You only need two things to be a trusted advisor: trust and advice. But you do need both of these attributes; one alone will not a trusted advisor make.
Trust without advice doesn’t make you a trusted advisor. It just makes you trusted. This is better than not being trusted, but it limits you in your ability to help your dream clients produce better results. Without the advice portion of this equation, you can’t really help your dream client in such a way that they would consider you their advisor.
Without the advice, you can’t explain the dissonance that your dream clients feel. You can’t help them develop a compelling case for change for a problem worth solving. Without the advice, you can’t get to the root cause of their issues, nor can you help them explore potential options for producing better results, and weigh the trade-offs.
You cannot be an advisor without being able to advise. Advising requires business acumen, situational knowledge, and wisdom. The harder earned the wisdom, the better.
You might be an order-taker. You might be a supplier or even a preferred supplier. But you can’t be a trusted advisor without advice.
You also can’t be a trusted advisor without trust. In a lot of cases, advice without trust makes you appear self-oriented, as if you are proposing some new idea for your own benefit, not your prospective client’s advantage.
Change doesn’t come easy. The recommendation to change without trust creates resistance. Even with the best advice, it can be hard to create a case for change and compel others to action when they don’t know your true motives. Your dream client may also be unduly skeptical, not because they don’t trust the advice, but because they don’t trust you.
People will resist sharing the real root causes of their problems and challenges if they can’t trust you. They won’t share the internal politics that prevent change.
You might be a smart person with interesting ideas. You might also be someone people will listen to. But you won’t be the person that people decide to do business with if they don’t believe they can trust you.
Trust + Advice = Trusted Advisor
There will always be people who suggest that relationships aren’t what’s important, that technology is going to revolutionize sales and eliminate jobs, that artificial intelligence and automation are going to be the future of sales—and business.
All things being equal, relationships win. All things being unequal, relationships still win. Your job is to make all things unequal. To do that, you need trust, and you need advice. You need the relational value that comes from trust, and the economic value that comes from advice.
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