BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT SKILLS: How to Become a Trusted Advisor

Our second client in two weeks told us recently they want to be perceived as a “trusted advisor” to their clients, which reminded us of just how pervasive a concept this is in the professional world these days. Being perceived as a trusted advisor means you’re not seen as a person just trying to sell, you’re seen as a resource of reliable value. When you get to this stage in a professional relationship, sales can come more easily. Which, of course, everyone who sells wants to experience.

So we wanted to share our thoughts about how to make that happen for yourself.

Trusted Partner Handshake

Trust is won and re-won through consistently valuable advice that helps.

First of all, you need to focus not so much on how they perceive you, and more on who you’re beingThe reason for this is that, as much as you want them to think of you a certain way, or see you in a certain light, or relate to you with a particular dynamic, you need to recognize that you literally cannot dictate any of these things. You can influence, and you can inspire, and you can optimize the chances of them happening, but beyond that, it’s not up to you.

Having said this, it’s good to know that you want to be perceived as a trusted advisor. It’s a great goal to have. But we don’t recommend having this as a definition of success for you in your professional interactions, because it places success outside of your ability to control.

Instead, define success as being a trusted advisor. Focus on who you’re being in your professional interactions, and self assess. If, at the end of an interaction, you determine that you performed the role of trusted advisor true to your intentions and commitments, then you have achieved success.

So what does that mean? What does it mean to be a trusted advisor?

To begin with, it means to enter into a conversation with the intention to help. You’re not trying to waste the other person’s time, you’re not trying to push anything on them that they don’t need, you’re trying to help them.

At the same time, be up front about your own self-interests. You want to become their preferred vendor. Or you’re looking to find out if it makes sense for you to have an in-depth conversation. Or you’d love to find out if the potential match you’re seeing is real or not. Whatever is true for you right now in this conversation should come out.

Next, find out if you really can help them. The only way for you to possibly do this is to talk to them. Ask questions and learn about them. Consult with them. Learn about their business. What are their pains and challenges and difficulties? What are they working towards? What do they value? What would make a difference for them?

If you get this far, you’ve already gone a tremendous distance, because you’ve clearly projected enough trustworthiness for them to tell you about themselves and their company, some difficult aspects of their situation, and their goals. You are now in a very delicate place that far too many professionals damage by seeing an opportunity to sell, and pushing right into it.

Instead, recognize this valued place that you’re in, take a moment, and ask permission to offer value. This communicates respect and humility without holding anything back. It can sound as simple as, “I think I’ve got something that could make a difference for you. Can I tell you about it?” At this point, no one would turn you down.

Honor their permission to offer value by talking about whatever the right fit you see for them at this point. And don’t just think about your offering. Of course, if your offering is the perfect fit inside of what they’ve been talking about, then by all means describe it to them. But be open to other things too. Provide lots of different kinds of value — advice, recommendations, resources, ideas, suggestions, books, articles, people you know, business solutions. Being able to do this relies on you staying on top of what is out there, and being a well-rounded professional. The more you know, the more value you have to offer.

And finally, check in frequently and regularly with the people that you want to be a trusted advisor to. Trust is a hugely valuable commodity. Don’t squander it by falling off of their radar. Check in at least quarterly to remind folks that you’re out there, looking to catch up and find out what they’re up to so that you can see what you can do to offer value.

Take these actions to be the trusted advisor you are committed to being. Succeed by your own self-assessments, and pay attention to how your clients respond to you. You will recognize that they perceive you the way you want. Because you have been true to your own sense of what it means to be a trustworthy provider of valuable advice.

What do you think about this? Do you have any specific questions about being a trusted advisor? Any additions to our list that we missed? Share your thought and questions below, and for more info about becoming a trusted advisor, check out our Sales & Business Development Workshops here


  1. Dalton S on May 12, 2015 at 9:27 am

    Great article Pete! Definitely going to be using some of this. Thanks!

    • Pete Machalek on May 12, 2015 at 10:25 am

      Fantastic, Dalton! Let me know how it goes. And if you have any questions along the way, let me know too!

  2. Greg on May 12, 2015 at 4:02 pm

    I agree. Very nicely done Pete – thanks!

  3. Lowell Vogen on May 13, 2015 at 9:22 pm

    Great advice!

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