What does it mean to become a ‘trusted advisor’?
Why would you aspire to become your client’s ‘trusted advisor’? From the book 'The Trusted Advisor' by David H Maister, Charles H Green & Robert M Galford, we are going to examine this critical question. As your client’s trusted advisor you become your client’s ‘go to’ person, a provider of excellent, impartial advice when its needed the most. That could be during a period of change, in a crisis, in times of defeat or even in times of victory. It means that you are your client’s partner, you share in all things, good and bad. You are the person they think of first for help and support, someone who cares about them, someone they respect and can rely on and trust to do the right thing for them.
The trusted advisor, earning trust
Building trust is a gradual process, it takes time to develop and it requires effort. Trust has to be earned, you have to show trust in order to get it. Initially trust can be earned by being generous with your specialist knowledge, by being prepared to freely share pertinent information and your advice with no gain to yourself.
For your client to trust you they have to respect you. To earn respect you need to show respect. Firstly you need to show respect of yourself, in the way you dress, in how you talk, interact and behave towards others. Respect of others is demonstrated by how you treat people, how courteous, considerate and sincere you are and how attentively you listen to them. Gestures such as following up after meetings, inquiring after individual’s families etc all help to to build trust and show that your priority is the other person, in helping them not yourself and that you sincerely care.
Emotion and reason
Building trust is both emotional and rational. Rational, in that it is based on what expertise you have to offer your client and emotional in that it is about providing support, challenging thinking and offering encouragement. To become a trusted advisor you need to do both.
Trust - a two-way relationship
Trust is a two-way relationship- you cannot create it on your own, your client has to participate and reciprocate.
Trust entails risk, potential to violate the relationship always exists but what makes the relationship special is the advisor never doing so. The advisor is trusted and the client does the trusting, although just because you have the ability to trust others does not necessarily mean that you are trustworthy!
Trust is about the individual
Trust is personal in that we don’t trust organizations or companies we trust the people within them. Trust requires being understood and having some capacity to act on that understanding. It is a relationship built on shared values and principles. One person relying on the other, the trusted advisor being vested in the long-term gain.
Ultimately people trust you if they respect you and believe that you sincerely care about them; in their interests and concerns, over and above your own. Your client will turn to you as their solution provider because they respect and trust you. They will listen to you, they will act and they will make mutually beneficial decisions. Successfully building this type of relationship will create a long term, sustainable partnership.
In the following weeks we will look in more detail about how to build a trusted advisor relationship, next time we will look at how to give advice. In the meantime, what do you think, are you your client’s trusted advisor? We’d love to know your thoughts!
4 Sales Methodologies - Product, Solution, Consultative and Partnership Selling
We are often asked what the difference is between these sales methodologies, which one is the most appropriate and whether there is a place for all four? To answer this simply imagine this very basic scenario: you work for a well known high street coffee shop chain, at six in the morning the customer is standing in front of you, which approach do you use:
You decide to convince the customer to buy your best seller. You provide a description about the coffee. You explain whether it is medium or dark roast and you describe features (taste) of each type. You talk about how all your coffee is freshly ground ensuring optimum flavor and suggest that this will be the best coffee they have ever tasted. They buy the coffee and you meet their need. This is product-based selling.
In this scenario you take the time to find out a little more about exactlywhat the customer is looking for. You ask some questions to uncover their needs. Based on their answers you decide that they might prefer one of two to three different blends. Then you spend time describing the various options, you include information about where the beans were grown and how environmentally responsible your supplier is. You explain the care and attention to detail that went into the roasting process to enable the finest quality. You enthuse about your coffee shop, the ambiance it offers, the other food you sell and the uniqueness of your new cups and how well they insulate to keep the coffee hot. You let the customer make an informed decision, confident that your customer will buy, be satisfied and return as a loyal customer. This is solution selling.
This time, you don’t mention anything about what you sell but instead you focus completely on the customer. You don't try to determine which blend to sell them, but how to help them to make the best decision, one which they will feel is right for them. Maybe they don't just want a drink but want to want to relax and meet people. Possibly they would they like to try something new or maybe they actually prefer to keep to their favorite beverage. You try to establish what their needs really are and how you can help them.
You think about where they might be going next and whether they might like to have a bottle of water to take with them. If they are travelling, perhaps it would be good to take a sandwich with them. By talking to them and discovering this information you sell them one or maybe several of your other products and a cup of coffee! They think you were so helpful that they leave your coffee shop feeling good, determined to return. You have differentiated yourself not by the coffee, but by the nature of the overall experience.
They will tell their friends what a great experience it was. Next time they will come with a group of people. Some will want tea, others coffee, some smoothies; but they will all enjoy the experience of buying in your coffee shop. This is consultative selling.
Partnership Selling is possibly the ultimate goal of most sales people. To establish yourself in the eyes of the customer as someone who will work alongside them, someone who will help to clarify their needs, their direction, their goals and what they are trying to achieve. Just as in the consultative selling approach, you establish why this customer is in your coffee shop and how you might be able to better address their needs. Perhaps they will suggest things to you that will enable you to add-value in other areas – thereby helping you to attract more customers: quiet sitting areas perhaps? Newspapers to read? A TV to watch while they wait for their favorite brew? Wifi so they can work and relax? You ask them for input. They ask you for suggestions. They start to become regular customers visiting your coffee shop at different times of the day maybe more than once a day. They become a regular client. You get to know each other, they are impressed by you, the interest you have taken in them, the way you listen and ask questions, you made them feel you care about them. You become their chosen barista and the one they recommend to others. This is partnership selling.