Wednesday, July 30, 2008

If you meet the Trusted Advisor on the road, kill him

Not literally, of course. But, if I hear one more professional or firm anoint themselves with the label of "trusted advisor" I may reconsider.

I am continuously amazed at how many professional services firms flatly and loudly label themselves as trusted advisors. This, they proclaim, is their differentiation. “What makes us different is that we are really a client's trusted advisor," they say.

The term "trusted advisor" is now so over-used, that it is at risk of becoming a meaningless buzz-phrase. Tossing out jargon like "trusted advisor" doesn't build trust, it builds barriers. Substituting a catch phrase for details about what and how you perform better than other professionals may, in your mind, speed up the conversation but in reality it eliminates the substance necessary for a prospect to really understand how you can help. Besides that, what is your reaction to a stranger who says with a smile, "Trust me"? Chances are you don't.

It is one thing to aspire to trusted advisor status and yet another to publicly label yourself a trusted advisor to others. Trust is an attribute we must continuously earn, not self-proclaim. David Maister is a leading consultant on the management of professional service firms. Back in 2001, Maister published the book, The Trusted Advisor, in which he explored, in his words, "the relationship between trust and successful advice-giving, the key components of trust and the way it can be nurtured in a relationship." One of the key concepts in trusted relationships is that the advisor doesn't get to choose the criteria by which he is evaluated. Trust, that is, is in the eye of the client.


Andrew Dietz is Managing Partner of Creative Growth Group,Inc. and, you can trust him…really.

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