A Trusted Advisor
A common trait of trusted advisor relationships is that the advisor places a higher value on maintaining and preserving the relationship itself than on the outcome of the current transaction.
The advisor makes a substantial investment in the client, without guarantee of return, before the relationship generates any income, let alone any profit.
David H. Maister, Charles H. Green and Robert M. Galford address the subject of trust in their book, “The Trusted Advisor” (Free Press, 2001).
Their research has highlighted the following key points:
- It is essential to focus on the client’s needs rather than on your own. In this regard, it is also important to relate to the client as an individual rather than as a job title.
- A focus on problem definition and resolution is more important than technical or content mastery.
- A strong competitive drive should not be aimed at competitors; instead, it should be aimed at constantly finding new ways to be of greater service to the client.
- The focus should be on doing the right thing rather than on achieving specific outcomes. In other words, the means are as important as the end result.
- You should do the right thing for the client rather than be led by your own organization’s rewards and dynamics.
- View methodologies, models, techniques and business processes as a means to an end – if they prove effective for a client, keep them, but discard them if they don’t.
- Always value the quality of contact with clients – successful client relationships depend on the accumulation of high-quality contacts.
- Dedication to helping clients with their issues lies at the core of a good relationship – the client will know if this is genuine and they will value it when it is.
A quote from Ben Bryan sums it up nicely: “Developing strong relationships offers a stream of benefits and opportunities.
When we bond with others, we create trust, we are more effective in what we do, and we form ties that transcend boundaries such as geography, culture, and personal differences. These linkages forge loyalty, commitment, and high performance. They create value and protect us, which is especially helpful in times of crisis.”
One final point to note about relationships is that even the most successful can hit a rough patch – after all, no one is perfect and all relationships, even the most successful, have their moments of tension or difficulty.
What matters is how these challenges or concerns are addressed and, more generally, how readily companies learn about the best way to improve the relationship. This requires that companies evaluate their capabilities and address any weaknesses – the skill of resilience.