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Five Strategies For Midsize Service Firms To Break Through Revenue Plateaus
How Pro Service Firms Can Fix The ‘Drop Everything — Chase Money’ Problem
Prospect, Originate, Navigate: How To Fill Your Professional Service Pipeline
To Grow Your Mid-Size Professional Service Firm, Think Carefully About Your Promise
How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 7
How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 6
How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 5
How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 4
How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 3
How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 2
How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 1
How Mid-Size Service Firms Can Acquire Great New Clients On LinkedIn
Five Ways The Consultative Sale Improves Profits
How To Win The Complex Service Sale Consistently
Do You Choose Clients Or Do They Choose You?
How To Market & Sell Professional Services Today
How To Break The Grip Of Rainmaker Culture
How Content Impacts The Service Sale
How To Know When Prospects Are Ready
How To Pull Prospects Into Conversations
Nurture Organic Relationships Online
How To Build Relationships With Jaded Prospects
Do Prospects Want To Buy Or Be Sold?
Close Deals Faster Using Proof Statements
How To Get Mindshare With Busy Decision-Makers
How To Get Great Prospects Leaning In
How Digital Marketing Creates Sales Funnel Velocity
Digital Marketing Perfect For Complex Sales – Part 2
Digital Marketing Is Perfect For The Complex Sale
Your Best New Client Is Looking For You
Why Service Firms Should Focus On Ideal Clients– Part 3
Why Service Firms Should Focus On Ideal Clients– Part 2
Why Service Firms Should Focus On Ideal Clients– Part 1
Do This to Fill Your Sales Funnel
What You Must Do To Acquire New Clients
An Audience Of One
How to Attract New Ideal Clients
Are You A Content Marketer Or A Thought Leader?
Consider The Source: Theorist Or Practitioner
Why Pain Points Are Not Enough
Quick Or Deep Content: Which Is Better For Professional Service Firms?
Most Leads Are Not Ready To Engage – But They Will Be

MARKETING

How To Market Managed Services - Part 3
How To Market Managed Services - Part 2
How To Market Managed Services Today – Part 1
Why Service Firms Need A Multichannel Digital Marketing Strategy
Does Your Website Attract Ideal Clients?
Why Service Firms Need The Ultimate Digital Marketing Stack
The Myth Of The Time-Starved Service Buyer
Do You Choose Clients Or Do They Choose You?
How To Market & Sell Professional Services Today
Why You Need A Generous Brand
How Content Impacts The Service Sale
Are You Measuring Your Time Funnel?
How To Get Mindshare With Busy Decision-Makers
How To Get Great Prospects Leaning In
How Digital Marketing Creates Sales Funnel Velocity
Five Digital Marketing KPIs
Can Service Pros Over 40 Succeed In Digital?
Do Your Users Experience Content Regret?
Content Registrations Are Not Enough
Is Your Website Open For Business
How To Build A Great Digital Marketing Plan
Digital Marketing Perfect For Complex Sales – Part 2
Digital Marketing Is Perfect For The Complex Sale
The Value Of An Idea Driven Website
A New Website Won’t Bring You New Clients
Do You “Get” Digital Marketing? – Part 2
Do You Get Digital Marketing?
Who Benefits From Your Content?
Lead Nurturing Versus Content Marketing
Your Best New Client Is Looking For You
Make Your Website A New Client Driver
Why Service Firms Should Focus On Ideal Clients– Part 3
Why Service Firms Should Focus On Ideal Clients– Part 2
Why Service Firms Should Focus On Ideal Clients– Part 1
How To Get The Greatest Value From Content Marketing
Why You Should Absolutely Give Away Your Best Ideas
Do This to Fill Your Sales Funnel
What You Must Do To Acquire New Clients
An Audience Of One
How to Attract New Ideal Clients
Are You A Content Marketer Or A Thought Leader?
Consider The Source: Theorist Or Practitioner
Why Pain Points Are Not Enough
How To Nurture Ideal Prospects
Quick Or Deep Content: Which Is Better For Professional Service Firms?

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HOW THE SAY-DO RATIO INFLUENCES TRUSTED ADVISOR STATUS AND PROFITS

IF YOU WANT TO BE TRUSTED, EARN A HIGH SAY-DO SCORE

Originally published on Forbes.com

When I was a kid, my dad would say, “Your word is your bond.” He was a scrappy, bare-knuckled contractor who fought for every job. Picture Ernest Hemingway with a hammer.

He worked with small crews in unbearable temperatures to get the work done and done right. He knew his word, and that delivering on his promises would help him earn or lose the next job. After all, people talk, especially in the small community where we lived. 

The Say-Do Ratio

My father knew almost instinctively something that entire books have been written about — integrity. I call it the say-do ratio. It simply means this: Do you do the things you say you will do?  A high say-do ratio means you consistently do what you say. A low say-do ratio means there’s a gap between what you promise and what you deliver.

Just to be clear, I don’t know anyone who has a perfect say-do ratio. I’m not sure that exists. But what I have noticed is that people who have a high say-do score are deeply trusted.

I’m not a hard-scrabble contractor fighting for every job. I’m a leader of a professional service firm that empowers other professional service firms to achieve breakthrough results. Even so, my say-do ratio, something I learned in the blue-collar world, is crucial to my success.

Earning Trust

In the professional services world, attaining trusted advisor status is a top goal. Trusted advisors have more fruitful client relationships because clients resist less and act more on their counsel. Trusted advisors produce better-than-average profits and command the highest fees. Their voice is weighty and clients seek their counsel before making big decisions.

Trusted advisors, without fail, have a high say-do ratio. But this is not granted; it’s earned over time. It’s relatively easy to earn a high say-do score in the early stages of client relationships but becomes harder later on.

Using simple metrics early on, clients begin to score your say-do card. Every interaction is an opportunity to strengthen or weaken your score.

Here are some ways to increase your say-do ratio:

  • If your next meeting is at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, show up at 9:55, not 10:05.
  • If you promise to get back to someone, specify when you’ll get back to them and about what. Then, deliver on time and in full measure.
  • If you provide one fee in verbal communication, list that exact same fee in the proposal.

Prospective clients watch these matters very closely. When you’re consistent between what you say and what you do, they breathe a sigh of relief. Today’s service buyer is preconditioned to expect a low say-do ratio.

However, winning the trust of new clients is not what impacts profits most. Client retention and delight have a much stronger impact on service firm profits. This is where the say-do ratio and trusted advisor status get really tricky. 

Grey Areas

Client relationships in professional services often proceed along these lines:

  • A service firm conducts discovery with a prospect to identify goals
  • The firm produces a proposal to address the goals
  • The proposal has a statement of work, timelines, deliverables and a fee structure
  • The client says “yes” and signs
  • The service firm delivers everything promised on time and on budget

This should produce a high say-do score, right? Not necessarily. In my experience, even if you deliver everything promised on time and on budget, if your deliverables do not yield the outcomes the client wanted to realize, your say-do score plummets. Client loyalty dips. Negotiations on the next round of projects get much harder.

There are many capable and respected professional service firms who disappoint clients. These include law firms, CPA firms, technology consulting, financial services, AEC professionals, management consulting and others. These firms often have longevity in the market, a good reputation and strong profits. But they also have a string of dissatisfied clients who are likely to migrate to another provider, given the opportunity.

The root cause of this dissatisfaction is not the technical capabilities of their people. It’s also not a disconnect between what was promised in the proposal and what was actually delivered. Usually, the source of the disappointment is client expectations concerning outcomes they were hoping to realize but might not have fully articulated.

In financial services, for example, if a client’s portfolio performs at better-than-average market rates of return, yet that client is underinsured, those market returns could be eviscerated in a single event like an accident. The client might say, “I want great investment returns.” But what they mean is, “I want to build long-lasting wealth.”

If a CPA firm delivers a solid tax return that will stand up to any audit, did they do their job? Yes. But if the client has a huge tax bill, will they be dissatisfied with the CPA firm? Yes. The client might say, “Please do my taxes,” but they mean, “Please reduce my tax bill.”

Another example is in corporate law. Inside counsel these days is looking for far more than just great technical capabilities from outside counsel. Inside counsel wants a partnership that respects their financial constraints, their culture and their people. They might say, “Handle these legal matters for us,” but they really mean, “Serve as an extension of our team.”

My point is simply this: Even if you do everything you promised to do, you might still be assigned a low say-do score. The most trusted advisors keep their promises and deliver outcomes that delight clients.

My father understood this very well. Some of our most gratifying moments came from handing over keys to new home owners. The delight and the wonder on the faces of those families is something I will never forget.

About The Author

Randy Shattuck is a seasoned entrepreneur who works hand-in-hand with senior leaders of mid-size professional service firms to grow revenues, acquire clients, open new markets, increase profits and effectively position their brands.

OUR BLOG

SALES

Five Strategies For Midsize Service Firms To Break Through Revenue Plateaus
How Pro Service Firms Can Fix The ‘Drop Everything — Chase Money’ Problem
Prospect, Originate, Navigate: How To Fill Your Professional Service Pipeline
To Grow Your Mid-Size Professional Service Firm, Think Carefully About Your Promise
How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 7
How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 6
How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 5
How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 4
How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 3
How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 2
How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 1
How Mid-Size Service Firms Can Acquire Great New Clients On LinkedIn
Five Ways The Consultative Sale Improves Profits
How To Win The Complex Service Sale Consistently
Do You Choose Clients Or Do They Choose You?
How To Market & Sell Professional Services Today
How To Break The Grip Of Rainmaker Culture
How Content Impacts The Service Sale
How To Know When Prospects Are Ready
How To Pull Prospects Into Conversations
Nurture Organic Relationships Online
How To Build Relationships With Jaded Prospects
Do Prospects Want To Buy Or Be Sold?
Close Deals Faster Using Proof Statements
How To Get Mindshare With Busy Decision-Makers
How To Get Great Prospects Leaning In
How Digital Marketing Creates Sales Funnel Velocity
Digital Marketing Perfect For Complex Sales – Part 2
Digital Marketing Is Perfect For The Complex Sale
Your Best New Client Is Looking For You
Why Service Firms Should Focus On Ideal Clients– Part 3
Why Service Firms Should Focus On Ideal Clients– Part 2
Why Service Firms Should Focus On Ideal Clients– Part 1
Do This to Fill Your Sales Funnel
What You Must Do To Acquire New Clients
An Audience Of One
How to Attract New Ideal Clients
Are You A Content Marketer Or A Thought Leader?
Consider The Source: Theorist Or Practitioner
Why Pain Points Are Not Enough
Quick Or Deep Content: Which Is Better For Professional Service Firms?
Most Leads Are Not Ready To Engage – But They Will Be

MARKETING

How To Market Managed Services - Part 3
How To Market Managed Services - Part 2
How To Market Managed Services Today – Part 1
Why Service Firms Need A Multichannel Digital Marketing Strategy
Does Your Website Attract Ideal Clients?
Why Service Firms Need The Ultimate Digital Marketing Stack
The Myth Of The Time-Starved Service Buyer
Do You Choose Clients Or Do They Choose You?
How To Market & Sell Professional Services Today
Why You Need A Generous Brand
How Content Impacts The Service Sale
Are You Measuring Your Time Funnel?
How To Get Mindshare With Busy Decision-Makers
How To Get Great Prospects Leaning In
How Digital Marketing Creates Sales Funnel Velocity
Five Digital Marketing KPIs
Can Service Pros Over 40 Succeed In Digital?
Do Your Users Experience Content Regret?
Content Registrations Are Not Enough
Is Your Website Open For Business
How To Build A Great Digital Marketing Plan
Digital Marketing Perfect For Complex Sales – Part 2
Digital Marketing Is Perfect For The Complex Sale
The Value Of An Idea Driven Website
A New Website Won’t Bring You New Clients
Do You “Get” Digital Marketing? – Part 2
Do You Get Digital Marketing?
Who Benefits From Your Content?
Lead Nurturing Versus Content Marketing
Your Best New Client Is Looking For You
Make Your Website A New Client Driver
Why Service Firms Should Focus On Ideal Clients– Part 3
Why Service Firms Should Focus On Ideal Clients– Part 2
Why Service Firms Should Focus On Ideal Clients– Part 1
How To Get The Greatest Value From Content Marketing
Why You Should Absolutely Give Away Your Best Ideas
Do This to Fill Your Sales Funnel
What You Must Do To Acquire New Clients
An Audience Of One
How to Attract New Ideal Clients
Are You A Content Marketer Or A Thought Leader?
Consider The Source: Theorist Or Practitioner
Why Pain Points Are Not Enough
How To Nurture Ideal Prospects
Quick Or Deep Content: Which Is Better For Professional Service Firms?