Does Being a Trusted Advisor Mean That You Don’t Sell?

I used to really like the term “trusted advisor.” It used to seem like a nice term to capture some of the behaviors and attributes of the best salespeople. As of late, I cringe when I hear the words because they are too often used along with the idea of not actually behaving like a salesperson.

What Trusted Advisor Means

The words “trusted advisor” mean that you have business acumen. It means that you have the experience, the training, the knowledge, and the subject matter expertise to be trusted to advise your clients well.

It also indicates a certain set of behaviors.

Being a trusted advisor indicates that you are disciplined and professional.

Being a trusted advisor means that you have the ability to diagnose your client’s business problems and challenges and then to make the right recommendations to improve their situation.

Being a trusted advisor means that you negotiate win-win deals, creating more value for all parties than might otherwise have been agreed to.

A trusted advisor is a change agent, building the case for change and managing the politics of change within their organization and their clients.

Being a trusted advisor means that you act to ensure your client achieves the outcomes that you have represented; it means that you manage the outcomes for your clients.

These behaviors, attributes and ideals are what make up a trusted advisor.

What Trusted Advisor Doesn’t Mean

Being a trusted advisor doesn’t mean that you never prospect. In fact, it is the knowledge, the training, the experience, and the subject matter expertise required of the trusted advisor that equips them to successfully prospect; they have ideas worth listening to.

Being a trusted advisor doesn’t mean that you never cold call. Again, quite the opposite is true. Trusted advisors are secure enough in the value that they create to open relationships with prospects.

Most importantly, being a trusted advisor doesn’t mean that you don’t sell or that you don’t ask for and obtain commitments.

The Myth of Impartiality

Now to tackle the big one: the myth of impartiality. Trusted advisors are in no way impartial. Before you vehemently disagree, let me make my case.

If what you sell is not going to create something of value for the client, and you are not going to be able to help them achieve the outcome that they need, you are duty bound to walk away from that deal. If you know that you are not right and that your competitor is right for them, you may certainly build trust by making the recommendation that they choose someone else.

But let’s look at another situation. You are a trusted advisor with a great solution that will more than achieve your client’s desired outcome. Your competitor is also a trusted advisor with a great solution (albeit different in some ways from yours) that will also more than achieve your client’s desired outcome.

Are you still impartial? (I’m not . . . I am damn partial and as biased as I can be!)

Being a trusted advisor is not built on being impartial. This impartiality idea is really about not selling outcomes that you cannot achieve for your clients and instead walking away.

Being a trusted advisor isn’t built on the idea that you are not selling something and that you should never behave like a professional salesperson.

A Trusted Advisor is a Salesperson, but a Salesperson May Not Be a Trusted Advisor

The idea of being a trusted advisor isn’t something separate from being a salesperson. It is a set of behaviors and attributes that great salespeople possess. A trusted advisor is, in fact, a salesperson.

The opposite isn’t necessarily true. You may possess the title of salesperson and still not be a trusted advisor. Being a salesperson (a successful one, anyway) requires that you build the skills, the knowledge, the experience, and business acumen to be a trusted advisor.

Know that being a trusted advisor does not absolve you of your responsibility to sell—or to behave like a salesperson!


The term “trusted advisor” used to mean that the salesperson had the business acumen to help their clients achieve better outcomes. It has now come to mean something less; namely, the false idea that trusted advisors don’t sell.


1. What does the term “trusted advisor” mean to you?

2. What behaviors do your clients believe are required from a trusted advisor?

3. What sales behaviors does a trusted advisor need to take?

4. Are you partial enough when you need to be?

5. Who do you need to be to be comfortable being both a trusted advisor and a salesperson?

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