The following notes were live blogged from the “What Clients Want Panel” on June 10, 2014. The panel was moderated by David Ian Gray (DIG360), with Susan Williams (Cadillac Fairview), Greg Ambrose (Tim Hortons), Bonnie Baird (Tourism Saskatchewan) and John Tabone (CPA Canada). Minimal editing was done on the post, so there will be typos in the post. A video clip with the moderator and panelists is below.
What inspires you about the topic?
Greg Ambrose: A passion that has driven him over a number of years. A lot to do with elevating technology and insights, but it all starts with the relationships between suppliers and clients. Good relationships do not start quickly, there is a process and trust building.
Susan Williams: What is important is not just client and supplier, but also client-side researchers have clients internally. Half of her group is new, so when working with suppliers important that all working together. Clients also need to learn more from suppliers.
John Tabone: Wants to challenge suppliers to help them with the challenges they are facing from internal clients. Would like to work with existing suppliers, but sometimes may need to look elsewhere if they cannot provide it.
Bonnie Baird: How do we build a partnership that builds information that can be put in front of the information that is necessary.
What keeps you up at night?
Greg: The relationships, making sure he is working with the right people on the right projects. Making sure they have longitudinal learning so they understand the organization. The best suppliers that are trying to gain business are the ones that come in and listen to their issues, it doesn’t help for a supplier to say we can do this, this and this. Being told methodologies and techniques does not answer the business problem itself. Suppliers should take time after an initial
Susan: The stress of being adaptable for getting information, getting it succinct and getting it when we need it. The report won’t sit on the shelf, it is not just sitting on the piece of research, it is an iterative process.
Greg: Sometimes seen as bottlenecks, between internal clients and suppliers. Great when he can a level of trust with supplier where he can ask the internal client just to contact the supplier.
Would you pay for ongoing support from suppliers on projects?
John: A lot of times suppliers provide support without even bringing up the cost. He doesn’t expect a cost to be brought up if it is a small request, but understands if it is a larger scale request.
Greg: The relationships that they develop need to be iterative. The clients know their audience best, so he thinks it is reasonable to be included for his advice on developing the proposal.
John: More likely to take on a new supplier on a small project, not a six-figure one, as it will be a smaller risk for the supplier. If the project goes well, it helps to build the relationship for future projects.
What mistakes have you seen that can hurt a proposal?
Susan: If you don’t get our name right, you need to do a little bit of research, there are some various obvious things in the pitch that you should get right. Getting your foot in the door is telling me what similar projects have you done.
Greg: If I am making a recommendation on a supplier internally, then it is important for you to provide proof of experience with similar types of projects. Makes it easier to sell internally.
Importance of individual over the firm?
Bonnie: Price is only one component. The people, the ability to connect. Often proposals dangle a wonderful person, and you get two hours of their time. It is misleading to client, and unfair to the people who are actually on the project.
John: The term “proprietary methodology” is a turn-off. Focus on the team. It is fine to bring in junior people, some of they are great, but talk about them upfront.
Insights, we can do it all, big data,
What has changed in the past five years?
Bonnie: Integration, in the past we were asked to do a project on one task. Now we are being asked to combine everything to present into one story.
Susan: We are not the only people doing research. We are not the only people internally doing surveys. There is also different types of research such as big data, which other people are interpreting.
What are suppliers doing better
John: Picking the right opportunities to tell us when we have gotten something wrong. Can hurt the research if issues aren’t corrected.
Where is the supplier’s role for story telling
Greg: A given project will have a story to it, but does it fit in the larger picture. The role he plays is to provide to itnernal client how results fit in with current reality of the company. He doesn’t want to be surprised in an internal debrief with internal clietns, so he needs to be involved in the story-tellign creation process.
Susan: There are more stages in a project. We are building it together. I was challenge my suppliers, if they say “75% say…” I say “so what?”
When does something like Survey Monkey fit in?
Bonnie: It is our responsibility to educate and teach, and understand differences and determine where Survey Monkey is appropriate.
Thoughts on Proposals
Greg: I need options. I don’t want to have an RFP that says the exact cost, I want different options on costs, questionnaire lengths etc. I don’t need a locked-down cost right away, I understand there are shades of grey. Options are critical so we can understand what we are investing in.
Bonnie: Build consulting time into your proposal, as long as it is understood.
Susan: You can sometimes find budget when you are getting something that you really want. I may not want all of the services you are offering but it is good to know upfront what you can provide.
John: Provide more than a generic quote, provide a lot of information that shows you know our organization. Ask questions afterwards.
Do you have situations where you can deviate from an RFP?
Greg: Is there that trust where we can skip the proposal and go right to a phone call and ask can you do this for us. You can do this with a supplier when you have a sense of what they can do and what they normally charge.
Audience comment: Client side researchers in Canada generally do not want innovative research. They have small budgets and are very conservative. In the future innovative Canadian companies may move south of the border if they are not used, and client side researchers may not be around in 10 years.
Greg: To suggest that client-side researchers do not have the guts to use innovative research companies is not true. Saying so paints all client-side researchers with one brush. Only will use an innovative research tool if it will help conduct the research better. Client side researchers will still exist in 10 years but the role will change.
Audience question: Best work often involves direct work with internal clients. When do you think it is best to avoid broken telephone and have suppliers meet with stakeholders?
Greg: Does not like the bottle-neck role, inefficient, his role is to connect both sides.
Audience comment: Client side researchers in Canada are open to new products if they provide practical assistance.
Moderator: Challenge in retail in Canada, often no company wants to start using something unless two other competitors are doing so. Can provide a situation where no one ends up using it.
Audience question: What do you think are one of the key things you are looking for in a proposal and pitch?
John: You understand me a little better than your competitor.
<Note: I lost internet access in the last few minutes of the panel, and missed the last comments>