If everyone in the world were free to choose their own job title, I suspect Trusted Advisor would be among the top ten in popularity. Who doesn’t want to be known for telling it like it is and helping others get on the right path? Clearly, that would place us on the opposite end of the spectrum from those who recommend products and services based on potential commission rather than what’s truly needed. In this post, we’ll examine how to spot a trusted advisor, and how to be one.
Trusted advisors help us make better decisions by applying their specialized knowledge to our individual situation. If you’ve ever been overwhelmed at the prospect of choosing a flat screen television, laptop computer, or smartphone, you know how valuable an informed partner can be. Some retail outlets play into this by advertising that their floor sales people aren’t paid commission–they’re there solely to educate you through the selection process.
The message is supposed to relax us into thinking we’ll receive unbiased and trustworthy advice. Important, right? Especially if you’re in the market for a big-ticket item. You want the store clerk to help you pick the best one for your needs, not the one that will earn him or her the biggest financial incentive. The challenge, though, is the trusted advisor experience needs to be transparent and aligned–meaning their actions and words are in harmony.
Take Best Buy as an example. Their retail sales people may be quick to point out they’re not earning commission, however, they’re trained to up sell, offer accessories, and get you to buy a service contract or extended warranty–for which they receive a bonus. It’s a practice that consumers haven’t enjoyed and certainly became vocal about when Forbes ran a story on it. You can read about it in The People vs. Best Buy by Larry Downes.
The flip side of that scenario is the store clerk who saves you a bundle by letting you know an item you want is going on sale next week. It may not be good the for the store in that very moment, but aren’t you more likely to become a loyal customer? I would.
So becoming a trusted advisor involves more than simply wishing it. It involves cultivating a mindset that influences daily behaviour. The good news is, you can become a trusted advisor by thinking like one. <–Tweet this
How To Become A Trusted Advisor
I have three simple rules to becoming a trusted advisor:
- Give first
- Give extra
- Give without gain
Another way to describe giving first is pay it forward. When you download free plans, patterns or white papers, you’re experiencing generosity. Lawyers, hairdressers, and marketing firms provide free consultations. Presumably they’re sharing their expertise during the consult so that you leave with more than you walked in with. The premise is that by giving first, you get to experience them and make an educated choice when you’re ready to buy. Blog writers give freely of their time and expertise, leaving a searchable trail of expertise available to you 24 x 7.
Think baker’s dozen. Have you heard that expression? It’s an oldie. It comes from the days when everyone went to actual bakeries to buy donuts and muffins. If you ordered a dozen of anything, you went home with thirteen–at no extra cost. Jeffrey Gitomer practices this when he publishes his famous tip lists. If he promises to tell you four things that make sales people successful, he’ll end the list with a fifth tip numbered 4.5–just because he wants to deliver more than he promised. He wants to surprise you with a little unexpected extra.
Give Without Gain
This is the biggest one, and the most difficult. Your advice has to be given with no thought to your own gain. If a financial product offered at another institution is better than any you offer, say it. If you can save a consumer 12% on their auto insurance premium by directing them to a different category, do it. If your firm doesn’t have the fire power or expertise to do what the client needs, says so. Is it crazy? Nope. Is there a pay off? Most definitely. When you give the right advice without framing it to your advantage, you’re creating your community. You’re solidifying relationships and building for the future.
Now it’s your turn. Are you a trusted advisor? Is there anything you need to do differently?