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Are you a trusted advisor?

Over the last few months I have been fortunate enough to have been invited along to speak at quite a few conferences. This means that not only did I come away with a nice stash of hotel soaps, shampoos and shoe shine kits, but I now also have a lovely collection of company- or sponsor-branded water bottles, highlighter pens, post-it pads, and satchels.

I am also now officially on a three-month detox from any form of individually packaged mints!

What I really found interesting in the lead-up to my so-called “conference season”, was that in the preparation for each of my presentations, I realised that no matter what my specific topic was, I was able to focus quite extensively on the idea of becoming a trusted advisor.

I personally became aware of this concept about a year ago when I came across the book “The Trusted Advisor” by David Maister, Charles H. Green, and Robert M. Galford.

Now regardless of whether you work in recruitment, advertising, PR, media sales, insurance or law, anyone working directly with clients (either in a customer service and/or sales capacity) would be aware of just how important building a solid relationship can be to your overall success.

But the question then becomes what level of service are you delivering?

Think about a client with whom you feel you may have developed a strong working partnership. Now ask yourself whether it’s a service based partnership, a needs based partnership, a relationship based partnership, or a trust based partnership.

“The Trusted Advisor” (which I actually flick through every time I get on a plane before I meet with an interstate client) focuses on the following four concepts, which should give you a better indication of the type of working partnership you have built with your client.

  • Within a service based engagement, your energy would be spent explaining things to your client – in other words, your client receives information from you.
  • Within a needs based engagement, your time is spent problem solving – so that your client receives solutions.
  • Within a relationship based engagement, you are able to provide your client with insights so that your client feels they can come to you for ideas.
  • And finally, the trusted advisor can focus on the client as an individual, spending time really understanding them as well as their needs, and the client feels they can confide in you with sensitive or difficult issues.

Now think about that client again.

And now for the tough part – and this is almost like a little game you can play next time you are meeting with a client (regardless of whether it’s a new or existing one):

Your objective is to only talk about how you have helped a client with a similar need. Lose one point every time you mention your company, your service, your solution, or your past. But give yourself three points every time you mention their issues, their concerns, their challenges, or their future.

As the American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: “No-one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care”.

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