Below is the full transcript from a recent interview with Charles H. Green with Fast Track to Partner’s Heather Townsend.
For access to the audio version of the interview, click here.
Heather Townsend: Hello and welcome to the Fast Track to Partner audio masterclass series hosted by me, Heather Townsend of the Excedia Group. In today’s masterclass we will be looking at how to become the trusted advisor.
Now, you’ve come to the right place if
- You’re working all hours but your career still isn’t progressing as much as you like;
- You’re struggling to build a profitable client portfolio;
- You want to become partner but are just not sure exactly how to get there. If only someone would tell you how to do it;
- You want to make partner and are not sure will be able to do it on your own terms.
Now, in this masterclass Charles Green, co-author of The Trusted Advisor and author of Trust-based Selling, will be talking us through why achieving trusted advisor status is still as relevant today to prospective partners as it was back in 2002 when the Trusted Advisor was written. Charles will explain the steps you need to take to become a trusted advisor to your clients and how this will help you further your partnership ambitions. Now, you’ll come away from today knowing
- What do we mean by trusted advisor and how to spot when you’ve achieved that status;
- What do you need to do to become a trusted advisor with your clients; and
- How to use your status as a trusted advisor to grow the size of your client portfolio.
Now, it’s my really, really great delight to introduce Charles Green. He is what I would definitely call one of the professional service gurus. I have his book, I’ve read his stuff and I know he’s laughing at the other end of the line but, I have to say, I’m so honoured that I’m able to interview him today. He’s a speaker, a world expert on trust-based relationships in sales and complex businesses. In fact, when I thought of this masterclass series I thought “I wonder if I can ask Charles?” because I just know that he’ll be able to give those real gems that will make a difference.
Charles, I know, works with complex organisations to improve trust and sales and internal trust between organisations, and trust in advisor relationships with external clients and customers. Charles actually spent 20 years in management consulting, so he really knows the world that we’re talking about; he’s been there. He majored in Philosophy from Columbia and has an MBA from Harvard and I’m feeling as if I’m in somebody that is way above where I’m ever going to get to. Stop laughing.
Charles H. Green: Not at all.
Heather: I’m still waiting for the opportunity to hear him speak, but I know that will happen in time. He is widely sought after as a speaker. He has published articles in the Harvard Business Review, Directorship Magazine, Management Consulting News, CPA Journal, American Lawyer, Business Week, Forbes.com, Investments & Wealth Monitor, Commercial Lending Review, and is a contributing editor of RainToday.com? Thank you so much Charles for coming on today.
Charles: Heather, it’s my pleasure, thank you.
Heather: Would you like to talk our listeners through what they’ll learn today?
Charles: Well, I think very simply, you’ve done a great job introing it and I would like to focus maybe just in general on what it means to be a trusted advisor and, insofar as we can do it in this short time, how to do it; what’s the focus on it; what are the main things to do to get there?
Heather: Brilliant. Now I need to go through some housekeeping first and foremost. Anybody that’s been listening to any of my teleseminars will know about my desire to sort the housekeeping out. One of the most frustrating things from anyone’s point of view, yours and mine, is being dialled into a seminar and the line going dead. Whilst we’re using one of the most reliable and trusted teleseminar systems in the world, there are always times when technology can let us down, and please let it not be today. If for whatever the reason the line goes dead, stay calm and it will probably reconnect with 15 to 20 seconds, and then go back into the call again by pressing the link to access the teleseminar again.
We know that many of you are probably listening into this call via the web and probably use Twitter. Now, how about making sure that your followers get some of the really valuable nuggets that I know that Charles is going to be giving us as we go along? And use hash tag #H2MP. Now, if you want to get your hands on all of the recordings and transcripts of calls on this Fast Track to Partner masterclass series, of which I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like this before, all we ask that you do is you buy a copy of How to Make Partner and Still Have a Life and post up a review on amazon.co.uk by 20 December and email us to tell us when you’ve done this. At the end of the call there’ll be a password given out which will let you get your hands on a mind map of the call as a thank you for listening in and you’ll be sent an email with a link to where you can get your hands on the mind map.
Right, done the housekeeping, it’s over to I think the main event, Charles. First of all Charles, let’s be clear. I think what we’ve got on the line hear is primarily professionals who are about one to five years away from partner, but mostly with client experience.
Charles: Excellent. That’s a perfect group for this kind of subject matter. I think it’s very relevant to where those people are in their career. Hopefully we can help them today.
Heather: Brilliant. So, this is the first in our series of our teleseminars on Fast Track to Partner. So, and I’m sure many of the people on the line here will have heard a lot about selling, about client relationships, but how does becoming a trusted advisor differ from what attendees have learnt before?
Charles: Well, I think to put a headline on it, I think it has to be more mind-set and a little bit less skillset than what people are probably used to learning. I think most corporate training or professional services training, most of the kinds of learning that we come across these days has become very behavioural and the language, even of HR programmes, tends to be along the lines of “participants will learn the behaviours associated with da, da, da, da, da, da”. Everything’s very outcome-driven, metric-driven and so forth. The problem is, when it comes to something like trust you can’t really use the same techniques you might to learn French or improving your golf swing. Some of it has to come from, for lack of a better term, from the heart. You have to believe this stuff. You have to be open a little bit to having your emotions squeaked and your mind changed. So I think if I had to pick one it’s just this notion of becoming more of a mind-set.
Heather: So, because I know our audience and most of them, I think you’d probably agree, are highly logical, are highly analytical and they’re going to be going “But we can’t measure it, we can’t touch it, we can’t feel it” and maybe they can feel it.
Heather: So let’s start with this hard bit, and I’m getting most people are going “It’s hard because you say it comes from the heart, you’ve got to believe it”. So the first thing: why mind-sets at all?
Charles: Great, well let me directly attack actually that notion that you’ve mentioned so conveniently there, that if you can’t measure it you can’t manage it. It’s false on the face of it, I agree with you. We hear that all the time and accept it as a given, but the truth is there are dozens of ways to manage without measurement. There’s fear and intimidation, there’s love and glory. There’s praise, there’s questioning, there’s empathy. There’s management by walking around. For us to deny the emotional components of business is actually quite short-sighted. So, like it or not, we live in a very emotional world. Up to this point in people’s career, one to five years before partner, almost all the emphasis has been put on the acquisition of cognitive skills, excellent mastery of subject matter. The paradigm is always who can be there fastest with the best answer. We’ve all been trained for that, we’ve been hired for that, we’ve promoted for that, we’ve been motivated and incentivised for that.
The problem is, once you get to around partner level and once the notion of the trusted advisor becomes more and more relevant, that stuff doesn’t work anymore. In fact, people come to expect it. You’re up against people who have very similar skills, honestly, whatever firm you work for and say how much smarter and better are we really than our next best competitor? And the answer is not that much different. The way you end up really differentiating is by making a personal connection with people, by becoming trusted, and that turns out, we’ve actually done research, on a thing called the trust equation. And we’re able to prove with numbers that the hard data is not what matters, it’s the soft skills, it’s the intimacies, it’s the low self-orientation, the subordination of your ego that ends up being more powerful, a greater measurement of trustworthiness. There actually are some metrics and it’s the soft stuff that is hard. So I’m rambling a bit on this one, but that is the mind-set, the attitude, the interpersonal connection, is what drives trust to a greater extent.
Heather: Not it’s interesting because, particularly say if you sat down and you sat down with a lawyer in the UK, and I’m sure that it’s probably similar to if you sat down with a lawyer in the US, you would find that around about the associate/senior associate level, they’re talking about the technical skill being key. And as much as I try and hit my head against a brick wall and say “It’s not about the technical” at this stage, as you say, it’s more about the soft stuff. It’s about putting your ego to one side. But don’t you find that people just respect that technical expertise, that content mastery even more when you’ve got the certification or, as we say in the UK, the qualification?
Charles: Well actually, no. Or maybe it’s more useful to look at the issue in terms of how people make decisions. You can think of a client, how they make the decision to buy, that maybe the most useful way here, but it also applies to how human beings make decisions about who to listen to. Think of it as a two-step process, particularly in client decisions. The first step is to look over the field and see who’s qualified, and at that point all the qualifications and credentials that you mentioned are very relevant. You can get excluded or included on the basis of your list of skills and the letters after your name and the school you went to and so forth. That will get you into the final running, the top three, the top five, whatever. The decision to actually hire one person versus another however is not like that at all. It turns out all those criteria and qualifications are simply reasons to include you and to hold onto them later to exclude you. The actual decision is made very emotionally, very quickly, on the basis of extremely subjective things.
Now, as human beings we don’t like to admit that. If you ask any client “Did you hire that particular solicitor/that lawyer on the basis of how you felt about them, just because you liked them?” they will say “Absolutely not, what do you take me for? I’m a serious business person”. But what they will tell you is not the rationale for having chosen, it’s the rationalisation after the fact. Somebody said it very well “Man is not a rational animal, man is a rationalising animal”. We make up our minds with our hearts, we justify it after the fact with logic. So what we do is we screen on the basis of all those credentials, we then emotionally make up a decision and then we choose to explain how it was that we did it. And I’m not trying to be cavalier or cynical about it. There are very good reasons for people using rationalisation. It does force another check on good decisions. It certainly makes sense that we be required to explain the logic for our decisions. But that doesn’t alter the fact that human beings make up their minds based on emotions very quickly. That’s what we’re talking about here.
Heather: And I get that. And I think the key point here is, as you say, you get into the room by your qualifications and then it’s based on that emotional, that gut, that connection, that soft skill interaction, and it’s the rationalisation afterwards that people will justify their decision. I’ve had clients that have come second in a tender and they’ve said “But the other person that won it, she was more expensive than me, she didn’t have a clue what she was doing, she’s taken on ..?.. [12:37] And you’re absolutely right and you go “Yes, but the emotional connection wasn’t there”.
So, coming back to that emotional connection, bring it back to mind-sets, the key mind-sets, that our listeners are going to need if they’re going to be seen as a trusted advisor.
Charles: Right. Well first of all, just underscore one last thing you said there. Very rarely is it the low cost person that’s hired which tells you right away it’s not about price, especially when they say it’s not about price. And you’re right, the one with the best qualifications doesn’t always win either. So it is these other things going on. The key mind-sets, first of all, at the risk of over-emphasising it, it is not about being smart. It’s not about showing that you’re the cleverest person in the room. In fact, one of the most high trust creating things you can say, oddly enough, is “I don’t know”. Who’s going to doubt you on that one, right? It’s not the sort of thing that one does to be clever. And yet it’s instantly believable. Nobody would say that if it were not true and it pegs you as somebody who is a truth teller.
Also, it’s not really about having the answer. It’s not about being the first one to come up with the answer, even though dialogue is often phrased that way. A client may say to you “Well, how would you handle this? What do you think of that? What’s your perception over here?” and it feels like it’s a test, you’re supposed to come up with the right answer. That’s what the client thinks it is, but actually the best response to that is not to come up with the right answer, it’s to get onto the same side of the table, metaphorically speaking, with the client and say “Well, let’s think that through. What’s at stake here is the following thing and sometime it goes like this and sometimes it goes like that, and I have to ask you is this the condition over here or is that the condition? Because if A and B, if X then Y and it depends on how you like to think about things”. In other words, you get onto their side of the table and have a dialogue about how to think about the issue rather than simply regurgitating the answer.
The biggest mind-set though, I find, is to, put it in a quick phrase, it’s not about you. Even when they insist it was about you “What are your credentials? Tell us why we should hire you?”. Our job, sitting on that side of the table is to forget that it’s about us and to continue to make it about them. If you’re able to do that, if you’re able to see behind what are often combative questions and get to the heart of the issue that concerns the client, they relax, they let down the guard. Suddenly you begin to be working as a team together and it all moves forward. And a lot of that starts with getting over the notion that this is about a test to determine how smart and powerful we are.
Heather: Yeah, can you just dig into that a bit more? Because I know I often find it personally, you get into the cult of the ego where almost to get yourself seen you’ve got to make out you’re the biggest, you’re the baddest, you’re the best in the field and it’s all about you.
Heather: And you’ve got to build up that profile of being seen as the go-to expert, the person who’s got all the answers. And what you’re saying here is that it’s not about you. So can you explain that a bit more?
Charles: Yeah, well again, all the credentials and all the build yourself up big and so forth, that is relevant but that’s what you do to get yourself in the room. It’s kind of like a resume. The purpose of a resume is not to get you a job. The purpose of a resume is to get you an interview and, once you’re in the interview room, if all you do is repeat off and read what you’ve written on the resume, not only are you repeating yourself, you’re annoying the other party. They can read, they’ve already seen that. They want to know what you’re like really as a person interactively. Are you actually paying attention? Are you working with them? And it’s like that. All the powerful ego stuff: leave it at the door. Check your ego at the door when you walk into the room to engage with a client.
It’s a nice little phrase that I like, is a sense of humility and humility means not thinking less of yourself, it means thinking of yourself less. It means getting in the habit of talking only a minute or two at a time and then always saying “But enough about me, let’s make sure I bring this back to you. Tell me about your” fill in the blank. Constantly turn it around to them. When clients are emotional, even upset, even upset at you, the trick is to remember not that they’re upset at you, the trick is to notice that you have an upset client on your hands and to be able to talk about that. To be able to say “Wow, this is obviously of big concern to you, tell me more”. Nobody likes to hear anything more than “Tell me about yourself”. It’s all of our favourite topics and it’s never presented that way. It’s always presented as “Show me how smart you are and how you solve this problem” but what every client really wants is for you to get inside their skin, if you will, into their mind and be able to appreciate what this issue means to them. And in that context you can bring to bear all the powerful things you’ve learned, but it will be in service to them as opposed to trying to build you up to win some kind of battle or ego game.
Heather: Yeah. But as we were saying, you look at any firm, and it’s the same in the UK as it is in the US, every firm has what I would call those partners. And what do I mean by “those partners”? They are amazingly successful. You really don’t want to get on the wrong side of one of those, and I have got on one of the wrong side of those and I didn’t have a job a week later. You know, those kind of partners who are amazingly successful, who you call them in your nice American way, assholes. I find them as ego driven, alpha male kind of, but they’re really smart, they’re really clever, they’re probably feared and respected as much, but aren’t they successful? So how is this different?
Charles: Well, I think each person has to answer that for themselves. But in my experience, and I’ve now seen quite a lot of firms, that is not the paradigm of the most common successful senior partner. There’s always one or two, you’re absolutely right, I’ve run across them too and you’ve described them perfectly, they are indeed assholes and they are indeed very successful and feared and so forth. But unless you’re in an entire firm of those people, in which case you might seriously want to consider leaving unless you are one of those, it’s far more common that there are one or two like that and they’re kept around frankly because the firm doesn’t quite have the guts to live by their values and fire them. And most firms aren’t. My pal David Maister on The Trusted Advisor made quite a living going around saying to firms that three quarters of them didn’t have the guts to live up to their values because they weren’t firing that person that you just described.
But I think more relevant is, first of all, you do not have to emulate that to be successful. That is the minority way to be successful. You might also ask do people like them? Do you really want to imitate them? Do you really want to be like that? Do other people want to work with them? Are they happy in their home life or do have they got a divorced, home-wrecked lousy situation with their kids? Do you want to live like them? Is that really how you want to succeed? You do not have to do that to succeed. It is far easier, far more fulfilling and, frankly, equally profitable, to have clients like you, be attracted to you, not have to go into battle constantly to get new clients, not have to struggle to defend your billing rate. It’s an awful lot easier if people easily and comfortably take your advice, seek you out, they phone you instead of you phone them, all those things that go with actually being trusted. It’s a heck of a lot nice way to live and no less profitable.
Heather: I’m thinking about a couple of partners in one of my old firms and yes, they weren’t liked. And it’s surprising when there’s a regime change how they were, shall we say, shuffled off.
Charles: Interesting, well.
Heather: Absolutely. So, we talked a little bit about the mind-set. Now I know my listeners will be chomping at the bit wanting to know, what about the skills side of things? If you’re going to become the trusted advisor, what are some of the skills you need to learn as well as the mind-set?
Charles: Well, I’ll maybe focus on three here, given the time we have. Actually the top three are:
- Learning how to intelligently take risks; and
- Learning to work outside your comfort zone.
Those are the three, listening, risk taking, and working outside your comfort zone.
Heather: Okay, so let’s just dig into that a little bit. So we hear about listening all the time. What do you mean by listening?
Charles: Well, we do hear about it all the time and on one level I think you can’t take too many courses on listening or read too many books on it, but I do mean it in a very specific way. I do not mean listening to hear the right trigger phrase so that you can launch into your canned speech. I do not mean asking open-ended questions versus close-ended. I do not mean mirroring body language and reflecting back and so forth. I mean something very specific called listening to earn the right.
So what I mean by that is to make the other person feel heard. Actually you get the other person to say “Wow, this person actually gets where I’m coming from. They seem to appreciate what I’m saying. They’re not in a hurry to move me off my agenda. They’re willing to hear me out. They may or may not agree with me, but I think they understand where I’m coming from”. The natural human response when you encounter somebody who listens to you like that is to reciprocate and to then listen to them. In fact, some of the best human wisdom done in the field of sales, in the field of psychology, in the field of marital therapy and even reporterist language, is if you listen to other people first they will then listen to you. If you listen to successful – this is the principle underlying suicide prevention hotlines for example, you must listen for 10 minutes before you are allowed to make any suggestions. It is listening in order to make the other person feel heard, appreciated, respected, if you will, and, again, the natural human response when you’re listened to in that way is to listen back. So we call that listening to earn the right.
The biggest mistake made in professional interactions is offering the advice too soon. This was one of the findings with some of the best sales research ever done by Neil Rackham, the inventor of spin selling. The biggest sales problem of all, he suggests, is coming up with the answer too soon, before the other person feels that they’ve told you their story. The point is not to get it right. The point is to make them feel that they’ve been heard and therefore are willing to take your advice. That’s why we call it listening to earn the right. So that’s, in a nutshell, how I’m talking about the notion of listening.
Heather: Yeah, I really like the way you describe it because so many professionals are really taught – whether they’re taught or not – but there’s this assumption that they’ve always got to be right. It doesn’t matter and I think it’s really great to hear you that it’s not about being right, it’s about listening to make the other person feel well and truly heard. And that gives you the license to be able to add your spin into it, not in a mechanistic way but in a very authentic, take the time to really walk a mile in their shoes, get inside their skin, get inside their head, and really listen, as you say, to earn the right. So, that was the first of the skill side. Now, the second skill was risk taking. Talk me through that.
Charles: I’m sorry, I lost you there.
Heather: The second skill you talked about was risk taking, are you going to talk me through that?
Charles: Yes, indeed, yes. There’s a lot of things about trust that we say casually and turn out not to be true. One of them is, Ronald Reagan made famous this phrase that “Trust but verify” and he borrowed it from an old Russian proverb supposedly. The truth is if you have to verify it’s not trust. If you actually trust somebody you don’t verify it, that’s the nature of trust. There is no trust without risk and each of us has to trust others as well as to be trusted. We can’t just be trustworthy all the time, we actually have to take some risks too otherwise the other party will eventually say “Well, I seem to be taking all the risks here, where are you?” and they won’t trust us.
So this notion of risk is a curious driver of reciprocal interaction. The way it works is one person puts themselves out a little bit and the other person reciprocates. It’s as simple as a handshake. If you walk up to another human being, smile at them and hold your hand out and lean in slightly towards them and say “Good morning, how are you?” 99 times out of 100 that other person will lean in towards you, extend their hand, nod and say “Good morning”. They may say it loudly or they may say it quietly, but they will respond. If you imagine a situation where they don’t respond, it’s deeply insulting. If they turn around and spurn you, turn on their heel and so forth.
So the trust creation is all about successive small risk taking things. And the most powerful risks that we can take are simple emotional ones like, as I mentioned before, “Gosh, I’m not sure I know the answer to that”. That feels risky and yet the payoff is almost immediate “Oh my gosh, here’s somebody who’s actually willing to tell me they don’t know the answer. I think I like this, I think I can trust the next thing this person’s going to tell me.” Classic examples of risk that everybody on this phone call can take, starting an hour after this call, is to name emotions, both ours and the other person’s. To be able to say “You know, I’ve got to tell you, I’m feeling a little nervous right now” or, even more angst provoking, “Gosh, you know I maybe wrong but you look a little nervous right now”. That’s what we call “name it and claim it”. Seek the elephant in the room, say the thing that everybody is a little bit uncomfortable talking about and by naming it itself, by saying it out loud, you have actually reclaimed some power over it.
So, emotional risk taking turns out to be at the heart of it and the biggest, the second biggest, whatever, driver of low trust is our inability to take that risk. We sit there silently afraid of what if we’re wrong, what if it’s inappropriate, what if I say the wrong thing, what if my editor is incorrect? And therefore we do nothing. And because we’ve taken no risk we are guaranteeing we’ll get no trust payoff. You have to start with some small risk taking.
Heather: And it’s interesting, I’ve been talking with a lot of lawyers recently, and to some extent accountants, where they feel that they have to keep their clients at an emotional arm’s length.
Heather: And that they have to be seen as this technical expert that is an automaton, that doesn’t have any feelings. And I can kind of understand of course if you’re a family boy, you really don’t want your clients to know if you’ve got children or a husband or a wife because of them turning round and going “Well, you’re a wife, you’re a mother, you must know what it’s like”. So I can understand that but, as you say, this is about the biggest way to building that deep connection with your client is to show, as you say, your vulnerability. It’s to name the emotion in the room. Say if you’re feeling nervous and people will warm to you, rather than thinking that’s a sign of weakness.
Charles: Absolutely right.
Heather: Yeah. The final skill side of things is about working outside of your comfort zone. Do you want to tell me a little bit more about that?
Charles: Yes. This is one that again is a common affliction for people at the level that we’re talking to here, pre-partner. Again, all our lives we’re brought up, we’re brought up to become a master of a certain subject area and maybe it broadens out and we get to cover a couple of ancillary areas. But it’s very nerve-wracking when you get to a point, for example if you’re a client relationship manager for an accounting firm and you’ve got several lines of business and there’s an opportunity, let’s say, to develop business within one of the other lines, but you don’t know it that well. What do you do? Well, the first inclination is to bring in one of your partners who’s an expert. Unfortunately that means you’ve now got two or three or four people in the room and what really would work much better is a one-on-one conversation. It’s the first default response when faced with uncertainty by someone who has been skill or trained in the notion that they have to be a master is to go find another master. And the truth is, when we get to the trusted advisor zone you don’t have to do that. We need to learn that all you need to know is enough to be a trusted advisor. You do not have to be a master in every piece of content. What you really have to do is have the client’s interest at heart and know just enough to ask good questions and to know when to bring in someone else. But you don’t start with that. The crucial skill is the relationship, not the mastery of the unrelated subject area.
So, what we have to do is get comfortable with ambiguity and to be able to very comfortably inside our own head, say “Gee, I don’t know exactly all how that works, but I do know it’s going to have to have at least X and Y and I know the experts are gonna want to know the answer to this question”. That’s all you need, and to be able to talk to the client and say “Let me help you articulate these questions so that we can bring somebody in”. That turns out to be huge. It’s the key to getting yourself outside your subject expertise area and becoming much more of a successful general.
Heather: Yeah. There’s a really interesting thing here is, I’m not sure whether it’s the same in the US but I’m guessing it is, is that a real hot topic in firms at the moment is cross-selling: How do we sell across a department? How can we sell more to our existing clients? And this ability to become the trusted advisor to your clients is the way forward in this because you’re wanting them to see you as the one-stop-shop. You don’t need to be an expert in everything, but you need to build the relationship so that you can bring in other experts. But, as you say, you’ve got to get comfortable with ambiguity. If you’ve learnt to be a pension specialist you’ve got to become comfortable that you might have to start talking a little bit about protection, know a tiny bit about it but enough that you can listen, write the notes, ask the right questions with a view that you can build the credibility of the colleague who’s coming in to help you with that. But as you say, it’s not about when you get outside of your comfort zone seeking another master immediately. It’s definitely not that. As you say, it’s about being comfortable with the ambiguity, getting invited to the conversation and really getting inside your client’s head.
Charles: Yeah. As a matter of fact, one of the, I think, a useful way to think about the cross-selling issue is to recall that your best value comes when you are willing to recommend somebody entirely outside of your firm. To take your example, you may be skilled in benefits programmes and need to know just a little bit about some other aspect of benefits but what if they ask you about strategy consulting? Or what if they ask you about divorce legal services or something that’s completely outside the province of your company? Well, if you’re equally comfortable with saying “Well, I don’t know that much about this subject, but I know a few things and I know that you have to ask this question” that attitude that you would be very comfortable referring something outside your company, that’s the attitude you want to have referring something within your company. You do not have to be an expert. You just have to focus on their needs and help them articulate it.
Heather: So this has been, I’ve really enjoyed speaking to you Charles and, I have to say, my expectations have not just been met, they’ve been exceeded. And so I’m hopefully thinking that everybody else on the line listening to this is also picking up the nuggets as they go along.
So my question to you Charles, I’m asking for all the experts on this series and you’re the first person to go, is: if you were sitting on a train and you met a prospective partner, it doesn’t matter whether a consultant, a lawyer or an accountant, what three tips would you give to them?
Charles: Well, that’s a great question. I want to hear everybody’s answers when you get through the whole series. I would say number one, take every course you can on listening. Every class, every book, every whatever. Again, my focus is listening to be heard, you know, listening to earn the right, but take everything you can on listening, you will not go wrong.
Number two is a bit more of a mind-set monitor. Focus on clients, not on getting promoted. The best way to get promoted is stop trying to get promoted. Focus on helping your clients and trust that if you do that you will get promoted, absolutely you will.
And if I had to pick a third one, again, that’s going to be kind of a mind-set thing. Accept that you don’t know everything and be okay with it. Check your ego with the door; don’t worry about not being a master at everything. Instead be curious, just adopt an attitude of curiosity all the time “I wonder what makes this work. I wonder what the answer to that is. Gosh, I don’t know this, maybe I should ask”. You don’t have to be an expert in everything, you just have to be client focused. Those are my three.
Heather: Brilliant three tips. So, I’m just going to give a quick summary for our listeners of this masterclass.
So, we first of all started off by saying that it doesn’t matter what else you’ve heard about account management, client relationship management, selling; the whole core about trusted advisor is actually it’s more of a client mind-set, less as a skillset. Up until this point you’ve been rewarded on your technical ability, your ability to pass classes, your ability to be an expert, your ability to be seen as the person to go to it. But actually the key thing that was coming out of this is, as you’re getting more and more towards partner, as you’re building your client portfolio, you’re getting more experienced, it’s less about that smartness. It’s less about that cleverness. It’s less about being that regurgitating database. It’s more about your motives and your ability to connect with others because that becomes more relevant. So, we’re not saying that people don’t respect your content mastery. Actually what we’re saying is that when buyers of professional services are thinking about working with someone, the first thing that they’ll do is they will go and they’ll look who does this and it will be your technical mastery that gets you onto a shortlist.
Heather: Once you’re on that shortlist, it will then be your ability to relate to the other person, your ability to walk a mile in their shoes, your ability to get inside their skin, your ability to understand their world. It’s not about being right, it’s not about being seen an expert, but it’s about really being seen as someone that connects. Because, as you say, people take an emotional decision at that stage to work with someone and then they rationalise that decision. So, you might not be the cheapest. You might not be this, you might not be that, but if you’ve not made that emotional connection it doesn’t matter two hoots.
So, let’s have a quick look at those mind-sets we talked about. As we say, it’s not about being smart, it’s not about having the right answer. It’s actually, as we’ve been talking, it’s not about you at all and it never really was. It’s about having that sense of humility. It’s about not in thinking less of yourself but in thinking of yourself less because really you’re there to serve your client. So being able to focus your attention on others without viewing things as a battle or an ego game which, let’s be honest, is what it’s been up until now. So, what you’ve got to look at is about really earning, as we talked to listening, is about earning the right to be heard.
Now, we did talk a little bit about, there are some people in your firm who the ego has landed and everybody looks up to them as phenomenally successful people and there’s a bit of fear and there’s sometimes respect, sometimes there’s not, but they’re phenomenally successful and you know that that is not the partner to cheese off on a bad day. But, as we talked about it, actually they’re probably not successful. You’ve got to – and we’re going to be hearing later on a great teleseminar by Jennifer Holloway, who’s the author of Personal Branding for Brits, and she talks about the fact that you’re going to be more successful by being yourself. And I think this is the key thing here. Who do you want to be? And it’s far more powerful, more authentic, to be yourself, to be someone that people like. Don’t think you’ve got to put the ego trip on, people don’t like ego trips. You want to be in that position where people want to work for you, because if you look at what I would call these uber partners, the biggest, the baddest, as you called the bit of the assholes, you look at them and you realise they are on their second marriage, they don’t look particularly happy, and behind their back their PA is shall we say, really not a happy lady or happy man and wants to get out of it. And as we talk about in the book, look about what is ..?.. [37:51]. It is possible to be a really successful partner and to be liked and respected in equal measures.
Charles: That’s exactly right.
Heather: We then talked about the three skills and that really boils down to three things: they were listening; risk taking; and working outside your comfort zone. So, listening is not about listening to find the answer, it’s about listening to earn the right. And what do we mean by that? It’s listening to really show the other person that you’ve heard them, that you’ve understood them, not just on a logical level but you’ve got to that level of emotions, you’ve really connected at that level and that’s the point where you’ve earned the right to tell your side of the story.
We talked about the fact that trust is a metric-based thing, but you’re not going to get trust without taking a level of risk. So do name the emotion in the room, do say “Look, I hope you don’t mind but I’m feeling slightly nervous here because I’m worried about X, Y and Z”. That can probably be one of the most trustworthy things you can do. Do name the emotion, claim it, as it helps to bring you influence and position.
The final thing is, if you’re going to become a trusted advisor you’re going to become the one listening point to your client. That means you’ve got to get comfortable with ambiguity. You’ve got to be comfortable with the fact you are going to be the person that is going to bring other professionals, maybe in your firm, outside of your firm, into this client relationship. And if you’re going to be the trusted advisor you’ve got to do that. Your aim is that you’re getting invited into the conversation, even if it is out of your specialist skill area, because they trust your viewpoint.
And we talked about the three tips. The first one it was saying don’t try and get promoted, try and do the best job you can for your clients because that is the way you will get noticed to get promoted. You talked about listen, listen, listen, listen. Take more courses on listening, take more courses on listening, and you’re going to tell me what the third tip is.
Charles: Accept that you don’t know everything and be okay with it.
Heather: That’s it. Absolutely, and I’ve just done a prime example then of accepting you don’t know everything.
Charles: That’s quite alright.
Heather: Now, I’ve really enjoyed this conversation as I knew that I would.
Heather: And Charles, how can people get in touch with you afterwards?
Charles: Well, the website is trustedadvisor.com and I welcome any emails directly from any of your listeners here and they can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Heather: And Charles, I know we talked a little bit about this. Do you have an offer for the listeners?
Charles: Yes, actually. I’m going to be starting up a second round of some e-consulting, me personally offering coaching to people largely on an email basis which works across time zones. The idea is to have one lengthy conversation and then a series of as many emails as you can eat, so to speak, over a period of several months. The cost is $1,500 for two months and I would welcome anybody who is interested to give me an email, again, email@example.com for e-coaching and e-consulting.
Heather: And I can thoroughly recommend Charles’ services and I can also say that he is a great person to know. I know he would personally welcome any emails. If you have any thoughts, any feelings on what you’ve heard today. Now, for those of you who wanted to get their hands on the mind map of the masterclass, the password to get your hands on the goodies is CGTA.
Now Charles, would you like the opportunity to say thank you and goodbye to our listeners?
Charles: I certainly do. I appreciate everybody that tuned in today and I’m delighted to be able to share with you some of the thoughts about being a trusted advisor. I hope it all works for you greatly and thank you.
Heather: Thank you very much, Charles. I thoroughly enjoyed it and thank you very much for your time. And thank you to everyone that’s listening and I look forward to speaking to you again in about half an hour for our next teleseminar. Speak soon. Okay and goodbye.