Spending over 20 years in-house managing and leading marketing and BD teams and working closely with other departments, and now working on ‘the other side’ as an external consultant has given me a different perspective on how in-house teams can best work with their internal clients.
The connection is often made that in the marketing/BD, HR, IT and Finance teams you have your own internal clients whose needs you seek to fulfill and to whom you want to deliver an excellent service. But what does it take to be a good internal consultant and to develop that “trusted” status?
Demonstrate your credibility
There are various ways to do this but the key is to motivate people to want to ‘buy’ from you because they see you as credible – this could be through internal communications about your activities and their effect, word of mouth recommendations, delivering internal workshops, working on cross-team projects or providing guidelines, and promoting them as case studies.
Position yourself within the firm
Articulate what you can do, what you can help your clients achieve and how they will benefit – whether in response to a specific request or to set out what the team can do. The team might play one or more roles – advisory, change-maker, regulator, doer (or all of these at different times)? In my experience there is still an educative aspect to an in-house role: not everyone will know what you actually do, how best to use you or how you can help them!
Really, really understand your client
Most time needs to be spent understanding their world, issues, the business context, objectives, what motivates them, their preferences – anything that will help you know enough to be able to present a solution that will fit like a glove with their needs (and wants).
The best way to gain understanding is to ask questions. Unless you understand them, it’s impossible to know that what you provide will add value. But don’t be afraid of pushing back if you feel that, in your experience, the brief needs to changeand what need to achieve their objectives is actually different from what they are asking for.
Work collaboratively to agree a solution or service
Where it works best, different teams work in a mutually inter-dependent way. Not everything you provide needs to be the finished article. Some initial thoughts for discussion are fine, a further meeting with someone else might be useful, some research might need to be done. Coming back with a draft proposal to check you’re on the right lines can be a good way forward, gives you a chance to refine and make sure it fully meets their needs, demonstrates you know what you’re talking about and can help you to explain, if they implement this solution, what the benefits will be.
Relationships take time
Becoming a trusted adviser/marketer takes time. You need to have in place key skills and processes, core expertise to demonstrate your capabilities, knowledge of different sectors/practice areas and be genuinely interested in those you work with. Above all it’s about keeping up the dialogue and contact.
This article was written by Rachael Wheatley as a leader for the PM Forum magazine, published in the March 2011 issue