Trusted Advisor Brand
Firms often come to us with a desire to brand themselves as the “trusted advisor” for their industry. We can make a good case as to why this might not be a great choice – it is an overused phrase, this role has to be earned and not claimed, and finally, it needs to be true across all professionals.
But rather than throw the idea out all together, it would be great to see a firm adopt the trusted advisor mantra and truly make it happen long before a rebrand. Firms could learn a lot from corporations that invest in living the brand. Think Disney. Think Southwest Airlines.
Why would a trusted advisor brand be so powerful? When you are a trusted advisor, you get repeat business and people advocating on your behalf. You also tend to get involved in the more interesting and stickier issues. But most important, trusted advisor relationships are typically more fun and less stressful. You can be yourself. You can be candid and relaxed. You get to share all the skills you’ve honed over the years. And you almost always get paid quickly.
What would a professional services firm look like if it trained ALL its people to be trusted advisors? For starters, everyone would need to:
- Be willing to do what is right, even when it means giving up a fee
- Focus on providing value, not just a product
- Help clients understand the options, not just a single solution
- Learn to give candid and clear opinions without hedging
- Bring a calm demeanor even when tensions flare
- Worry about the client’s brand, not just about the service provided
- Truly care about the individuals, not just about the work
- Invest time to listen even when there is really nothing to be done
- Be able to tell a client they are wrong without being hostile or condescending
- Speak and write in plain English
- Always be on time, whether having a cup of coffee or delivering work product
- Be concerned about clients enough to follow them on social media
We could make the list longer, but these are the traits that we see the most often in the top trusted advisors in legal, accounting, and business consulting. Luckily many of these skills can be learned. But for all the employees in an entire firm to be seen as “trusted advisors,” everyone has to be on board and see it as a calling, not just a marketing message.
So we say go for the “trusted advisor” brand, but start by defining what that means to your clients. Get everyone on board. Train not just once but month after month in the key skills needed. And hire only people who believe in the role. For the firm that commits and has the leadership to make it happen, success will follow.