The Surprisingly Simple Way to Become a Trusted Adviser

By Mo Bunnell

Below is a transcript of this video, modified for your reading pleasure. Have a question that you'd like answered? Drop us a line!

In this video, we are going to talk about the one thing I probably get asked more than anything else as we start classes. "Mo, how do I become a trusted adviser with my clients? How do I get them calling me about the biggest, hairiest issues they're trying to deal with so that I can help them solve those issues?"

The great irony is that most people say they want that, but then they do not act like that. We are training our clients for how they should perceive us. I am going to tell a story about somebody that has become a trusted advisor, probably better than anybody I can think of, to his clients. Then, I will end with a few practical next steps you can take to move yourself in that direction. First, here is the story.

There was a guy named Mike Deimler. Mike was the two-time head of strategy for Boston Consulting Group, probably the best strategy consulting firm in the world. It is really interesting he was a two-time head of strategy worldwide for BCG, because they had to break their own rules to allow him to do it twice. The CEO actually had to break their own rules to allow somebody to serve as head of a department for a second time. Isn't that interesting?

Here is how Mike makes or puts himself in that trusted adviser role with his clients. It is really simple: he acts like it. For every one of his clients, he takes a manila folder and he puts one sheet of paper, a blank sheet of paper, for every one of his top clients in that folder. On that sheet of paper, he writes down the top ten issues that the CEO of that large organization ought to be thinking about.

Mike says that when he writes that down and he looks at it every week, when he looks at that CEO's name, and he has that list of things they should be thinking about, it compels him to bring that up to them and be proactive. It compels him to take ideas to them that they probably have not thought of before in a very proactive way. What is Mike doing there? He is acting as a trusted adviser, and then those CEOs, in turn, treat him like a trusted adviser. Because he is the one taking the ideas to them, he is the first one they call when they are perplexed or do not know what to do. Whether it has anything to do with BCG or not, he is in the position to be a trusted adviser to them because he is acting that role and they see him in that way.

Now how does that compare to a lot of the folks that are just starting out with our methodology? They are actually doing the opposite. When they meet with their clients or prospect, a lot of times they are starting with a 52-page PowerPoint, talking all about themselves and not placing any emphasis on the client. They are actually training their clients to treat them as sort of a schleppy sales person. Because they are training them to act like that, their clients respond in kind and think of them as just another sales person that is all about themselves.

Mike does the complete opposite. He is 100% about the client. He does not worry about himself at all. Oddly enough, the business totally takes care of itself when you worry about your clients, and not yourself. If you want to be a trusted adviser, start acting like one. Think of ideas that your clients need to have. Proactively take it to them. Think of things much broader than just your own services. Do things that will position you as a trusted adviser and you will become one.

Let me end with a couple practical next steps. These are super simple. I will give you the first one, go buy this book and read it. This is called Getting Naked. It is by Pat Lencioni, one of my favorite business book authors. When I read this book over 15 years ago, it made a huge impact on me. What you will get when you read this book is a narrative, a fable, about what it looks like and what it does not look like to be a trusted adviser with your clients. The thing I love about it is the final chapter near the end where he gives very practical steps that you can take, behaviors you can own up to yourself and hold yourself accountable to, that put you in that trusted adviser role, in the 'be-like-Mike' role.

They are simple things like enter dangerous conversations, ask dumb questions, give dumb ideas, think about the client first, always consult instead of sell. What I love about what Pat has done is he has boiled down all the things that Mike does naturally down into an easily digestible book with very practical next steps about how to do them. Buy this book if you want to be a trusted adviser. It's fantastic. Here is the deal. If you act in these ways, if you are proactive with your clients, if you are being generous, if you are always giving more than you are worried about receiving, you will be viewed as a trusted adviser and your business will take care of itself. That is the way to be, and that is a fun position to be in.

As with all of our videos, we hope this one helps you help your clients succeed.