Dorie’s Book Review: The Trusted Advisor by David Maister, Charles Green and Robert Galford

The Trusted Advisor. Photo by Nenad Stevanovic.

The Trusted Advisor. Photo by Nenad Stevanovic.

Occasionally, I like to go back into the vault to highlight top-quality business books. Today’s hat tip is to David Maister and company for their 2000 book The Trusted Advisor. This book is so sensible and contains so much high-quality information, it’s hard to summarize the best points, but here goes:

  •  If you’re going to succeed as a consultant, you have to move from being perceived as a “hired gun” to being viewed as a trusted advisor. In short, that means the client has absolute confidence that you are looking out for their best interest – not yours.
  • You have to earn the right to offer your opinion – and you earn that by careful listening and learning to understand them and their situation.
  • To build trust with clients, first assiduously fulfill commitments on “the small things.” If you say you’ll call Thursday at 3, do it – and your client will learn you can be relied upon.
  • I’ll quote directly on this one: “Like many other researchers, we have found in our work with professional service firms that the cost of developing new-client business is 4 to 7 times higher than the cost of developing the same amount of business from an existing client.” That should almost speak for itself. There is profound value in developing long-term, positive client relationships.
  • Too many consultants (and professionals of all stripes) are scared to “look like salespeople.” Get over it. Here’s a great way that Maister and Co. describe the process: “To be professional, we must point out possibilities. Some call that selling. We call it contributing ideas…There is very little difference between what we have just described as a professional obligation, and what someone else might call selling. After all, both involve noticing a legitimate opportunity for improvement, and raise the awareness of the client about the significance and benefits of taking the action suggested.” That’s the mindset you need to succeed.

What are your best tips for becoming a “trusted advisor”?

Dorie Clark is a marketing strategy consultant who has worked with clients including Google, Yale University, and the National Park Service. Listen to her podcasts or follow her on Twitter.