How do you become a trusted advisor?

Don’t shoot the messenger

People make decisions all the time: purchasing choices, reorganization decisions, recruitments, etc. A large part of the choices are based on information received and/ or understood. Although relationships play a key role in influencing the decision makers, facts, figures and statistics (although not always reliable) are also crucial. What is the connection between the information carried and the messenger ?


Informed decisions

Holding the purse strings gives you the power to act, decide, veto, choose, etc. You can step in at the last minute and decide to call the whole thing off.

Obviously, information is shared and discussed during  complex decision-making processes.  Sales teams prepare sales messages, kits, demonstrations, etc. The potential client holds internal meetings, they look at the literature and compare solutions, they meet the sales force.  There may be a pilot study, the results of which are shared and analyzed. There are additional internal meetings, during which the outcome of the pilot study is discussed : return on investment, adoption rate, customer satisfaction, etc.

And yet, sometimes someone suddenly comes out and stops the whole process, meaning the whole thing is dropped. This someone may or may not have had access to the information during the evaluation period.


Money makes the world go round

But why would you call something off ? Your team has been shifting through and sorting information, facts, statistics, and comparisons. 

More often than not, decisions are cancelled or ignored, not because of the quality of the information itself, but because there is a lack of faith in either the information or in the decision makers themselves.


Information and people: the powerful combination

Undeniable facts and trustworthy people are a powerful combination. Putting the two together creates a very strong source of influence, one that will be very difficult to ignore.

The trustworthy people in my network are those that I have trusted in the past and who have held up to the expectations. I may not notice all the people who work well and achieve good results, but I will notice the unexpected. For example:

  • I am impressed and I remember when good results come from someone I hadn’t trusted.
  • I suddenly take note of a person who has been in my entourage and consistent for a long time.

I also remember the unexpectedly disappointing.

  • I notice if I trust someone who then goes on to fail to deliver or to make good on promises.

Trusting relationships, businesses, professionals and personnel alike, are built up over the years and stand the test of time. We have built up a working history together. A crucial factor for a trusting relationship is the belief in the absence of vested interests.


An envelope is as important as a letter

The information at the centre of the decision making process will be brought to me by people with whom I have varying levels of trust. In addition, the way the arguments and logic are framed will make a difference. I am more likely to understand (and as a result trust) a person who matches my way of thinking and uses the same level of technical language as me.


The road to becoming a trusted advisor

You may not hold the pen that signs all the forms, but there are ways you can build up your reputation as a trusted advisor in order to gain influence.

  1. Match your communication style to your listener and his/ her level of knowledge.
  2. Walk the walk and talk the talk. Demonstrate again and again that you can be trusted.
  3. Be open about your relationships with others and any conflicts of interest.  Knowing in advance is far better than finding out by accident later.
  4. Communicate about the reliability of your information. Tell people if you think this is a trusted document or if you think that the information is biased.  Be prepared to say why.  You’ll gain the reputation of being able to analyze information before you present it.