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Trusted Advisor 2.0

A few years ago, I identified the ten characteristics of a Trusted Advisor.  As I look back at that list, I see it has become more like the price of admission.  With the radical changes that have taken place in the selling landscape, while every one of the ten attributes remain valid, they are no longer sufficient.

What has remained true through time however, are the two words themselves: trusted and advisor.  But what these words mean and why they are so essential today has changed.

It’s not a matter of creating a “from to to” list, and it is more than reframing and reordering.  Customers have transformed what they demand from a trusted advisor.  Customers are more cynical, and earning their trust has never been more challenging or critical.  Advice has advanced from not only solving problems but anticipating and finding problems.

Let’s profile today’s Trusted Advisor:

  1. They come to the table as equals
  2. They build trust  based on consistent trustworthy behaviors,  transparency in their dealings, and expertise in their understanding of the dynamics of their customers’ businesses
  3. They bring expertise in insights, ideas, and resources and guide customers in  what to pay attention to
  4. They make connections personally with customers and connect the dots to create integrated solutions
  5. They collaborate with customers to solve business challenges and produce business outcomes with shared solutions
  6. They minimize risk through understanding the risks customers are focused on and show proof of value  and how they mitigate the risk
  7. They build consensus across the customer decision group and organization
  8. They develop deep contacts and multiple coaches in a customer organization, including executive relationships
  9. They are “expert teachers,” learning from and with their customers
  10. 10. They demonstrate emotional courage to continue in the face no’s and engage in frank conversations with their customers and teams

Customers are looking to salespeople to add to what they know.  They will make time for and buy from salespeople who bring ideas to them that will help them grow their business and achieve their goals.  The important thing about the new Trusted Advisor is no longer can the characteristics be the province of the top 10% of salespeople.  The need for average salespeople is disappearing.  Customers are self-educating, and easy sales are going to the internet.  The role of salespeople will be more important — but only to the extent that they are prepared to bring value in terms of what customers define as value.

No list is complete, and with the rate of change, no list is indelible.  What would you change?  What would you add?  Share your thoughts below.

About the Author

Linda Richardson is the Founder and Executive Chairwoman of Richardson, a global sales training business. As a recognized leader in the industry, she has won the coveted Stevie Award for Lifetime Achievement in Sales Excellence for 2006 and in 2007 she was identified by Training Industry, Inc. as one of the “Top 20 Most Influential Training Professionals.” Linda was also recognized with the Top Sales and Marketing Award for Thought Leader in 2012 by the Top Sales World.

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