One of the most talented advisors I’ve ever coached – let’s call him Adrian – shared the story of how he came to be a trusted advisor for one of the clients that he’s working with. In his own words, the client will usually simply give him the business and tell him to send them an invoice, because they know he deals fairly. That is the essence of a Trusted Advisor right there, and something that is lucrative mutually beneficial and value-creating for all parties involved.
He says he started out selling a minor assignment alented advisors I’ve ever coached shared the story of how he came to be a trusted advisor for one of the clients that he’s working with. In his own words, the client will usually simply give him the business and tell him to send them an invoice, because they know he deals fairly. That is the essence of a Trusted Advisor right there, and something that is lucrative mutually beneficial and value-creating for all parties involved.
He started out selling a minor assignment.
This assignment didn’t go quite as planned – or as my client put it:
We made a clear mistake – there weren’t two ways about it. We messed up.
Now here’s what’s interesting. If there’s money on the table most of the clients I work with will have the knee-jerk reaction to never admit a mistake, and always say it wasn’t their fault – no matter how large or small the claim.
Adrian did things quite differently
Yeah so, we messed up – it wasn’t my fault per se, but it was my responsibility. I was on the site when I found out, and I immediately told the client, “look – we’ll take the hit for this. It’s our fault, and we’ll swallow the cost, and make sure it’s done right.”
If you think back to the Trust Equation, one of the things that’s absolutely critical is that we admit our mistakes – even when (or especially when) – it goes against our own self interest. And this is exactly what Adrian did here. Now he’s six years into this client relationship and it’s still something they talk about.
What happened afterwards however, was even more interesting.
This project which had a few hiccups in the beginning started growing in scope as projects have a tendency to do. One thing that Adrian told me here however caught my attention. He told me that at one point the client told him that they wanted a certain add-on to the project, that was going to add 15-20% to the total amount of the project, and which would have gone to Adrian and his project team, without contention.
At that point he told them following:
Listen, it’s not that I don’t want to do the work that you’re asking me to do, but this is not going to move the needle in terms of what you’re trying to achieve.
So he effectively advised himself out of a significant fee – directly against his own self-interest – simply because it wouldn’t have been good for the client. And there’s another thing that I want you to notice here, which is that he had no qualms challenging the client. In other words, it was very clear what the client wanted, but it wasn’t what they needed at the time, and he pointed that out, and as such closed a significant value gap right then and there.
This the client tremendous confidence in Adrian, and positioned him as someone who could be trusted. And that trust is something that he is still benefitting from 6 years down the line.
In the next post, I’ll show you exactly how he managed to navigate the client’s organization and climbed from the middle layer of management all the way to the top, and what kind of impact that has had on himself, his company and especially the client that he works for.