What Do You Serve?

In conversation with a colleague, the question was asked: “What makes you {your company} different?” This question has been something of a new hobby of mine.

I started with “Different than what?” It is my belief that our business model is unique, and have seen little evidence to the contrary. I want to constantly challenge that belief, seeing this as the only way to ensure the belief is true and continues to be so; comparison must be a diligent and never-ending part of our message.

Of the several competitors listed by my colleague (technically someone who could compete with me in certain circumstances), I easily differentiated our offering. But, stressing the “Different than what?”, I quickly moved from comparative offerings and steered towards a less tangible “what?”Our approach was different; our mindset, our essence.

I found myself asking the question “What do we serve?”

My industry is filled with examples of passionate people, extolling their client-centric approach. Many are simply disingenuous and care little about the client; many are genuine but seem to lack the mechanism to truly care, always chasing a transactional and broken sales cycle, inherent to our industry.

What this conversation led me to was this: “Do you service the Client or the Sale?”

No matter how an organization sees “what they serve”, most simply do not have the mechanism to make them true servants of anything but the sale. If your model subsists entirely on commissions after the sale, then you have an inherent function of your business model that requires you service the sale first, and possibly only. Happy clients are necessary for on-going growth and sustainability, but my industry is also filled with “hit-and-run” examples of “sale-first” oriented people and organizations that don’t necessarily mandate a long-term vision. Sadly, many potential clients push my industry into this stance, unknowingly creating a zero-sum game where service is simply unafforded for. These companies generally complain the loudest, as they suffer from a self-inflicted wound.

We have a unique approach to addressing this problem within our industry, and with our Client Relationships. We charge them.

This may not sound much of an epiphany, but in my industry it very much is. A fee, designed to cover my costs and allow me to focus on actually servicing my Clients, allows me to remove the sales process. We procure for our clients, and we make commissions in the process, but I am not existentially tied to a model that demands I sell them a product before I can help them at all. A balance beam requires equal weight on both ends, but our industry is often weighted only on the sales side, leaving service as an afterthought.

Our industry is often built to service the Sale, not the Client, and we believe we are changing that.