.

  • How does the client view our contribution?  While we value our time as the scarce resource that it is, our egos are not part of the equation when weighing the merits of a particular project.  We don’t need to be the center of a client’s attention or to be lauded for our contributions.  What we do require is an understanding of where and how those contributions will fit into the broader picture.  If we are conducting a market insight study, for example, understanding how the resulting report and recommendations will be used will help to shape the way we conduct our research.  In the same vein, if we are working in a business development capacity, the structure of our compensation also says a lot about the client’s expectations and vision—it is very easy to choose between a company willing to share the rewards of a successful engagement and one proposing a lowball transaction.

If you want to assess how we align with your key success determinants, we would love to hear from you in 2015.