From Supplier to Advisor!

Regardless whether you sell a product or service, how we are perceived by our clients can have a remarkable impact on our business. A powerful yet under utilized strategy by entrepreneurs is to position themselves as trusted advisors. However, like all good things, it is not easy to achieve, it’s hard to hold onto and requires continuous effort to maintain. Successful attainment of this status ensures you a competitive advantage and potential long term customer loyalty. But you must earn it first!

So what makes an entrepreneur a trusted advisor? A trusted advisor must be willing to put the clients’ best interest ahead of everything else. That’s not to say you or your business cannot benefit from the relationship, as chances are it will, but your primary position is to be one of service to your clients without expectation of gain. A lot easier said than done when you’re trying to make payroll or cover the rent!

But before you can even be in the game you need to be qualified.

1.  Problem Solving

Being a considered as a trusted advisor is more an evolutionary process that is conferred to you over time by your clients and predicated by your actions and performance as a supplier. Migrating from supplier to advisor requires you to have shown high levels of professionalism, a true interest in their business and above all being a problem solver.

2.  360 Degree Awareness

A trusted advisor needs to develop what I call “360 degree awareness”. In a nutshell, 360 degree awareness refers to having a thorough understanding of all options that your clients must consider in their decision making process. Another way to truly add value to your relationship is to be aware of what’s happening within the industry and then keeping your clients informed of these issues and opportunities. Not industry noise, but bona fide information. With all the electronic tools available today, this far easier than it has ever been.

3.  Educating Your Clients

Disclosing your executional processes or educating your clients is a powerful positioning tool. Too many individuals are reluctant to do so as they fear the client will then do it themselves. Short of proprietary or technical formulations, sharing your process with the client serves to reinforce your position. David Ogilvy, a twentieth century marketing genius, frequently shared with his clients how to develop a great advertising campaign. His attitude was there was little risk in educating his customers about the business, as chances are none were going to go into the advertising business.

4.  Be a Connector

Finally, there are times when your product or service cannot provide a suitable solution for your client. This is where a true trusted advisor really earns their stripes by referring your client to another supplier. Ideally, you’ve already have created relationships with these other suppliers and therefore you’ll be able to refer your clients with confidence.

In today’s crazy busy environment where deadlines are compressed, many corporate clients don’t have the time or resources to research the options available, but need to find a solution and fast. Being that person they call means they trust your judgment.

Fortunately, my natural curiosity allowed me to build a network of complimentary suppliers that I regularly referred my clients to when they called looking for help. But the true beauty of attaining this status, is that it kept me involved in the early stages of many of my clients’ projects and more often than not created opportunities that benefited my company.

As a word of caution, don’t even try this if your motives are self-serving. You’ll be caught out at some point and risk damaging any goodwill you may have.

Copyright © Greg Weatherdon 2012

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