Regardless of your professional arena – whether you are in engineering, investment banking or a Big Four consultant looking to acquire high value targets – there are certain skills you can’t live without.

In my experience there are 3 skills in particular, which are important.

  1. Empathy
  2. The ability to build trust
  3. The patience to fully explore a client’s situation

Let’s look at each of them in turn.

When it comes to Empathy we all possess this skill to a greater or lesser extent. For some it comes as natural as breathing, and for the rest of us, it is something that we must consciously cultivate in order to be as effective as we can be.

The reason empathy is so crucial, is because it is what allows us to understand what’s going on on the client’s side of the table. If we don’t have it, in other words, then we are going to have an extremely hard time understanding the customer’s emotional situation as well as the nuances and subtleties they’re experiencing in their current environment. What happens then, is that we will have a hard time moving beyond anything other than service provider.

Until empathy enters the picture, the interaction is bound to be a transaction. 

Once you apply empathy to the relationship however, you’re going to notice a subtle shift in your own and you client’s behavior which enables you to be an advisor.

The reason this shift happens, is because now you are starting to build trust. 

Trust happens, when the person across from you has the unwavering belief  that you have their best interests at heart.

This means that you not only have to understand their emotional context, but you must also ask questions, that help explore the client’s situation, needs and pains. In other words, we need to understand their hot buttons. We need to understand what motivates them and what drives their behavior – both in terms they’re looking to achieve and in terms of things they’re trying to avoid.

To a certain extent many of us are driven by a number of the same underlying psychological needs, such as:

  • Looking good in front of our boss and co-workers
  • Creating value for others
  • Evolving personally and professionally

And the more we can tap into these needs with our questions, the more we are able to act as advisors as opposed to service providers.

Which leads us to the final point of the day, namely that you must cultivate the patience to fully explore a client’s situation. 

Exploring a client’s situation on their terms is not easy.

In fact, this is where most of the people I coach fall into one or more of the numerous pitfalls that goes with this approach. Some of the things I see more often than not includes:

  • Asking about process and budget without exploring needs and pains
  • Jumping from question to question without exploring the need or pain in depth
  • Asking technical questions that the client may or may not be able to answer

What all of these have in common is that they fail to fully explore the need at hand, and as such fail to fully uncover the hooks on which the solution can be hung later on in the process. More importantly it also fails to fully capture the value that the advisor could create with the client, if they had been patient enough to dive deep into the needs and pains.

If you want to become a trusted advisor, you must explore the client’s needs and depths fully.

This requires patience, courage and humility, because you have to ask until you understand.  

These three skills are absolutely fundamental to your success and although they might look simple on paper, they require deliberate practice to hone and repetition to perfect.

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