Bruce Cotterill: Fail to plan, plan to fail
When a potential client asks ‘Why you?’, what is the answer? According to Bruce Cotterill, platitudes such as ‘I’m the best’, ‘I’ll give you a great experience’, or ‘you will be my most important client’ won’t cut it. Brokers need to identify their three points of difference – the three things they can say about their businesses that others can not.
Cotterill also points out that nothing is predicable, so brokers, in their planning, need to know the things they can control, and take advantage of these. These things that can be controlled all fall under one of seven headings:
- Dealing with change
- Finance/the back office
Know your goals
Cotterill says that 85 per cent of businesses don’t have a plan, and suggests that one way to get ahead is to plan to do so. His first rule is to have clear objectives. Problems will arise, but they are only important if they affect the achievement of those objectives.
“If you can get really clear about what you want to achieve in your business, it makes decision-making very easy,” Cotterill explains. “You become less reactive and more proactive.”
Change is permanent; get used to it
Each year, brokers need to perform 20 per cent better than they did the previous year just to keep their clients.
“You won the client’s business because you were outstanding,”
“The client will tell people, and keep supporting their own decision.”
This serves to build even higher the already high expectations the client holds. Come the quarterly review though, brokers are not as prepared and don’t meet those clients’ high expectations. And the broker who lost the business is still trying to win it back. Cotterill points out that meeting or beating clients’ expectations is the only way to keep them: “that’s why I say you have to be 20 per cent better every year”.
Clear communication and absolute transparency with stakeholders is essential. It is not enough to communicate once, however. “Repeat yourself,” Cotterill says. “Always assume the message doesn’t get through.”
Tailoring this communication is just as important. Particularly considering younger generations – Cotterill uses the phrase ‘Facebook generation’ – who are constantly connected and who expect to be permanently engaged. With these staff or clients, communication does not necessarily need to be constant, but it does need to be engaging.
It’s just as important to invite and listen to feedback.
A plan provides clear direction
Those 85 per cent of companies that don’t have a plan have staff that go to work every day and guess at what they should do, Cotterill says.
An effective team can only be made up of people who know what they are expected to do, and how it contributes to the overall goals of the company.
Know what your customers value
“The things that are important to them, you see every day,” Cotterill says, a reminder that brokers can’t possibly have an automatic insight into their clients’ perception of experience they are providing.
While one thing might seem minor to brokers, whether it is an ‘above and beyond’ service they provide to their clients or a quick phone call updating them on progress, Cotterill explains that “it might be a major thing to your clients”.