Effectively positioning yourself as an Expert on your topic and a trusted source of knowledge and advice (Trusted Advisor) is key to cultivating a loyal following that scoops up just about anything you have to offer. There is a small but important difference between simply being an Expert and being thought of as a Trusted Advisor… and you want to be both to your customers.
Experts are individuals who have or are perceived to have deep or special knowledge in a particular field or area. Trusted Advisors are those who have successfully established a personal connection with their customers or audience to the extent that the customers or audience would turn to the Trusted Advisor for advice on just about anything, not solely the Trusted Advisor’s area of expertise. Trusted Advisors are often Experts on a specific topic, but customers turn to the Trusted Advisor for advice on a variety of topics, from personal issues to business solutions to referrals, because the customers feel assured that the Trusted Advisor puts customers’ interests first.
People buy from people they know, like and trust, first and foremost.
It’s not enough to simply be an Expert. You may have the deepest knowledge in a particular field, but if no one trusts you or feels a connection with you, your business won’t be successful. Ideally, you want to position yourself as an Expert in your field with the deep levels of connection and rapport the Trusted Advisor has with her customers, as the Trusted Advisor holds special status (much like a dear friend) in prospects’ and customers’ minds. In their excellent book The Trusted Advisor, David H. Maister, Charles H. Green and Robert M. Galford of Trusted Advisor Associates LLC, dive deep into the structure of trust building, which is an essential component of eventually gaining Trusted Advisor status in your prospects’ and customers’ eyes. They state that there are five stages to trust building:
1. Engage: The customer realizes that he has a problem and that you are worth talking to about that problem. The Advisor earns the right to present her truthful opinions and thoughts.
2. Listen: When done successfully, the Advisor effectively acknowledges and affirms the customer’s thoughts and feelings and earns the right to continue discussions around identifying and defining the customer’s problem(s).
3. Frame: The Advisor helps the customer gain clarity on the scope and details of the problem, which is often when the customer realizes the value that the Advisor brings to the situation.
4. Envision: The Advisor helps the customer envision in detail possible solutions to see what fits best with the customer’s desired outcome before a solution is offered. Understanding and clarifying the customer’s desired results and expectations are an important part of this stage.
5. Commit: This is the precursor to customer action and the point at which the Advisor must help the customer vividly and fully understand what it will take to achieve the customer’s desired outcome and empower the customer with the belief that he can and will take the necessary steps to reach the finish line. If the customer doesn’t believe it’s possible to solve his problem or achieve the results the Advisor has promised, he won’t move into action (and buy your product or service).
Even if you’re not initially meeting your prospects and customers face-to-face (for example, with online marketing), you can and should weave these stages of trust building into your marketing and online communications.
Example of a Trusted Advisor versus an Expert
Take a minute to think about someone in your life who you consider to be a Trusted Advisor – someone who you know, like and trust to give you heartfelt, honest advice based on her knowledge and opinion of what would be best for you. It may be someone from your family, a dear friend, a work colleague or teacher. Please bring that person to mind. How do you feel when you think about that person? Do you get a smile on your face, feel safe, cared for, perhaps loved?
When your car needs servicing or something in your home breaks, don’t you ask a friend for a recommended mechanic or repairman? You ask your friend because she’s one of your Trusted Advisors, even though your friend likely isn’t a mechanic and may not have particularly deep knowledge about cars.
In addition to putting your clients’ needs first, Trusted Advisors must possess and exhibit integrity and excellence. Hard-won trust is easily shattered by a lack of either characteristic. Integrity isn’t simply a question of having impeccable ethics, its practical application boils down to this: Do you do what you say you’re going to do? Do you follow through every time? Do you operate and deliver with excellence? If you promise people who sign up for your email list that they will immediately get access to a free resource or that your customers will get a bonus when they sign up for your event, do you deliver every time and on time?
The Oprah Effect
Would you like an example of how immensely powerful being a Trusted Advisor can be? I’ve got one word for you: Oprah. She modeled her entire career around becoming a Trusted Advisor by featuring top experts on her show. Oprah wasn’t an expert on every topic she talked about… she was the trusted source for bringing experts to her audience. She was (and is) a master at consistently leading her audience through the five stages of trust building, cementing her position as the #1 TV host in her category for the duration of The Oprah Show.
Over the years Oprah came to dominate her field to such an extent that she became a kind of “anointer” of Trusted Advisor status, bequeathing it on people and products alike. Simply appearing on her TV show could vault an unknown person instantly to Trusted Advisor status and change their lives and businesses overnight. Having your book or product featured on the Oprah show could skyrocket sales from nothing to millions. Her influence was (and is) so powerful that the resulting business boom that occurred with recommended products and guest experts businesses earned the name “the Oprah Effect”.
You don’t have to be Oprah to hold special status in the minds of your Ideal Customers. By providing valuable, and often free, resources to your potential and current clients (Education Based Marketing), you can position yourself as one of their Trusted Advisors, an Expert on your topic and strategically position offers for your products and services. You’ll be amazed what your clients divulge to you about their lives, even about subjects on which you’re not an expert, simply because you have established such a deep level of trust through the sharing of valuable knowledge.
At the Pinnacle of Impact, Influence and Income: The Expert Trusted Advisor
An “Expert Trusted Advisor” is a person operating with excellence and integrity who demonstrates her deep level of expertise through authentic communication and delivery of valuable information, services and products which solve her customers’ most pressing problems. In short, they focus on…
Helping people more.
That’s the heart of it. People perceived as Expert Trusted Advisors don’t overly hype their credentials, pitch their products or go for the pushy sales close. They focus on making a difference in the lives of their potential and current customers.
Helping people more is the best way to sell more, build your client base and make more money... and you can do it without those slimy hard-sell sales tactics. How you help people more goes back to being able to authentically connect with them and identify and solve their major problems.
Expert Trusted Advisors occupy a special status and place of value in the customers’ minds and hearts that is hard to change as long as the expert stays in integrity. If two people know, like and trust each other, they will find a way to do business together... even if you’re not the #1 expert in your field or don’t have a ton of experience. The details – the product or service itself – of the transaction aren’t going to get in the way.
You can be the Expert Trusted Advisor for your customers. By consistently engaging in the five stages of trust building, operating with integrity and delivering with excellence, you will quickly become your customers’ Expert Trusted Advisor and see your impact, influence and income soar.
Please share your thoughts and opinions in the comments!
What strategies do you use to build trust with your prospects and current customers?
Have you been successful at making the leap to Expert Trusted Advisor? If so, what steps did you follow to make the transition?
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