The term ‘trusted advisor’ has gained credence in professional services over the years. Accountants, lawyers and other professionals are aware of the term. Many strive to be seen as and known for their trusted advice. Trusted advisor is an aspirational ‘positioning statement, but few know what it really means and how to attain it.
In a world crammed full of technically brilliant professionals, the trusted advisor branding is an effort to stand out. Attention is a commodity, particularly when you have any kind of work winning or business development angle to your role. You don’t just want to be good – you want to be seen as being good. That’s what attracts new client opportunities.
Why You Want to Be Trusted
Trust is the currency for relationships. If you want to sell more, you’ve got to be more trusted. We all prefer to do business with people we trust. And when you’re trusted for your advice, you’ll attract more opportunities, win more business, command more premium fees and develop more loyal clients. Your influence and your reputation will give you a distinct advantage in the marketplace.
If professional pride is important to you, then you want your words to carry credence. Your ego naturally wants your thoughts valued and your opinions to be appreciated. More than anything, you want your advice to be taken. You want some control over the client relationship. You want to lead the conversations, dictate the interaction and proactively manage the relationship. Trusted advisor status does that.
Trusted advisor positioning is sometimes claimed and driven from the top down in some firms. It’s a culture, an approach, a corporate value, a unique value proposition. More commonly, this is a personal branding statement led by individual as they aim to become a stand out ‘expert of choice’ and ‘go to’ option in their particular field.
Four Strategies to Achieve Trusted Advisor Status
There are four main ways attain the status of trusted advisor – the credible source of help that people go to when they have ‘your kind of ‘problem’.
- Content. One is by producing valuable ‘content’ that speaks to and helps your existing and potential clients (prospects). This is significantly easier with niching. Becoming any kind of expert, authority or trusted advisor is easier when you don’t try to be everything to everyone. Your positioning will work best with a niche or focus on a particular sector, location or topic. The tighter your positioning, the more you can speak into it with content and expertise that is highly-focused and highly relevant to a small audience. For more on expertise, check out The Power of Positioning Yourself as an Expert>>
- Track record. What better way to be trusted as a professional advisor than to deliver excellent results for your clients. Such a practitioner-led approach leads inevitably to great word of mouth. As Muhammad Ali famously said, ‘It ain’t bragging if you’ve done it.’ Comedian Steve Martin, when asked by a group of aspiring comedians what the secret was to success, replied ‘Be so good they can’t ignore you.’
- Personal marketing. It’s no use you being brilliant but a well kept secret. Marketing yourself may seem at odds with your professional status, but the ability to ethically brag about your capabilities is the foundation of good business development. Whether it’s through speaking, writing or networking, your BD effort depends on you not hiding your talents from the world.
- Thought Leadership. This is a bolder statement of trusted advisor positioning. it is in turns disruptive, prolific and clever. In a way, it combines all of the above strategies because you must become ‘the hero’ and the stand out authority for what you do. It involves intentional PR, image management, breakthrough ideas, thought-provoking opinions and critical commentary. It takes effort, investment and no little strategy to get it right. Your position as a thought leader may even cause some conflict with the position of the firm. But thought leaders are leaders, and people follow leaders. They are the ultimate trusted advisors whom people look to for answers and insight.
Becoming a Trusted Advisor Does Take Work
If you do all of these, you’ll be impossible to ignore. But that’s a lot of work in addition to billing the hours you need to and performing all the other aspects of your job. Not everyone has to create content, become a thought leader or proactively market themselves. You just need to pick a lane. You can’t simply go out there and do a great job, hoping that the phone will ring.
When I wrote the book Build Your Reputation with Wiley, the world’s largest business publisher, I aimed it at professionals who wanted to stand out in tough industries and large firms. There are many ways to do it. Becoming a trusted advisor is one. In our BD Academy, it’s one of the ways we can guarantee you putting £5-10m of new business into your firm over the next few years. Want to find out more?