Becoming a Trusted Advisor
Here’s the thing. Trust in business, between customers and suppliers, is the most important capital. A recent study shows that the percentage of people who trust business dropped from 58% in 2008 to 38% in 2009. Only 29% of people trust what the CEO of a company says! Customers are almost twice are likely to take a recommendation about a product from ‘someone like them’ than from a company representative.
Becoming a Trusted Advisor – is the holy grail of selling and the ultimate relationship with your customer – to become a trusted advisor to your clients. To be viewed – and sought out – as a source of valued advice and support.
The benefits from a business development perspective are clear: the professional who is the first port of call for a client with a business problem is in a tremendous position to help shape that client’s thinking, to build a deeper relationship, and to establish strong credibility through the discussions. In other words, they will be in first position to win any related work.
And if the professional has established a position of being able to help across a broad range of business issues – not just in their own area – then they begin to advance towards that other holy grail, the ability to cross-sell professional services.
But becoming a trusted advisor doesn’t happen overnight. The position must be earned – and this takes time and investment of effort.
Building trust can only be done by demonstrating and proving trustworthiness over time. The client must come to believe that you understand them, you have their best interests at heart, and you will deal with them with candor – always being honest about what you can and cannot do, and taking a long term perspective rather than seeing them as a short-term sales prospect.
When the Huthwaite Group studied client’s perceptions of professional service salespeople, they found that of the key elements of trust (in their words: competence, candor, and concern) it was the area of showing concern and empathy for their clients where professionals performed the worst – much worse that their counterparts in product sales. Accountants, lawyers and consultants are trained “to be professional” – to be objective, fact-driven and solution focused. They have been conditioned into feeling they must constantly demonstrate their cleverness and expertise in order to be credible. But all of this mitigates against showing genuine human concern for clients and their challenges.