To profit from good advice requires more wisdom than to give it. – Wilson Mizner
The term “Trusted Advisor” has a thin, displeasingly metallic sound.
There’s nothing wrong with the term as such – it’s loved by professional services firms – and popularised by authors such as David H. Maister.
But you’d feel a little too self-promotional if you called yourelf one.
The idea behind it, however, is a good one and it does help you think about your business and how you want to come across to a client.
And Maister et.al have a model, adapted in the figure above, that is useful for this.
Think of the thing you’re good at – whether it’s boiler repair or software programming – you have built up expertise and can get a job done.
At that point, you’re available for hire.
You’re a consultant now. Even if you’re hired by a company full-time you’re still really a consultant to them.
But for any other firm you’re an expert that can come in and do a specific task for them.
From that point, the client needs to think not just about whether you can do the job but what else you’re bringing with you.
Do you work well with them? Can you collaborate? Do you get what they’re trying to do and how what you do fits in?
When you do, they’ll want to work with you on a regular basis.
You become a supplier – not just a consultant called in for one-off jobs.
Do you put their interests ahead of your own?
Do you help them get what they need rather than what they say they want?
Do they see you as part of their team – on their side?
As the way you work with them moves from offering expertise to providing insight and as you go from getting a task done to collaborating with them you move from an expert for hire to an advisor they trust.
This model is nice because it shows you a pathway – what happens over time as you go from having your head down getting things done to looking up and doing the right things.
Then, I think, you may find yourself in a situation where you are trusted.
But I don’t think you should try and get trust – to try and force it or manipulate things so you appear trusted.
That’s false – and nothing ensures that trust is lost forever than a falsehood.
It may come down to this…
Start by doing things right.
Follow up by showing the client the right things to do.
Always do the right thing.
And trust, one day, will simply be there.