The following is an excerpt from the new book by Adam Taylor, “The Security Advisor,” available for release October 25th, 2021.
The Way You Believe You Sound Is Not What Your Client Hears
It’s amazing how often security professionals lead with “my background is” or “I do this, that and the other thing.” And when Security Advisors lead in this manner, clients are almost immediately thinking, “So what?”
I encourage you to try the “So what” test. Accompany your Security Director into meetings or listen to other team members attempting to brief a client on a potential security plan. If you can record yourself, even better.
Your client could be anyone. He could be a business line president within your company or an angel investor in need of protection – it doesn’t matter; just listen. And every time someone in security makes a statement, simply ask yourself “So what?”
It’s very convincing when we realize how much we say is self-aggrandizing drivel with no real meaning to the client. What happens when we start our communication about what we do? The client thinks or may even say aloud “We don’t need that.” Or “We already have that.”
“We don’t need upgrades. It’s unnecessary.”
“We already have security; it’s called turnstiles and cameras.”
“We don’t need to send someone to advance the area. Iraq isn’t dangerous anymore.”
“We don’t need to pay for a Security Manager…. the Safety Manager has it covered.”
“We’re fine. I’ve known the locals for years. They love me.”
“We already have a travel plan; it’s called corporate travel on an AMEX.”
“We already go to this place or that place and it’s perfectly safe.”
“We don’t need you to cover us; no one has been kidnapped in years.”
“We don’t need intelligence on insider issues. My project manager would never allow a breach.”
Likely your client thinks they have it covered. You know they don’t, but as an exercise, fill in the blank.
Fill in what your company or corporate team does to enhance a security plan. “We already have _________.”
You see, we aren’t breaking into our client’s world by talking about deliverables. We only break in and stay in when we talk about what matters to them.
There are three building blocks for a compelling security case:
- Client issues addressed upfront;
- Personalized offerings;
- Differentiating factors;
Client issues are the cornerstone of our success. In this case, I am referring to the following:
- Client pains we remove;
- Client problems we solve;
- Opportunities we enable clients to capture;
- Results we achieve;
Personalized offerings are simply the deliverables we provide, how we provide them and what it is exactly that we do.
Differentiating factors, our third piece of the communication puzzle, explain why we are better than the alternative. The alternative could be the choice between a coherent integrated security plan or strategy, or certain loss and personnel death.
Distinguishing yourself and your “product” provides solid reasons why you are the best choice to address client issues. This three-step process is important and the order they are performed remains equally as important to the overall victory of the security professional.
Lead with Client Issues
The issues we address upfront serve as the lead-in for our security plan. Pain is where the power derives. Client issues are the sharp tip of our sword. No one cares about how great your government career was, or how smart you think you are or how amazing your last security team was.
It’s sad but true.
Clients care about one thing: What’s in it for them. We lead with the pains we remove, the problems we solve, and the fears we put to rest. We do this because those are the most important things to the client. Painful issues draw people in. They shake clients out of their sleep and when applied properly, help delay resistance to our security plan.
A whole lot of security professionals make the mistake of leading with their offering. “We produce in-depth intelligence reports.” Or “We get clients into hard-to-reach areas,” or “I lead multiple globally dispersed teams for crisis response.” That’s awesome. But when you lead with that it screams “commodity” and communicates to the client that the most important part of the conversation is about what you do. “I am Security and I’m here to tell you what’s going to happen.”
Awful. But way too common.
Other people lead with differentiators. “Unlike the last guy doing EP, I’m in shape.” Or how about this one: “We do real intelligence operations, not investigations.”
You’ve heard it before. And I’ll admit, it’s better than leading with offerings… But not by much. And the truth is, what distinguishes you from the last guy or the new one around the corner, is likely unmeaningful in its present form to the client. They have other things to worry about. You’re the security professional.
Remember, clients don’t have to listen to you, pay you, or implement change.
But clients do so whenever they trust, value, and understand how you will solve their pressing issues. Let’s not run the risk of appearing self-absorbed, braggarts are only concerned with expounding on why were so great.
That’s why we lead with client issues. By doing so, we set ourselves up as problem solvers. And by addressing those needs first, we position ourselves as professionals who can address business or personal security issues and uncover critical gaps in protection.
The other benefit is that when we lead with client problems it sets us up to ask probing questions; questions we will need to answer to build a better security plan. So, in essence, it foreshadows where we will need to go in our understanding of the mission to offer something of value.
As we lead with client issues on the front end, we are no longer viewed as dribbling braggarts, self-promoting, and budget-draining. Instead, we position ourselves as experts within our field; thoroughly equipped with solutions and ready to open a dialogue about issues on the client’s mind.