Too many times when I am asked to sit on client calls with their other vendors, I am shocked at the quality of interactions I hear. Prior to the calls, these clients will tell me these vendors are their strategists, but as the call progresses, I tend to think they are more of executors. It is imperative that business owners understand the difference.
Let’s look at the definitions of both of these words.
This is someone who is an expert at planning a method or series of maneuvers for obtaining a specific goal or result.
This is someone who executes, carries out or performs some duty, job or assignment.
The reason why I used the term “executor” is it means someone who carries out your wishes. Now there is nothing wrong with hiring an executor. There are many services people perform where you do not need to be involved in a strategy. The person is skilled and after an initial meeting you let them perform the task.
My point in this discussion is that there will be times you need to hire someone for his or her strategic skills and you need to know the difference. Here are some things to look for when hiring this type of vendor.
First Things First
When you are hiring a vendor and they are claiming to be a strategist, are they coming to you with a plan of attack and how it will be executed? Or are they asking you, “What do you want me to do? I will execute it.”
That is not a strategist.
The Right Questions
When you are having calls with the vendor, who is leading the discussion of the strategy?
Are they asking you the following questions?
• What would you like me to do?
• Where would you like to target
• What specials are going on?
• What would you like me to focus on?
Or are they saying things like:
• Here is the data we have looked at from our efforts and this is what we suggest we should do.
• After our analysis, here are the trends we see and this is how we think we need to respond or adjust to move forward.
Then asking the question, “Is there anything going on in your business that may not align with what we are looking to do?”
That is a more effective use of questions.
The Right Reporting
When you are getting reports, how do you review the results? Is the vendor educating you on the process and progress or are they waiting for you to lead the discussion?
Worse yet, do you get your reports and the email states, “Here are your reports, call me if you have any questions.”
Here are a few more things to re-evaluate:
• Are the reports clear enough?
• Can you see what work the vendor is doing, what you are spending and the results clearly communicated?
• Do the accomplishments credited to them apply to your goal?
• Are they taking credit for things out of their control?
• Are they bringing to your attention things that need to be changed or are they relying on you to interpret reports and then come to them with changes you need to make?
Remember that many times you hire vendors because what they provide is out of your realm of understanding. If they are not helping you to understand what they do and providing a strategy for you to improve, then you may not be getting what you are paying for.
Every industry is very competitive. Business owners are looking for an advantage to keep them ahead of their competition. The next time you need to hire a strategist, use these questions as a guide during the interview process. It will help you weed out the pretenders and you will get what you paid for.