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.
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.
“Leaders are made, not born. Leadership is forged in times of crisis. It is easy to sit there with your feet up on the desk and talk theory…….It is another thing to lead when your world comes tumbling down” Lee Iacocca.
As the savior of Chrysler, Lee Iacocca believes that leaders are made in a time of crisis. The crisis of a nation such as Sir Winston Churchill faced in 1939 and the crisis of a corporation such as Iacocca faced in 1978. Leadership is about who we are and how we behave, we can learn to develop our behavior and become more successful leaders. Here are the nine qualities Iacocca believes are needed for effective leadership.
A leader needs to be curious, to step out of his comfort zone and to listen others' different, possibly challenging ideas. Without challenging our thinking and belief’s how do we know we are right?
Leaders need to be willing to try something new, to think outside of the box. Part of a leader’s role is to manage change.Circumstances alter constantly, a leader needs to adapt and creatively deal with those changes.
Effective leaders confront realities, even when it is painful to do so. They communicate the truth, suggest strategies to move forward, inviting others to share their ideas and become involved as part of the solution.
Character means knowing the difference between right and wrong, it is about our moral and ethical strength. It is what is deep inside us, both when things go well and wrong. Ideally our reputation and our character should be mirror images. As Abraham Lincoln said: “Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.”
A leader must have courage. The courage to sit down at the table and talk, to defend what is right even when it might be unpopular.
A leader should passionately believe in their goals and be determined to achieve them.
Charisma is the quality that inspires, that makes others trust you, follow you and believe that they have a valid role to play as part of the vision.
A leader needs to be competent and to surround themselves with people who know what they are doing as competent problem solvers.
9. Common Sense
Leaders need to be able to reason and use common sense!
When Iacocca joined Chrysler in 1978 it announced a $160 million quarterly loss, it was appallingly managed, lacking organizational discipline and structure. Harsh measures were needed, measures which Iacocca had the courage to implement. Visiting every Chrysler plant he learned how employees felt and he devised a rescue plan. Never asking others anything he wasn’t prepared to accept himself; hard work, commitment and for himself a salary of one dollar a year. Inspired by their leader’s honesty, common sense, conviction and passion employees accepted losses in wages and benefits to help effect a dramatic recovery. Iacocca bought a company teetering on bankruptcy back to life, retaining employment for thousands and making an enormous contribution to the American economy.
In today’s competitive, depressed economy, Iaccoa’s story is inspirational. Try applying his nine C’s of leadership, always do your best and do let us know what other ideas you might have to be an effective leader.