For business and government entities, the purchase of professional services is fraught with risk. The financial risk is obvious, given the contracts are large, lucrative and long-term. But there’s also risk relating to quality, resourcing, service delivery, compliance, conflicts, data security…
For professional services firms, the challenge and opportunity is to somehow provide physical evidence of their expertise, achievements and client service because tangible evidence will mitigate these, and other, perceived risks.
Physical evidence can take a variety of forms including case studies, testimonials, tombstone advertisements, awards and directory rankings.
Recently, Beaton and the (Australian) Financial Review unveiled the winners of the 2019 Client Choice Awards. These awards celebrate excellence in professional services (accounting, engineering, intellectual property, law).
As they’re based solely on client feedback, the Client Choice Awards are highly credible, rendering them highly valuable.
Yet, despite their prestige, many professional services firms remain reluctant to participate.
If your firm claims to be client-focused, have the courage to put your client service to the test. If you’re shortlisted, or win an award, you’ll be able to stop telling potential clients and prospective employees that you’re client-focused – you’ll have physical evidence that you are.
Professional services firms boast about being the largest or the fastest-growing. Where they should be focusing their efforts is on promoting their expertise. After all, size and growth are little more than indicators of a consolidating market. Business and government clients buy experts and expertise, not one firm’s ability to absorb another.
Within every professional services category there are analysts who have deep knowledge of the sector and who periodically review and rank the best firms, teams and individuals.
In the legal sector, the most reputable analysts are Legal 500 and Chambers. Having initially been met with cynicism, these two publishers have, over the course of several decades, been probed for good governance – for impartiality, integrity and procedural fairness – and have gained the confidence of the profession across 150 jurisdictions.
They’ve also established a reputation for being trusted reference resources for clients, prospective employees, graduates and journalists, all of which consult directories when researching firms outside their jurisdiction, when they want to validate their choice of practitioner or firm, when undertaking market intelligence, and when searching for a subject matter expert or thought leader.
If a law firm is not ranked in Chambers and Legal 500, the perception is it is probably not deserving of being included.
In a homogeneous sector, where there is little to distinguish one firm from another, directories provide a point of difference.
With all else being relatively equal, a ranking can be what causes you to win (or lose) a client; or what compels a high-performing candidate to accept (or decline) your job offer.
Are the ranked firms necessarily the best firms? Certainly, the ranked firms are deserving of being listed. They’ve presented their credentials and have passed the scrutiny of the research teams.
However, there could be firms that warrant being ranked, or are deserving of a higher ranking, but that were let down by their submission.
Similarly, there almost inevitably will be firms that warrant being ranked but that aren’t because they don’t participate.
No guts, no glory
Have the courage to put your credentials to the test. And when you do, designate responsibility to someone experienced in these submissions. The firms that are the highest ranked tend to be those that also invest in the process. Then, if you are ranked, you can stop talking about your expertise because you’ll have physical evidence to prove it.