I’ve been seeing quite a few references to the term Trusted Advisors recently, and I’ve been talking to people about what they think it really means.
The term seems to be applied more often than not to the field of consulting. However, I would suggest a Trusted Advisor is something we should all aspire to, something that can be used in any aspect of relationship building, and apply not only to external relationships but internal as well.
Why is it important or relevant to me, and why should I want to be one? I would suggest it is the ultimate compliment to be awarded you by any customer. It means they listen to you, seek your council and respect your views and advice. You become a close confidant and can help them with their business.
But how do you achieve the exalted Trusted Advisor badge? Is it just magically awarded to you with the wave of a wand to produce a Harry Potter spell?
I would suggest it is achieved based on the process of hard work and dedication to better serving your customer by navigating your way through various stages in the relationship pyramid, and to reach the point where you scale the very pinnacle of service to earn it.
How so, I hear my intrigued reader asking. Typically this would mean starting at the bottom of the relationship pyramid where we are typically viewed as a Vendor. As we understand our customer’s functionality and how they operate we get treated more as a Preferred Supplier and so we can go then move to the next stage and focus on understanding their business and how we can be perceived as their Consultant.
As we rise further up the pyramid we start getting an understanding of the customer’s industry and the customer now sees us a major Contributor. Finally, we scale and reach the pinnacle by understanding the customer’s issues and we become in their eyes, a Valued Partner or a Trusted Advisor.
So having looked at what we need to know, what are some of the abilities we need to possess to make us a Trusted Advisor? I would suggest that there are 5 core competencies required as a foundation for being considered a Trusted Advisor.
1. Have the customer’s best interests in mind
We should at all times be considering what is in the best interest of the customer rather than what we necessarily want to sell them as a product service or idea.
2. Always deliver what we promise
Managing expectations is a large part of being a Trusted Adviser. We should never over-promise and always deliver what and when we promise.
3. Provide added value.
This is an often a misunderstood terminology and can be taken to mean a number of things. My understanding and my experience of providing value has been to ensure we provide something extra that the customer wouldn’t necessarily get or expect from the relationship we have.
4. Take the initiative
Taking the initiative can be so important in helping establish Trusted Advisor status. The pace of business is ever increasing as all types of media constantly bombard us. Just staying on top of our e-mail inbox is a major challenge and a Trusted Advisor perceives and understands the customer’s situation and actively looks for opportunities to take some of the stress away from the customer. Perhaps by suggesting how you can take the ball, and run with it on their behalf.
5. Use superior communication skills
Listening to customer issues and being able to articulate them is key to the customer being open and able to trust us. This then opens the door for us to suggest solution strategies and help solve problems quickly by helping key stakeholders also understand the issues and potential solutions.
We should all aspire to become Trusted Advisors, and if we can’t get Harry Potter to magic us into one, I would suggest these suggestions will help you on your way to understanding why we should be aspiring to and how we can achieve the exalted status.
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Peter M. Beaumont is a Management Consultant, Founder of ConnXN and is a Consultant for Pivotal Advisors. He is the author of The Relationship Roadmap and works with managers of B2B companies to increase profits quicker by managing Strategic Accounts differently. See more at www.ConnXN.net