I was in a networking group once where we had to go around the room and describe what makes us different than our [sometimes larger] competitors. Although all of us were from different industries, virtually everyone’s value proposition could be summed up into one word. Trust!
When I was a kid, I learned that trust had to be earned. I still believe that today. The question is, how do you trust someone to advise you on something you don’t understand?
I have advisors for Marketing, Insurance and Taxes. Not subjects I went to school for, nor do I profess to be an expert in any of them. However, I do consider myself good judge of character and being an advisor myself, I know what it takes to earn trust.
No one can talk about trust without considering results. Obviously that’s number one. A good trusted advisor will help you develop goals on which to measure success. My marketing advisor develops goals to measure hit count on my website, conversion rates, new sales leads, etc. With my Tax guy, it’s how he manages my deductibles and how susceptible am I to an audit. My Insurance agent makes sure I have the coverage I need. She’s not the cheapest in the world (and she tells me that), but she’s upfront and makes a real effort to understand my needs.
The point is, to measure results, the proper goals need to be set and you should be able to gauge how well you do in achieving them. It goes beyond ‘under promise – over deliver’. Anyone can under promise. Goals should be realistic. It’s also not as important to hit them on the first throw as much as how you can change up the game if you miss your target or don’t get the results you want.
One of the best value principals of a good advisor is communication. The advisors I trust are the ones who give it to me straight. In sales, we’re taught to tell the customer what they want to hear. Advisors are here to tell us what we need to hear. It may not always be good news, but if you need to hear it, it’s valuable.
Time is Money
Once you find an advisor you trust, how much time do you spend validating their work? If your advisor gives you a quote, do you look for a better one? Maybe, if the time it takes to shop doesn’t exceed the amount of money you might save on the their offer. However, I’ve seen people spend 10 hours to save $100. Not my favorite approach.
Ultimately, the best people I trust are the ones that are forthcoming about their commission rates, competitor pricing, markups and wholesale costs. That doesn’t mean they have to volunteer all that information, just that they’re honest about what they’re making on the deal and how much risk they’re assuming. Not everyone can do this, but the ones who can, usually earn my trust pretty quick.
When you have an advisor you really trust, nurture that relationship. They will usually be there in a pinch when you need them most.
I’m not personally a strong believer in the 80/20 rule. At least not in the ways it’s used in sales. The most common translation I see is to focus 80% of your time on the top 20% of your customers. Personally, I strive to give 110% to every customer and I expect the people I do business with to do the same. Because Trust is the name of the game. If you’re advisor gives you the impression they’re putting 110% into you, ask yourself, are you in their top 20%, or do they bring that dedication to every table.