A trusted advisor is understanding, considerate and sensitive and has developed a strong supportive relationship with their client. From 'The Trusted Advisor' by David H. Maister, Charles H. Green & Robert M. Galford', here are some ideas about how to achieve this.
1. Invest first - to earn you must give
Simply put, this means that the person you wish to influence must first perceive your willingness to investment in the relationship.
2. Demonstrate don’t assert
Look for opportunities to demonstrate that you have something to contribute. Don’t tell them, show them. Before a client meeting determine what you want them to believe about you. For example, to show your preparedness and thoroughness demonstrate this, talk about their recent press releases or blogs, also inviting their opinions. To show your sincerity and empathy randomly call them to simply inquire how they are doing.
3. Look for what’s different not similar
To be able to help someone you need to understand their concerns. Try to create situations where your client feels comfortable sharing their issues. In so doing you will discover what they appreciate and what they respond to, and you will understand how to become more effective.
4. Know when to give advice
Many times what the client initially wants is not your advice but your understanding, approval and support. Give them this affirmation first and they will be far more willing to listen later.
5. Don’t give answers too soon
It is tempting to immediately offer solutions, however often this will not be well received. It is important to first demonstrate that you really understand the situation; ask good questions, listen and invite client feedback. Make them feel their opinion is valued, that they are the decision-maker. Do this before offering your ideas.
6. Clarify what you are being told ~ people rarely say what they mean
Following on from the previous point, asking good questions is essential. Listen carefully and then ask more questions to clarify, people seldom say what they mean, especially initially! Equally you must be clear that you are communicating exactly what you mean, always be open and honest but act with tact and care.
7. Ask for help
Giving advice is a two-way interaction, you will earn more trust if you ask for help, providing your focus remains on the client. In this way you are inviting the client to join with you to resolve their problems, a sure way to build trust.
8. Be interested in the person
One of the best ways to be perceived as a sincere, reliable person, someone your clients would like to work with, is by getting them to talk about themselves. By being interested and asking good questions you will also gather much useful information. For example, if someone says "I think……’' a good response would be ‘"....that is so interesting, why do you think that, what led you to that conclusion?" The more responses you get the more your understanding will grow and the more helpful and acceptable your responses will become. The client will feel you are interested in them and that you understand them. Endeavor to remember the information you gather, take notes! Nothing convinces others more that you are genuine and interested than when at a future occasion you remember facts about them. It is enticing and makes the other person feel you really care.
9. Use Compliments
Others always appreciate sincere, credible compliments, for example: “I hear that others are really impressed with your recent project,” or “People speak so highly of you, the changes you have effected are very noticeable”
10. Show Appreciation
It is a fact that clients rarely appreciate our efforts but that they expect those that work with them to appreciate them. Expressing appropriate appreciation to clients will help cement your relationships.
These are just some relationship building ideas. What have your experiences taught you? What ideas might you be able to share with others? We are always interested to learn from you!
As a trusted advisor your client wants your opinion and advice. To provide honest, impartial counsel which is also well received is often difficult. Most people don’t want to be told what they are doing wrong, nor what you think they should do about it. Continuing to look at 'The Trusted Advisor' by David H Maister, Charles H Green & Robert M Galford here are some ideas about providing advice as your client's trusted advisor.
When people ask for advice they are looking for help. Try to understand the issues at stake, maybe reputations and promotion opportunities. Don't only suggest ways to improve, it implies things are being done wrong and won't be welcomed. The trick is to understand the politics of the situation, to be sensitive to individual personalities and to be tactful.
Your client wants you to remove their concerns and provide support and confidence. As their advisor, by default, the risk is that you appear arrogant, something your client will resent. Your role is to diffuse any defensiveness by showing that you are trying to help not criticize.
Create a dialogue, a conversation
To show that you sincerely what to provide helpful advice try to create a dialogue. This requires sensitivity and a careful use of words, replacing: 'You should do X' with something like: 'Let's explore the possibilities together.' When you make a suggestion, invite a contribution: ‘This is what I am thinking, what about you?’. Keep the conversation alive, replacing questions such as 'what are your problems?' with: 'What areas do you think need improvement?' Try to turn assertions into questions.
Create the right atmosphere
Think for a moment about a classroom instructor. Often they will ask the class whether they have understood, but they rarely get an honest response. This is because they have created an atmosphere where to respond is to admit weakness. To create the right atmosphere and get the desired response a better question would be: 'Have I made myself clear?' or 'Shall we stay on this point or move to the next?' This avoids individuals admitting confusion but the instructor clarifies comprehension!
For advice to be accepted, and be really effective two skills are essential:
(i) The ability to ask good questions and listen
You need a clear grasp of where your client is starting from; their view of the situation, what they believe, what they are currently doing and why. Asking the right questions and being an attentive listener will achieve this and help determine what messages the client is ready for.
(ii) The ability to develop a reasoning process
Next a step-by-step reasoning process is needed to influence understanding. This helps your solutions to now resonate but allows the client to feel they made the decision. This is Socratic reasoning and it requires patience and practice to perfect.
The client as the decision maker
Your goal is to always to help the client feel that they have made the decision for themselves. You can make them aware of all the options, explore all the pros and cons and suggest recommendations, but let the client make the final decision. When confronted with a group and several individuals’ perspectives thorough prior research is essential, together with a concise summary of what has been achieved.
There is a never a one-size fits all solution. The essence of providing advice is to design a process to fit each situation and to be flexible in your consulting style.
What have your experiences taught you and what suggestions do you have? We are always interested to learn from you.