Book Review: The Trusted Advisor
By Jim Roddy, president, Business Solutions magazine and Integrated Solutions For Retailers magazine
Our industry — both reseller and vendor executives — would benefit if we all followed the principles outlined in The Trusted Advisor by David Maister, Charles Green, and Robert Galford. Successful channel companies try to help their clients; mediocre companies are just pushing products.
I just finished reading The Trusted Advisor, and, before writing this article, ran a search on the Business Solutions website to see how long we’ve been using the phrase. The first result that came up was a feature story from way back in 2002. So the channel has been talking about this forever, but have each of us actually become trusted advisors?
The authors say that question isn’t for us to answer. Only our clients can issue the verdict of whether we are trusted us or not. I thought the most valuable part of The Trusted Advisor was a list of traits trusted advisors have in common.
The authors write that trusted advisors:
- Seem to understand us, effortlessly, and like us
- Are consistent (we can depend on them)
- Always help us see things from fresh perspectives
- Don’t try to force things on us
- Help us think things through (it’s our decision)
- Don’t substitute their judgment for ours
- Don’t panic or get overemotional (they stay calm)
- Help us think and separate our logic from our emotion
- Criticize us and correct us gently
- Don't pull their punches (we can rely on them to tell us the truth)
- Are in it for the long-haul (the relationship is more important than the current issue)
- Give us reasoning (to help us think), not just their conclusions
- Give us options, increase our understanding of those options, give us the recommendation, and let us choose
- Challenge our assumptions (help us uncover the false assumptions we've been working under)
- Make us feel comfortable and casual personally (but they take the issues seriously)
- Act like a real person, not someone in a role
- Are reliably on our side and always seem to have our interests at heart
- Remember everything we ever said (without notes)
- Are always honorable (they don't gossip about others, and we trust their values)
- Help put our issues in context, often through the use of metaphors, stories, and anecdotes (few problems are completely unique)
- Have a sense of humor to diffuse (our) tension in tough situations
- Are smart (sometimes in ways we are not)
Then the authors instruct, “Ask yourself: which of these traits do my clients think I possess?”
Better yet, how about you ask some of your best customers to review this list and give you an honest critique? Ask them of these 22 areas where they think you are the strongest and where can you improve.
Don’t let yourself off the hook by asking, “Do you think my company is weak in any of these areas?” because kind-hearted people will say no. Hold out for at least three areas where the client feels your organization could improve and ask for specifics to help you better understand their mindset.
Becoming a trusted advisor is the foundation of transitioning to the as-a-Service business model. You’re asking your clients to put their IT needs into your hands, empowering you to be proactive with their technology. They won’t pay you a monthly retainer of they don’t trust you.