Trust in consulting - what consultants can do for their trustworthiness
Today I would like to introduce a book that appealed to me. It is the book "The trusted advisor" by David H. Maister, Charles H. Green and Robert M. Galford from 2000. In 225 loosely written pages, it describes in three sections how advisors can behave in order to build and maintain a trustworthy relationship with their clients.
Basically, with my trust building blocks, I concentrate on the area of communication where you have not yet met in person. This book goes further and is strong above all in personal contact. Trust in counsellors or counselling firms is dealt with from different perspectives. In the first section, anecdotes and stories are told to illustrate the variety of concepts and skills a consultant has to bring to be trustworthy. The second section structures the topic of trust building. And finally, the third section deals with how best to put the measures into practice.
The beauty of this book is that the authors like to work with lists. These lists, 39 in all, get to the point very well. They can also be consumed quickly on their own, which makes the work, which is not very extensive anyway, even quicker to use. Thus, the book is a handy tool for every counsellor's everyday life. Or as Carl Stern, CEO of the Boston Consulting Group, so beautifully puts it: "An invaluable road map to all those who seek to develop truly special relationships with their clients."
For the authors, the Trusted Advisor is the ideal endpoint for the advisor-client relationship. It starts as an expert on a specific topic or process, becomes an expert on the specific topic including environment, then a valuable resource and finally a trusted advisor.
This is characterised, among other things, by a high degree of customer orientation, the view of the customer as an individual, the concentration on the specific problem and the best solutions precisely for it, and the willingness to open up oneself in order to establish an intimate relationship - even if it involves risks.
As a result, this attitude leads to winning more new customers and better relationships with existing customers. The relationships are highly profitable and personally more fun.
A very important point from the authors' point of view is thewillingness to give more than to receive. This is especially true in the initial phase. Even if an initial investment is associated with the risk that a deal will not be struck, this is precisely the prerequisite for being selected.
In getting to know someone personally, the tip is to pay attention to what you don't know yet. Instinctively, you try to find out what you already know and dock there. But exactly the opposite is what makes the customer unique. That's what you should focus on. Curious questions such as "What is behind this?", "Why is this so in this case?" or "How does this fit in?" help.
You should always tell the truth, unless you would hurt someone by doing so. And never lie. This also includes being very clear when you have no idea about a topic, what your limits are, what you think of a certain view or a proposal for implementation, and NEVER promising something that you cannot deliver with certainty. You should also avoid statements that could be interpreted as lies by others, such as "We are putting our best people on the project". The client will instinctively ask questions like "Really? Then who are the bad ones? Why don't the best have anything to do right now?"
From the authors' point of view, trustworthiness arises in a formula from the sum of credibility, reliability, familiarity divided by self-orientation. The self-orientation seems to be a specifically strong theme among consultants, which is exemplified in beautiful lists. In return, there are a number of tips on how consultants should behave in order not to come across as too pompous or "self-oriented". Ask open questions, let the other person finish, first define the problem clearly before giving the solution, listen attentively, say clearly if you don't know something. Sounds more like good manners and self-evident things to me, but seems to be worth a main point with counsellors.
Overall, I have to conclude that the book falls short from my perspective. The formula used here can only be a start. As Online marketing agency I notice that essential points such as competence, integrity and the aura of the company are completely ignored. Therefore, it falls short, especially in the acquisition of new customers. On the other hand, it describes the personal relationship between consultant and customer very well and has some valuable tips to offer.
Of course, not every counsellor is a self-absorbed know-it-all. The book makes it seem that the majority are, and this book is written precisely for this target group. Taking a step back and putting the client first is a tip that cannot be stressed often enough in all industries. So if you as an advisor place yourself in this group, perhaps only on a day-to-day basis or in special subject areas, the book "The trusted advisor" is a clear buy. You will find yourself in the concise lists and will certainly get one or two valuable tips for dealing with your clients - especially for the personal exchange.
Trusting relationships between consultants and customers are so valuable that every effort is worthwhile. Even that of a costly Content Strategy.