A Professional Service (PS) group for a company can be viewed like the special forces in the military. The special forces have a specialized and significantly different mission and therefore are organized, staffed, and deployed differently than the rest of the military. However, they must be integrated into the larger military’s actions to fulfill their role. Similarly, the PS organization, while embedded into the broader organizational strategy, has its own distinct mission. This blog outlines the various attributes that make PS unique from the rest of the company.
PS talent performs at the client. There is no other group in a corporation that performs its job literally at the client, working intimately with client personnel (in the same room often). Further, PS teams meet with executives educating them on the initiative’s challenges and adjustment, thereby developing a different type of relationship with client personnel and executives. When done well, PS can form a Trusted Advisor relationship with their client executives.
We cannot stress enough the pressure that PS feels by being at the client, and therefore being evaluated constantly. PS also has the challenge of providing random walk-in availability for questions, problems, creative sessions, advice/encouragement, and out-of-scope requests. PS people must deal with all of these situations live while meeting predetermined deadlines for their assignments. Therefore, PS talent needs to know how to bring order to an unscripted day. Furthermore, they must outperform the client’s personnel in doing the work, in thinking clearly, in organizing chaos, and driving to results.
The good news is that this situation develops deep long-term relations based upon the trust that is created working side by side and the reliance on the PS person/team to help in a variety of situations. This improves the client’s propensity to buy products and services. In addition, it can positively impact pricing discussions. Like the special forces, the PS group must perform their role in an exemplary way – a topic we will explore in-depth in a future blog post.
Let us take a moment and compare PS to a few of the other roles in the company.
Sales – Sales plays a unique role in the business. They maintain good relationships, but vastly different relationships with the client than PS, and their interactions with executives in the client are less frequent. First, these relationships are limited to specific objectives – understood by both the client and the salesperson – and a specific deal at a time. Further, sales does not perform work in front of the client as PS does. Finally, PS must answer questions live and replan or adjust on-the-fly, where sales often can go back and gain approval for requests during negotiations.
Executive relationships – We were working with a CEO of a Fortune 100 company, and he shared with us that he maintained intimacy with the CEOs of all their top clients. We attended several meetings with he and the client CEOs and then interviewed the client CEOs the day after the meetings. We discovered that the client CEOs were happy to meet with the Fortune 100 CEO to gain an understanding of his views and to push for concessions in negotiations.
We probed to determine the level of communication between the Fortune 100 CEO and the client CEOs between meetings – have you reached out to him for advice, has he contacted you and shared some insight that might help your company, etc.? The answer was a resounding “no”. While there was mutual respect between the CEOs, the relationships lacked real intimacy, and therefore a Trusted Advisor relationship was not created.
Product Service Teams – Product Service Teams occasionally work at the client or can be with the same large client often, but they are not working upon programs that require the same level of intimate work nor executive access and influence.
In future posts we will explore the organizational structure of PS, the skills required of PS people, and what is like to live in a project-based environment.
Written by: Dean McMann
About the Author: Dean McMann is a Founding Partner at McMann & Ransford with 35+ years of experience in consulting and professional services. He is a sought-after expert and speaker on topics of: B2B differentiation, professional services best practices, and overcoming commoditization. In addition to his extensive experience in the Professional Services space, Dean also serves on the board of various non-profit organizations.