This post is part of our Monthly-ish Tips series.

I originally shared this Weekly Tip three years ago, and at the time I didn’t know the identity of the person who offered the unconventional offer it describes. I had forgotten about the post until just the other day when I had a chance to meet this awesome person, in person. I’m reprising it because it’s such a great lesson in a much more trustworthy way to think about “competition” that’s worthy of emulation.

At the time of first writing, I had a client who was a senior leader in a large consulting firm and looking hard at whether or not it was time to go elsewhere. This wasn’t a trivial move as there were many years of investment to consider (mental, emotional, financial). He was seriously exploring his options anyway. Not surprisingly, he was being recruited by several other companies (all competitors with his current firm). One of them made an unconventional offer as part of the courtship that blew us both away at the time.

In short, the competing firm basically said, “Hey, why don’t you come to our national annual meeting next month. Be our guest. Use it as a way of getting to know us better and make it part of your decision-making process.”

Above all else, my client was struck by the openness of the invitation (and he still is, three years later). “My current firm would never do this,” he said to me at the time.

And for good reason, if we apply conventional wisdom. There’s that phrase about the camel’s nose under the tent, implying the risk of a small act that could invite much bigger and less desirable outcomes—including competitor secrets getting revealed and misused.

Looking at this unconventionally, though, there are perennial and unmistakable upsides. The candor is striking. So is the trust placed in my client through the gesture. There’s also the unmistakable focus on doing whatever it takes for the right decision to get made.

My client was clear about his reaction, then and now. “Whatever happens, I’ll never forget that offer,” he said.

For good reason.

Make It Real

This week, consider opportunities you have to bring an unconventional approach to a “competitive” business situation. What would be the upside of taking a more trustworthy route?

Learn More

Speaking of competition, find out what you should say about your competition when the client asks you, from our friends at Trusted Advisor Associates. Or brush up on collaborative approaches to marketing and business development in Chapter 11 of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook.

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Andrea Howe

As the founder of The Get Real Project, I am the steward of our vision and our service offerings, as well as a workshop leader and keynote speaker. Above all else, I am an entrepreneur on a mission: to kick conventional business wisdom to the curb and transform how people work together as a result. I am also the co-author, with Charles H. Green, of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook (Wiley, 2012).