All clients want to look good. Nobody says it openly, but ultimately that’s the driving ROI for lots of business decisions.
According to David McClelland’s human motivation theory people are primarily driven by one of three needs.
- Need for affiliation, which is about collaboration, keeping people happy, and increasing popularity.
Need for achievement, which comes down to setting and hitting goals, and increasing recognition.
Need for power, which means influence to move personal agendas forward and increasing organisational control.
As a consultant you’ll recognise that clients sometimes have a distorted view of what makes them ‘look good’. This becomes particularly apparent when clients judge situations (proposal / project / report / presentation) based on their own motivational drivers, not those of others in their organisation.
Take for example the client who wants to do a project for the least amount of money. They want you to prepare a presentation slide deck for a meeting. They just want to show what’s been achieved and they value thriftiness, so they go for the cheapest design option. Unfortunately their boss judges the presentation based on this design and perceives the project as low-value and therefore not worthy of their time. It happens.
Don’t believe me? I once had a red wine coloured slide deck. But on the screen it looked pink. The sales director was so distracted and joked that the slides were ‘pink and fluffy’ like consultants. I heard later that that comment side-lined the £60K change management project we were presenting.
Crucially these type of decisions are all about perspective and drivers. Another example. An ‘achievement driven’ individual might see increasing sales by 40% over target as a good thing, a ‘power driven’ might see it as poorly positioning them for future influence (“They can’t even forecast sales accurately”), an ‘affiliation driven’ might see it as a bad thing because the actions required will upset the status quo.
So, my question for you is this:
Does your proposal / project / report / presentation make the client look good in their eyes (with their needs), and in the eyes of the people they need to influence (with different needs perhaps)?
And, if you’ve not thought about this before, your answer might surprise you.