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Professionals – Do you really deserve the title of “ trusted adviser ”?

Professionals – Do you really deserve the title of “ trusted adviser ”?

You need to be more than just a trusted resource that someone comes to when they think they have a need. Trust is implicit with some professional services for example doctors, accountants, financial advisers, lawyers, architects, engineers, etc. But does that mean that you don’t need to be more for your clients? I would suggest not.

In fact, I believe that many so called “professionals” don’t deserve the title of “trusted adviser” because all they do is “punch tickets” with their skill as people come to them for advice. I think this is arrogant in the extreme, and holding the people that trust you in contempt. If you think this is a strong position, you’re absolutely right. I am sick of sub standard value that I pay top dollar for because I put my trust in someone to act in my best interest and then never hear from them unless I make an enquiry!

Now before I get into what I think a trusted adviser needs to be today and into the future, I want to remind you of a few fundamental truths about what your customers want, no matter what business you’re in. They want:

  • Excellent service and respect – at the end of the day, they’re paying you for your expertise, but let’s face it, there are lots of competitors out there so you had better make sure your service levels are up to scratch
  • A quality outcome – if a client is using you for your services then chances are they think you know more about the situation than they do and can deliver a better outcome than they could deliver themselves. Make sure this is the case!
  • Availability and access – how convenient are you making yourself so that your clients can access you and your services when it suits them? Many professionals jump onto their high horse and expect clients to fit in with their schedule. Whilst there is some merit in having discipline around your calendar, ask yourself whether you’re making yourself available at the appropriate time for your target market
  • Value – clients are happy to pay a premium in my experience provided that they understand where the value is. It’s your responsibility, not your clients’ to demonstrate where the value is in what you do. If you’re not getting what you’re worth right now take a good hard look at your value positioning. I’d suggest there’s an upgrade required.

Now, the four things I’ve outlined above are universal, and while there might be more, it’s a good list to get you thinking. So, let me now outline some other thoughts around what I think a “trusted adviser” needs to be these days and into the future. Keep in mind, you won’t play all these roles at once, but you will need to play more than one throughout the life cycle of your client. Many professionals forget that adaptability is a core skill for business success.

Here’s the list in no particular order:

  • You’ll need to be a disciplinarian at times – hold your clients accountable and advise them to make better decisions by showing some restraint and structure. Set some rules for your clients. They’ll appreciate it!
  • Motivator – people get caught up in the day to day of their lives and sometimes they need an outsider to give them a zap to snap out of mediocrity. Tune into the energy of your clients and occasionally charge them up to increase their momentum
  • A role model – keep in mind that your clients look to you for advice on what they should do in certain circumstances, and how they should do it. Do you display the characteristics that are congruent with your advice?
  • A strategist – sometimes your client has come to you for a different perspective, alternative solutions, or guidance on how to navigate a certain situation. Do you seriously strategise and share the process with your clients so that they can learn from you?
  • An unreasonable friend – it’s great to be friendly with clients, but it’s important to remember that they are clients and not friends. You might need to be unreasonable at times and friends are notoriously bad at telling it like it is when they need to. I prefer to play the role of unreasonable friend, where my clients know they’ll always hear what they need to rather than what I think they want to hear. And they appreciate it too!
  • A sounding board – occasionally all you need to be is an ear that listens and offers another perspective for consideration. You don’t have to have all the answers, but it’s amazing how much your clients will appreciate the ability to pick up the phone and blow off a little steam or talk through a situation to gain clarity on what to do next. Be there for your clients.
  • A connector – chances are you have a pretty solid professional network that you’ve built up over time. This might sound like I’m stating the obvious, however connect your client with a wider circle of influence and they’ll see that your value is significantly greater than just the advice or service you provide.
  • An educator – clients come to you because you know more about their situation than they do typically. You also have the knowledge to produce outcomes that they typically couldn’t on their own without significant effort or investment. So, teach your clients a little about your craft. Help them understand the complexities of your profession and how you can make it easier for them to have peace of mind by working with you. It increases your value.
  • A confidant – from time to time you might deal with sensitive issues with your client. Keep it confidential and act in their best interest. It builds trust and reinforces that you’ll be there for them no matter what. This makes a big difference when competitors come knocking
  • A visionary – take your client out of the minutia of their lives and help them see the bigger picture. You need to be able to gaze over the horizon and see a wider brighter future for your client and then help them see it too. For anyone that’s been in business for a while, it’s very easy to get caught up in the day to day. You need to take your clients “off the dance floor and onto the balcony” for a better view.

I could keep going, but I think it’s a pretty good list to start with. As you can see, being given the title of “trusted adviser” and acting as one is quite different. If you think you’ll get away with charging high fees for doing little more than providing your knowledge, you’re deluding yourself.

Trusted advisers of the future know they need to be so much more and are prepared to deliver on it. Are you? What do you think?

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