Zen and the Art of Arrogance

Market leaders in 11 professional service markets are arrogant. It’s absolutely true.

Over the last 25 years, BTI has performed deep dive analyses into client expectations and preferences for professional service providers in 11 different segments including Law, Accounting, Management Consulting, Engineering, Digital Marketing Agencies and more. Our shocking discovery: each and every market leader is also invariably tagged by clients as one of the—if not the absolute—most arrogant provider in their sector.

How can this be?

We think of arrogance as bad. Arrogance is most often thought of as an overinflated sense of self; a description reserved for the firms always talking down to clients and peers. The general perception is: arrogant firms just don’t care. But clients tell us the exact opposite is true for the best performers and market leaders.

These market leaders—the  firms with “positive arrogance”—are able to convince clients they are more important, more valuable and insightful than competitors and scoff at the notion competitors can approach their own depth—more importantly, the firms with positive arrogance make these statements with their behaviors instead of words.

BTI’s research uncovered 7 clear—and decidedly positive—behaviors C-level executives and decision makers see in market leaders:

  1. Unfettered self-confidence driving clients to feel more confident in their provider.

  2. Unequivocal, unapologetic recommendations and counsel to provoke new thinking and improve the final outcome for clients.

  3. Bravado and certainty in the ability to exceed—not simply meet—client expectations.

  4. Precision in thought and language suggesting the most thorough processes and approaches.

  5. Unmatched command of the facts and circumstances impacting clients.

  6. Comfortable and eager to take control of a situation so the client can sleep better at night.

  7. Continuous flow of new ideas, unconventional approaches, and brainstorming to drive better outcomes.

To be sure—the line is fine separating “positive arrogance” from its more damning counterpart, “relationship-destroying arrogance.” One wrong action and you have moved from well-respected, confident business partner to blacklisted service provider to be avoided at all costs.

Words are powerful and have different meanings: arrogance can be positive and a market differentiator. Positive arrogance is all about client-centric self-awareness and superior client service. But clients notice any lack of these positive traits well before we do. The challenge is to stay one step ahead of client expectations—all the way to market leadership.

MBR/JPD