The three most over-used adjectives in corporate speak must be, in increasing order of inanity, “Robust”, “Transformational” and “Strategic”!

“Strategic” takes pole-position when it comes to sales pitches. Every initiative becomes strategic. Every engagement makes the supplier a strategic partner, and the relationship a strategic partnership.

The question to ask, is not whether inserting the word “strategic” helps you in your pitch; but whether it devalues you in front of your prospects and proposal evaluators. If it does not take away from your pitch, then no harm done – but, unfortunately, in most cases, it distracts from your main message.

Can you afford your prospects or evaluators getting distracted from the key elements of your business case? Information overload has rendered most human beings unable to sustain attention. Worse, recent research finds that it is taking longer and longer for a human to get back to the topic – currently about 10 minutes per distraction. So, would you have the prospect wonder about what was strategic about your engagement with someone, or listen to your pitch?

So, when are you really strategic, or doing strategic work?

I remember, a long time ago, reading a magazine called “Mad”. It used to run a serial cartoon strip called “Romance, Love and Relationships”. One of them went like this:

It’s romance, when you plan a weekend around her. (The cartoon shows a couple loading the car with skis).

It’s love, when you plan a life-time around her (The cartoon shows the woman dreaming of kids, and the man dreaming of a car with kids and a dog)

It’s a relationship when you plan your income-tax returns around her (The cartoon shows the guy sitting in a table with a calculator, while the lady is doing some house work)

We can use this metaphor for deciding whether you are really strategic to your client. Here are three questions you must answer, honestly, to see if you are really a strategic partner, perhaps involved in transformational engagements using your arguably robust methodologies with deep expertise!

1.      Does the board of your clients’ company have you on the agenda at least once a year? (And not because you are under investigation!)

2.      Does the client call you before their long-term planning events, and give you a heads-up on the kind of capacity or capability you would need to build for them?

3.      Does the client depend on you for their income or profitability?  In other words, will they lose income or profit, if they terminate your contract, for at least 2 quarters?

If you answer “Yes”, to any of these three questions, then you are indeed strategic to your client. If you answered “No” to all three, then, sorry, you are just another service provider or yet-another-vendor.

I have seen too many smart people who use this word carelessly. I have personally witnessed a client rolling his eyes when a senior executive used “strategic” to describe an engagement – which was all of two people somewhere in the Mid-West supporting a bunch of brochure websites.

Use these three questions to avoid such situations as it really distracts the listener, and diminishes you and your message.

And when you have stopped using “strategic”, then you can get around to doing something about “transformational” and “robust”! Or you can wait till some client or analyst asks you to define these terms. When you have done that, then may be you can deal with another pet-peeve-word – “deep expertise”. Good luck!

Note : This article was originally published on LinkedIn.

Ramesh Dorairaj

Ramesh Dorairaj is consultant, coach and an author. He has 27+ Years of Experience consulting for Fortune 500 companies worldwide. He has groomed 50+ leaders. Has participated in 2.5 Billion $ worth of successful deals.  He is a Certified Executive Coach at Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Coaching, Certified Sales Coach and a Certified Proposal Coach.

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