How you could benefit from becoming a trusted advisor
As the demands of society increase and choice of supplier is sometimes overwhelming, more and more people are looking outside of just cost for their needs and more to ‘value for money’, they need reassurance that there is stability in their decision; after all what business person has time to tender and re-tender when things aren’t quite what they seemed to be from the outset.
One way to build (and keep) those business relationships is to become a ‘trusted advisor’
Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as it sounds, for a start it does take time to nurture those relationships; it’s definitely a long-term goal rather than a quick solution and maybe not for everyone but it can yield really fruitful results. For example, you might turn away a client or make them aware of services that you can’t offer purely because it’s what’s best for them. Rather than try and squeeze them into a service you provide that might only ‘just’ fit you would potentially be sending them on to a competitor. However, having known that you have their best interests at heart and can be ‘trusted’ they might keep you in mind for the future business and recommend you to others. It can also be beneficial to build reciprocal relationships with other similar businesses to yours to fill those gaps together, knowing that you are sending these people on to someone else who can also be trusted and maintain that reputation.
The best resource for learning more about this is the book ‘The Trusted Advisor‘ by David Maister, Charles H Green and Robert Galford. Whilst nearly 20 years old, the values in here are as relevant now as they were then.
Charles H Green also has a great video on ‘The Trust Equation’ which gives you a brief rundown on what to be aiming for but some fantastic tips taken from the book are as follows:
• Demonstrate low levels of self-orientation
You build trust with clients by showing them you put them first, not yourself.
Consistently maintaining low levels of self-orientation is what marks out the advisors that clients will trust for the long-term. So always think of your client, their challenges, their priorities, their concerns, before your own.
• Ask questions to understand why
The Trusted Advisor has a great phrase to reassure anyone who’s been asked a difficult question by a client: “The answer is a better question.”
You have to keep asking questions to understand why the client is asking you what they’re asking you, and why they think like they do. That way you can help them understand the context of their situation and possible routes out.
• Give options (in a non-confrontational way)
Our role is to help clients understand so they can decide, not decide for them.
The book sums this up as: give the client their options, give them an education about their options (pros and cons), make your recommendation, but let them decide. A beautifully simple model for how to give clients valuable counsel.
• Develop the confidence to admit what you don’t know
Admitting doubt or uncertainty is delicate but can be very powerful. It shows honesty and trustworthiness. It’s a sign of low self-orientation.
• Be generous with your knowledge
There are thousands of businesses out there who all claim to be thought leaders. All of them bright people who know how to do the job. It’s very unlikely that you know any secret information that makes you better to work with than the guys next door.
Instead, you become trusted by being generous with what you know, sharing it instead of hoarding it.
• Get closer to clients
Trust develops through spending time together. That means phone communication beats email, and face-to-face beats phone.
It’s always better to err on the side of “over-communication” – more rather than less. Let them know you’re working on that document they asked you to write, and when you think you’ll be able to send it over. Don’t wait to “surprise” your client or assume they have powers of telepathy to understand what you’re thinking and doing.
• Build reliability over time
You build trust by doing what you say you’ll do. So create opportunities to deliver on your promises.
Say you’ll send something at 9am, and do it. Commit to a call at 2pm, and be on the line exactly at 2pm, not three minutes late.
These small things add up.
• Actively listen
One of the hardest skills to develop is active listening. This means listening out for what isn’t being said by the client, as well as what is.
What’s their tone? What issues do they rush over? What difficult topics need careful broaching?
“If you want to be TRUSTED, be HONEST. If you want to be honest, be TRUE. If you want to be true, be YOURSELF.” Nishan Panwar