If you are in a client facing role, then striving to provide superior service, build stronger relationships and making yourself or your business invaluable to your clients is more than likely a top priority. Transitioning from a standard supplier or consultant to a trusted advisor is key to these goals.
Most of us don’t start our careers as trusted advisors. It takes years of experience and proven ability as technical experts to be able to reach any aspirations to be regarded as one amongst our clients, colleagues and staff alike. Those who experience the trusted advisor status have earned a great deal of trust, have built deep client relationships, are highly valued by their customers and are invited to have much greater strategic input in the client’s business. They are an integral part of the business and are invited to provide more complete solutions to business issues, much earlier on in the process.
Becoming a trusted advisor is not a simple feat, in fact only about 5% of consultants fall into the ‘trusted advisor’ category. You need to focus on being exceptional if you want to get anywhere close to it….
How can I become a trusted advisor?
Firstly, you need to make this a long-term strategy. It takes time, patience, diligence and unwavering commitment. It certainly won’t happen overnight, it may even take years to elevate your status to that of trusted advisor. I’ll outline some strategies you can employ to pave the path, with the main objective being to build trust amongst your clients. Keep in mind that while trust can take a very long time to establish, it can take one act, one moment to destroy it completely, so your efforts in building trust must be consistent with 100% commitment.
Here are some ways to build trust amongst your clients and set you on the way to ‘trusted advisor’ status:
1. Demonstrate exceptional active listening
Active listening is an art and it goes far beyond simply listening to what your client is saying and nodding to show you understand what is being communicated. It requires you to read their body language, ask intelligent questions to gain deeper insight, decipher what isn’t being said as well as what is being said, picking up on the dynamics between induvial personalities and reading other vital information.
Active listening involves you showing your clients your enthusiasm for their business, the level of commitment you have to their business and giving them reassurance that you fully understand what they have said and leaving them feeling like they can trust you with this information and your ability to help them find a solution and provide exceptional service. If you are in a client briefing, take notes, ask questions, clarify things by reiterating what has been said to you and asking your client to agree to your interpretation.
Ensure that absolutely nothing is unclear in your mind and that you have all the information you need to provide exceptional solutions. Asking questions will ensure you understand why your client wants something done, and why they think like they do. It helps you to understand the context behind the issue or task at hand. advisors have superior creativity in listening to client issues and can create a solution strategy that clearly shows how it solves the problem quickly and thoroughly. To do this, you must have mastered the art of active listening.
2. Err on the side of over communication rather than under communication
Trust develops through communication over time. If there is an opportunity to meet face to face, opt for that rather than phone. Or pick up the phone instead of emailing. You need to ensure of course that you are not annoying your clients with over communicating, so this will take some judgement on your part naturally, but generally if you can build more and better communication with your clients, there is more chance for trust to grow and establish over time. Let them know your progress on projects proactively so they are not left wondering or asking you themselves. If they mentioned an issue when you last met, ask them how it is going when you speak to them next. By communicating well and offering your clients constant reassurance and updates that you are focussed on their business, they will feel at ease and trust you more over time. Work to build rapport with your clients and invest the time and effort in getting to know them and their business, even if you can’t bill them for the time.
3. Develop your technical expertise and knowledge of your client’s business
Make sure your technical knowledge and skills are at a high enough level, so you can give sound advice and offer the very latest solutions to their problems, after all you are the expert in your field. You need to ensure you remain highly knowledgeable and skilful at what you do to reach the trusted advisor status, so complete that extra training and learn about new innovations and different ways to do things. This also extends to having a good understanding of your clients’ business.
Trusted advisors take the time and energy to gain a deep understanding of their client’s environment and business. Put yourself in your clients’ shoes. They have a lot of pressure themselves to perform and have hired you and your business to make them look good! Having vendors, they can rely on, who know their business inside out, and provide quick and thorough solutions to issues makes their life a lot easier. Keep informed of issues and changes to their industry.
If possible, be the first to inform them of these changes, or at the very least, be aware of them when they come to you to talk about them. Be generous with the knowledge you have and don’t be afraid to give it out for free. The more you can demonstrate this, the more they will be inclined to depend on you, trust your input and turn to you for solutions.
4. Put your clients’ needs before your own
Trust develops when you continuously prove to your clients that you put them first, not yourself. Many companies are excellent at keeping their own goals in sight and only making moves that benefit themselves. Trusted advisors on the other hand, will offer solutions that don’t necessarily benefit themselves or their own business, but instead benefit their clients, often at the expense of their own short-term gains.
5. Always be reliable
Being reliable and doing what you say you are going to do goes a long way in building trust. Be on time (or even early) for meetings, meet deadlines and follow up on what you promised. This simple disciplined approach just helps to ensure that your clients can rely on you and trust that you will deliver and can be depended on.
Building trust amongst your clients is essential for building strong relationships. If you can manage to achieve the status of ‘trusted advisor’ you will reap the rewards and become someone who is deeply regarded and sought out. It’s certainly something to strive for.
Could you and your leadership team do with one of my tailored workshops to help coach you on becoming trusted advisors? I’d love to share my experience and fool-proof leadership techniques with you. Don’t hesitate. Get in touch today.