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The Value of Value in Context

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I’m not usually one for talking about sport in a professional context, and certainly not on my blog, despite being a huge fan of English football. Not everyone shares the same passions and I completely understand how annoying it could be listening to a group talk about football when you have no interest in it, especially when it’s in a work situation.

However, an article written by a well-known sports writer months back really stuck in my mind and I’ve been meaning to write about it since.

In his article, Gabrielle Marcotti commented on how Manchester United have splashed out obscene amounts of money on big-name players over the past few months.

It’s surprising, because it goes against a cultural philosophy that has defined the club in recent years. Man Utd, for those who don’t follow the game closely, have never really been the kind of club who buy in global superstars. Instead, they’ve achieved enviable success by (mostly) identifying the right young players early and nurturing them to greatness.

Things have changed though.

Manchester United are, by their own standards, a club in something of a crisis. A generational change in leadership has left them in real danger of falling out of the elite, at least in terms of performance. The outcome is they have spent in one close season big-name transfer money like literally never before. There is an air of panic about their activity.

As Gabe expresses well in the article, it’s the equivalent of the drowning man, who would probably be unwilling to pay $15 for a flotation device at any time except for the very moment he needs it most, when he would pay whatever price needed.

A similar analogy is that of an alarm system, potentially too expensive to all but those who appreciate the downside of having their belongings or car stolen. Life insurance is another great example of a value in context situation.

The point traverses simple sporting matters. The context of a purchase significantly defines buying behaviour. I paid far more than I usually would for a new shirt just before a speaking gig after I went and spilled coffee on myself. My most motivated clients are those who have very clear goals to achieve or problems they want to get rid of. Man Utd are paying silly money for players they likely would have passed on two years ago because the cost to them of not acting hugely outweighs the fees they have paid.

It’s no different when it comes to selling advice.

Understanding the context behind what has motivated a potential client to begin a conversation specifically here and now is absolutely vital. That information – the background story – has such a significant impact on how value is perceived. It not only defines the likelihood of a successful engagement, but also how motivated the client is going to be participate in your process.

That last bit is key! Of all the efficiency problems I’m talking to advice businesses about right now, the lack of client motivation is one causing the big issues. Clients not returning information, phone calls, emails or generally helping the process along – far more than systems and process – are the real sticking points that clog up businesses.

It’s not just about understanding the context though. It’s also about influencing clients to better self-assess it too.

The reality is most people don’t know the path they are on may not result in the financial and lifestyle outcomes they want. They’ve over-wished and under-implemented, or even worse haven’t wished at all. Some are in denial. They’re the equivalent of Man Utd without a league table to refer to, assuming everything will be okay and their supremacy will continue by default.

That’s how I see great advisers (or advice-givers in general, in their many forms) making a real difference. They are able to challenge others to consider the real context that lies underneath the assumptions most people make about their financial wellbeing. They make clients realise, rather than telling them what to think, the value of making different choices, changing behaviour and looking at things from a different perspective. Then they make it easier to take initial action, and keep taking action year after year. The same goes for other spheres of business, whether it be fitness training, managing teams or, dare I say, business coaching. It’s here the big value is created and, where you create big value for others, success is rarely far behind.

Manchester United may have paid more than they did in the past, but the key thing is not the fees they’ve paid, but the actions they’ve taken. I’d suggest it’s those actions that will ensure the club’s current deflated status will ultimately prove to be a passing phase.

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