The Trusted Advisor

Sales Book Review The Trusted AdvisorThe Trusted Advisor

Sales Book by: David Maister, Charles Green and Robert Galford

Summary by: Rob Reed


Introduction – The Trusted Advisor

The Trusted Advisor by Maister, Green and Galford aligns very well with an ethical selling philosophy. The authors disapprove of manipulative and deceptive sales tactics.

However, the book is specifically written for those working in advisory professions such as consulting, law, and accounting, so it is directed at sellers who sell in cycles that occur over a significant period of time. If you sell in a transactional environment, The Trusted Advisor, may not be as helpful.

The book contains three sections. Part One covers anecdotes, suggestions, and stories intended to stimulate thinking about issues that a trusted advisor must consider. Part Two addresses the subject matter in a more structured and formal manner. In Part Three the authors build on and apply the concepts and techniques presented in the first two parts.

The discussion of the author’s “trust equation” is especially valuable. This discussion includes specific actions that can be taken by service professionals and sales professionals to build trust. Those interested in building trust can help themselves by focusing on the trust equation and the trust process.

Although The Trusted Advisor is written with service professionals in mind, we still recommend it for salespeople who sell in more complex selling situations. However, you will need to adapt many of the authors’ suggestions to your own selling process, which is likely to be different from that of the advisory professions.

The Trusted Advisor – Summary

Why is building trust important? The authors capture the practical aspects of this question with an example:

Imagine that you are in front of a potential new client from an organization you know well. The client begins to explain his problems. You nod your head, because you recognize the characteristics of the problem, and you comment on similar situations elsewhere in the organization. Then you ask a question to confirm your understanding, and get the answer you expect.

Confident that you know what needs to be done, you propose your solution. To your surprise, instead of embracing your solution, the client backs off.

The authors say that this occurs because a client will not buy your solution, even if it is completely correct, until you earn the right to propose it. And you can’t earn that right until you have established the appropriate level of trust with the client.

Earning Trust

The Trusted Advisor addresses a basic issue of trustworthy selling — that while it is necessary to be a trustworthy and honest seller, this is not sufficient. The prospect must also perceive you to be trustworthy and honest. You therefore need to manage and improve the process of earning trust.

The authors consider a thorny question: Is building trust a matter of sincerity – or technique? Their conclusion: You must be sincere, but you can help your cause with appropriate techniques, which they explain throughout the book.

Most client-advisor relationships begin when an individual is retained as a subject matter expert with needed technical skills. If things go well, the relationship progresses through a series of stages until the status of trusted advisor is attained. As the depth of the relationship grows, so does the range of business issues that the relationship addresses.

A successful trusted advisor is one who cares more about maintaining and preserving the relationship – and more about giving good advice – than about the outcome of the current transaction.

The benefits of being a trusted advisor, say the authors, include some things you get and some things you don’t get. You get repeat business from your clients and referrals that lead to new business. You don’t get (or get less of) pro forma procedures that consume valuable time, such as proposals, presentations, and activity reports.

The authors believe that earning trust is a learnable skill. For example, you don’t say “Trust me.” Instead, you give evidence that you deserve to be trusted. Be generous with your knowledge, even before you make the sale. In particular, you must make this commitment to your prospect, before you even enter his or her office: “I will answer your questions, directly and truthfully, even if it means losing a chance at your business.”

Trust is a two-way relationship, both rational and emotional; you can’t create a trusted relationship on your own, and it can’t be forced. Furthermore, trust is personal. There is no such thing as “institutional trust.” We don’t trust institutions; we trust people.

The Trust Equation

The authors have given extensive thought to building trust between people, and they capture their ideas in their trust equation…[Please click to learn how to get the rest of this sales book review and much more.]