So You Want To Be a Trusted Advisor, Part II

A lot of people say they want to be consultative, a peer, their client’s trusted advisor. There are, however, some behaviors that prevent one from being able to occupy that space. Here are a few of the things that cause you to retain your status as salesperson or vendor.

Unwilling to tell the client that they need to change. Much of the time, when we are really trying to help a client produce better results, the real obstacle is the way that they are doing certain things. They often want the results without having to change anything on their side, having been told by non-peer, non-trusted advisor types that all they need to do is switch the vendor they are using. What makes you a trusted advisor is that you tell them they need to make changes on their side and that switching partners will not produce the results they need by itself.

Unwilling to ask the client for the commitments they need to make. There is a difference between “needing to be liked” and “being likable.” Needing to be liked because you are afraid that making the client uncomfortable will cause you to lose the deal is a surefire way not to be a trusted advisor. Better results require that the client make certain commitments, and not allowing them to avoid making these commitments adds to trust—even when the client doesn’t want to do what they need to do.

Unwilling to tell the client they need to invest more. If I had to pick one thing that would allow clients and the companies they serve to produce better results, it would be matching the investment to the outcome. But things have gotten too lean, and we have conflated lower price and lower costs to the detriment of clients and the companies that serve them. Helping the client invest appropriately is what you do when you are consultative. Allowing the client to believe their current investment is enough when it isn’t, is to abdicate your responsibility.

Unwilling to engage with stakeholders that oppose your initiative. This is a skill of a high order, for certain. It isn’t easy to deal with the resistance, the cynics, the skeptics, and the people who really believe that there is a better option than what you are proposing. The avoidance of these individuals shows a fear, a weakness, a need to avoid conflict and the defense of your initiative. It also allows those who oppose you to point to your lack of engagement as proof that they’re correct and that you know it. The willingness and ability to engage those who oppose you is proof of your conviction—and your capacity to make change.

Unwilling to share how difficult the change you are recommending will be. There is a certain variety of salesperson who doesn’t want to tell their client that there will be challenges on the path to better results. They prefer to avoid that conversation, believing that it will cause the client to kill the initiative altogether. The consultative salesperson, one who is striving to be a peer and trusted advisor, explains what is likely to create challenges, what they are likely going to need to do to overcome those challenges, and how they will be there to ensure that the outcome is obtained in spite of any challenges.

None of these things are easy, but engaging in them is what creates the trust that makes you a trusted advisor.

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