In our final article for the moment on the ‘trusted Advisor’ role, you must understand that relationships with clients can change over time, and for a variety of unexpected reasons: a change in management, strategy or culture, or an adjustment in the need for assistance. In my years of running an landscape/snow consulting firm, I’ve learned that the best consultants become trusted advisors quickly, and stay trusted for the lifetime of their relationships. All a consultant has is their reputation, and once that’s gone, it can never be bought back.
Earning the title of a “trusted advisor” is a privilege and should never be jeopardized. It takes a long time to achieve and mere minutes to lose. Particularly in desperate times, landscape consultants can risk a lot by selling their soul for a short-term gain. The sun does rise again, so a serious player will always value their proven integrity. So how do you achieve this trusted advisor status?
Here are some tips I live by to reinforce a back-to-basics approach to relationship management:
- Have the client’s best interests in mind— not yours. This shows that you care and are willing to sacrifice personal gain to ensure the client achieves the best possible outcome. Take time to help your clients in other ways. Admit if you don’t know something or can’t help, and refer them to someone better who does or can. And be a good loser if you miss out on a deal this time around; there’s always tomorrow.
- Do a good GREAT job! This may sound obvious, but there are plenty of poor service providers out there. You can stand out by being great at what you do and ensuring that your staff is also on top of their game. This can be a challenge, but “A-grade” talent is worth fighting for. Always provide quality service. Poor service burns clients. They will come and go, but a consistently high level of service ensures you give 100%, 100% of the time.
- Deliver on what you promise. Meet deadlines and budgets, and always follow up as promised. Remember how disappointed you were as a kid when the local shop promised they would have more of your favorite football cards on Monday, but then they never had them? You never forget what your promised!
- Show real-life examples of success. Demonstrate who you’ve helped in the past and how, exactly, you helped them. While you’re at it, encourage new clients to talk to your happiest clients. The more people speak to your success, the greater your reputation as a recruiter.
- Be seen and heard in your industry. If you’re a specialist, make sure you’re seen and heard. Share your experience, notable awards or publications with your clients so they can see that you’re passionate about your industry and that you stand out from competitors.
- Give back. Reinforce the relationship by investing more in your clients than your competitors do. Don’t ever take your status for granted! Many businesses ignore their top clients and end up spending more on corporate hospitality for their poorest clients. Investing in your clients and giving back is a sure way to reinforce your relationship.
- Never forget the clients. Maintain the relationship equally, even when your client may not be paying for your services. When times are good again, quality clients will remember who remembered them.
The best measurement of your reputation is to ask your clients two questions: “Would you come back to me without hesitation?” and “Would you recommend my services to others without hesitation?” If the answer to these questions is “yes,” then you’re doing a great job, and it serves as a reflection on the leader for building a company culture with strong values. I’d invest in that type of company. Even just asking these two questions helps create trust and shows you care. And that’s a sign of a trusted advisor.