Skip to main content

Becoming (and staying) the Trusted Advisor

By February 6, 2011People+Technology

Here are some of the main factors that contribute to clients or customers trusting us without question, in any industry. I apologize – this article started out short, and grew very quickly in length. It would appear I like the sound of my own voice.  🙂

Tirelessly seek to boost your skills and broaden your experience

Always hunt for new information in your field. Make it a daily exercise to become even more of an authority!

You can read the top 10 news websites using a tabbed bookmark set in Safari, you can mingle with people who always talk about the latest news (my favorite method), or you can test new things yourself (very time consuming).

Surround yourself with peers who challenge you

Surrounding yourself with other professionals who disagree with you is critical, as it helps you see sides you would not normally consider. You don’t know what you don’t know!

Go for lunch with your friendly competition, try to challenge them, and hope they challenge you back. Give them some of your experience and hope they share too. Don’t expect it, however, even if you share first.

If you ever need to talk about them with your client, be sure to edify them and speak honorably about them. You can say things like “in my experience of working with that person” in order to own the opinion and not turn it into a blanket law state.

Act in the best interests of the client

Try to see the situation from the client’s eyes as much as possible. If you were the client, what would you want out of this? How would you want it to go?

Next, fight for those things with the client by your side. Look for ways to help them achieve the result they’re looking for with you clearly on their team. They need to want it though!

Speak honorably about other professionals

Don’t badmouth anyone, ever – especially if the client is upset with them. If you badmouth someone else, the client will suspect you will badmouth them after you leave.

Defend or edify the other professional with “I’m sure there must have been a good reason for it to have gone that way – we can’t know the whole story without asking them directly.”

This can be particularly challenging if the other professional seems to have really made a mess of things. In those cases, just clam up and shrug, then move towards the resolution.

The most difficult of all, however, is being honorable and polite with very results-challenged technical support representatives. The ducks, of the “ducks and eagles”. Treating those people with respect and patience is the true mark of a polished professional worthy of respect.

Give them all the options – even shitty ones

Sorry. You guys don’t mind if I swear, do you?

When explaining the options (or outcomes) to the client, it’s usually critical to look at the “shittier” and “shittiest” worst-case options, in addition to the favorable/ideal ones.

Make sure to highlight which option(s) you are recommending based on your experience, but that “it might not go that way.”

If there are too many options to discuss all of them, say that, and tell them you are going to discuss the 2-3 outcomes you consider to be most likely. Give them the option of hearing/seeing more options too.

Not being vested in the outcome

This means you should not want something for the client more than they want it themselves. Your vested interest needs to be in the happiness and success of the client, and what the client wants – only.

Find out what they want then help them fight for that. If they decide they don’t want it anymore, drop it, but with a warm offer to help if they change their mind.

Be willing to decline the project

Just say “I am not the best choice for this work” if you aren’t the best fit. That takes incredible humility and strength, because we’re always tempted to be the Jack of All Trades Hero for Everyone!

Then, draw on your expansive network of motivated experts so you have someone to recommend for the work. Lastly, connect your client with that person, warmly.

I will also have a side conversation with that person so they know how the business relationship needs to go, and to tell them more about the referral.

Fully own your errors or failures

I cannot stress this enough. If you screw up in some way, even something minor, own it fully and tell the client it happened. Then, tell them what you are going to do to fix it and how much of a good will credit or discount they will get for your “learning time.”

Business people often think it’s safer to dodge responsibility, for legal/liability reasons. My stance on that: A client who trusts you and knows how you handle personal failures will never hold grudges or take an issue to court. A client who feels you are being dishonest or hiding something will stop at nothing to expose the truth.

If you forgot something and remember after the fact, call or email to make it right.

Ask a lot of questions to truly understand what the client wants

The only way to find out what they want is to ask questions. Spend some time preparing all the best questions to ask, in advance.

Avoid situations where a conflict of interest can occur

Wherever possible, aim to be as un-biased as you can. If you have an interest in anything other than the client’s desires, they will be able to smell it on you.

If a conflict of interest is unavoidable, just be up front about it. “Yes, I do get a referral percentage if you sign up here. Lunch will be on me!”

Use genuine empathy

True empathy can’t really be faked. If the client is in a tough situation, imagine how you would feel in that situation. If they lost data, remember how you felt when you lost something precious.

Essentially, relate what they’re going through with something tough you had to deal with, to better understand their particular situation.

Always leave on a positive and helpful note, even if you were unable to assist

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

If you cannot help someone, offer as much information as possible that could help them in their search, and ask them to check in with you if they get stuck again.

Follow up on your work, your recommendations, or their experience

If you did work for them, call to ask how things went after you left.

If you made a recommendation, ask how it turned out, and if your suggestion was helpful to them.

If you gave them some direction in their hunt, ask how it went down.
Lastly, ask if there was anything you could have done differently or better. Getting and acting on feedback is one of the best ways to become even more of a trusted advisor.

Leave a Reply