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The Trusted Advisor

This should be required reading for consultants and advisors. It explains that getting hired and rehired is about earning trust, and walks through many ways to build trust. There are plenty of real-world examples from the authors, three experienced consultants.It’s logically organized, and I like how often lists are used.

I read this because I spend a lot of time interacting with clients in running my web design agency, OptimWise.

My favorite points


• Act as if you're advising your parents, not yoThis should be required reading for consultants and advisors. It explains that getting hired and rehired is about earning trust, and walks through many ways to build trust. There are plenty of real-world examples from the authors, three experienced consultants.It’s logically organized, and I like how often lists are used.

I read this because I spend a lot of time interacting with clients in running my web design agency, OptimWise.

My favorite points

• Act as if you're advising your parents, not your children.• Manipulate the client’s emotions without being manipulative.• Socializing isn’t necessary, but being sociable is• Be the first one to take a personal risk (let your guard down). Don’t wait for the client.• Ask "how do you feel about that?"• Don't jump into solving the problem. Spend more time defining it and talking about the end state with the client.• Respect the client’s deadline even if it's artificial or arbitrary.• Don't blame anybody for anything anytime.Below are my notes.

Perspectives on Trust


Traits of trusted advisors • Help client think things through (it's client's decision)• Don't substitute their judgment for client's• Give client reasoning (to help them think), not just their conclusions• Give client options, increase their understanding of those options, give them the recommendation, and let them chooseSuccess in client relationships is tied to the accumulation of quality experiences. Seek out (rather than avoid) client-contact experiences, and take personal risks with clients.

Clients want advisors who

• Understand their interests and will put the client’s interests first• Can be trusted to do the right thing• Will care

How to give advice

• Act as if you're advising your parents, not your children. You're more likely to find the right words to convey your point with respect, and to soften any critique.• A primary task is to defuse defensiveness. Prove you're trying to help, not criticize.• Focus less on the advice/conclusion, and more on creating a conversation to help them see that issue from a new perspective. • Clients don't always want advice; they often just want a sympathetic ear.You're more likely to be trusted if you say, "I'm not completely sure how to deal with this; can I talk it over with you?" Then if you say, "leave it to me; I'll solve everything!"The client is primarily interested in having the problem understood, in all its emotional and political complexity, as a precondition to having the problem diagnosed and solved.Manipulate the client’s emotions without being manipulative. Use trust-building techniques.Stop serving clients who can see that you're not fully engaged. The damage to your reputation will outlast any income penalty. Reputation before revenue!Occasional socializing can be enjoyable, but earning trust is not about sporting events and dinners. Socializing isn’t necessary, but being sociable is. It's the window into the client's needs, hopes, fears.

The Structure of Trust Building

Trust Equation: T = (C + R + I)/S, where T = trustworthiness,

C = credibility, R = reliability, I = intimacy, S = self-orientationBe expert at a variety of small touches that build familiarity. For example, stay current on client events and names. The more you can understand and relate to the unconscious norms of the client, the more reliable they’ll feel you are.You can have a close relationship with the client without having anything to do with their life outside of work. It's about emotional closeness concerning the issues at hand.Be the first one to take a personal risk (let your guard down), to share something of what you see, feel, or think. Don’t wait for the client.Take most of the responsibility for failed communications.Talk to your client as if he is a friend. We're concerned about our friends and their well-being, and it shows in our conversational style.

Five stages of building trust

1. Engage: use language of interest and concern. "I’ve been thinking about your competitors, and …" "Your people have been telling me about …"2. Listen: use language of understanding and empathy. "Tell me more about …" "What’s behind that?" "That must feel …"3. Frame: use language of perspective and candor. "I see three key themes emerging here …" "You know, what’s tough to do here is …"4. Vision: use language of possibility. "Wouldn't it be great if …"5. Commit: use language of joint exploration. "What would it take, for each of us, to …"Talk about competitive, career, and personal issues. These conversations contrast with more content- or expertise-related conversations.Don't make early interactions purely transactional. If you focus strictly on the content, you'll be paid more as a technician in as an advisor. Talk to them as if they are a new friend, not an old friend.

What good listeners do

• Ask "how do you feel about that?"• Ask how they think you might be of help• Ask what they've thought of before telling them what you've thought of After stating enough responsibility-taking caveats, say the thing that must be said, even if it seems risky.Instead of asking "why don't we …?" ask "how would things be if …" Focus on descriptive sentences. Ask questions about things like benefits, end states, outcomes.After the problem is defined, the client will ask "what can we do about this?" Say, "hold on, we'll get there, but let's talk about where we want to go and what we're trying to achieve."Effective counseling (reimbursed or not) can be the most effective means of generating future revenues. Would you rather be someone's counselor, or write proposals?

Putting Trust to Work

Instead of pitching, get to work immediately. Act as if the project has already started. Show the prospect what it feels like to be in a relationship. The best selling technique is to not sell, but to commence the service process. Clients don't want to buy air unless they can breathe it first. They prefer to buy based on a sample.Professionals sell confidence, security, and ease.

Factors that increase clients' perceived value of service

• Understanding• Sense of control• Sense of progress• Access and availability• Responsiveness• Reliability• Appreciation• Sense of importance• RespectClients often forget the promises we keep but remember the promises we didn't fulfill.Respect the client’s deadline even if it's artificial or arbitrary. If it's unreasonable, it's better to ask for an extension, or even argue about it, then miss it.

Don't blame anybody for anything anytime.

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Category: Advisor

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