The following is an exclusive excerpt from the new book by Adam Taylor, “The Security Advisor,” available now.
Your Client Knowledge is Everything
Knowledge of your product and solutions is a great start but not the end goal. Many people in security management, consulting, and even advisors within large companies believe that knowledge equals power.
They believe that if they convey a high level of security knowledge, threat understanding, and security industry-specific jargon, that that will somehow translate into something meaningful to the client.
We tend to fall into the trap of stage performance and product deliverables on par with company metrics and numbers you would see coming from the safety, quality, environmental, sales, or even accounting departments.
But security’s value is unlikely to be quantified in numbers or as stats on a PowerPoint. In other words, we are led to believe that massive knowledge somehow equates to massive power, but that is complete and total nonsense. Knowledge doesn’t equal power. Rather, it is knowledge applied that equal’s power.
Nothing, I repeat nothing, is more important than your client’s knowledge.
What I mean is this. Without understanding your client’s business environment, unique challenges, and marketplace concerns, you won’t get your role as the Security Advisor right. And with a globally focused, busy client, you won’t get a second chance.
What does your client value? Who are they? What drives them? If they lack acceptance of your security plan or proposal, refine the details to what matters most to them. You need to identify this upfront. It’s the only way to circumvent complacency and the status quo many of us have discovered within the corporate domain.
Companies have their way of doing things and rarely if ever, deviate from the standard issued but reliable company approved set sum of excuses. Security cannot be like that. Our focus is not only on threats within the firm but from outside. Effective protection requires creativity, initiative, and flexibility in our approach to management.
We believe that our perceptions are accurate for the most part, and we create a reality based on that perception. As real as you believe your perception is, though, it is not necessarily fact. In changing the way you behave, your client will begin to see your value, and their perception of what security is will change.
Never Placate to the Uninformed
The energy and the way you present yourself is the perception you will create, and it is this perception that will ultimately override all other ideas on what the role of the security advisor truly is.
But if you haven’t experienced it yet, get ready for the people who will attempt to lecture you on how to do your job. This is especially true if your solution to everything is to ask your client for suggestions when you should be implementing change, to begin with. If you don’t want to lose control of the process, then don’t enable it.
The more confident and comfortable your client is with you, the more influence you will have over their approach to security. But when a Security Advisor takes the direction of his client on matters, he is hired to produce, it screams weakness and personal doubt, and nobody respects it.
This goes back to the desire to be liked and valued. But you will never be valued out of desperation to please your client.
I repeat; never relinquish your authority and experience to the uninformed.
They don’t know security, you do. They don’t understand the labyrinth of threats they may be facing, but you do.
In my experience, this issue is a common communication barrier that can be successfully mastered with the right steps. It begins with the client knowledge. Many Advisors fold to the client because they lack this knowledge. They don’t understand the business they are supporting. They don’t understand the person they are protecting. And they certainly don’t listen as much as they talk. You see, not every client is the same. And as I outlined in a previous passage, clients care about one thing above all else: what’s in it for them?
The same Advisors who begrudgingly surrender their leadership and defer expertise time and time again are often the very ones unadaptable to change or obsessed with pleasing people. This is a dangerous mindset for the security professional.
Remember, you are the expert and professional in your field but the sophistication level of clients in need of security is on the rise. And depending on the industry and who you are protecting, you may encounter clients who “offer” suggestions on what they need, how you should deliver it, and what they don’t “need” in terms of security. But you and I can’t let that happen. The client cannot be the one dictating to you how your security solution will unfold. That approach is weak, and it doesn’t work.
What triggers your client and the people he or she surrounds themselves with?
Is it a problem you can solve? And is it within the realm of security, intelligence, or even within your portfolio of action? We can’t be all things to all people but that is what many Security Advisors feel tempted to do.
It only takes one poison apple to derail your efforts. Focus on the things you can control, try to win naysayers over, but never placate to the uninformed. Anticipate that people will try to tell you how to do your job but just don’t fall for it. Remember who you are and have confidence.
If you have reframed and ritualized your approach through practice, you should be fine. The doctor doesn’t lower his personal value to the patient by allowing the patient to dictate to him how a surgery is going to go. Just as the mechanic doesn’t allow the customer to direct the process of repairing his or her vehicle. They are the experts, and they know it.
So, understand your value and execute your craft. Master your trade and communicate effectively. It’s the only way to bypass the lure of placating those around you. Because relinquishing to the uninformed only disempowers you and will do nothing to serve those who need you most.