As an advisor or consultant, it's essential to recognize that your role is to review your client's situation, provide educated advice, and watch their back. Sometimes, this means offering suggestions that may come across as unsolicited advice. While it might feel intimidating or uncomfortable to tell a business owner what they should do, remember that they are paying you precisely for that purpose: to provide guidance and direction.
I had this lesson handed to me on two separate occasions, and it was what I needed to accept the permission slip to stop hedging and start advising. Two guys I worked with, both much older than me, had asked for my advice on some marketing activities. After enough soft language and suggestions, each said some version of, "Wendy, I'm looking for your advice and direction on what I should do. Please just tell me."
I've never been short on opinions, and this was a game-changer for me to learn when to offer suggestions and when to offer advice. I now spend much of my internal and external coaching time helping others find this point of confidence.
If you are uneasy with a direct advisory role, establish permission from the outset of the relationship. Set the expectation that you will be looking out for their best interests and offering suggestions periodically. This prepares them for your proactive approach and holds you accountable to actively advocate for your clients.
Don't be rude, but find a way to get comfortable being direct in offering advice. Stay away from soft, couching language that makes you seem unsure of your advice.
For example, the word "kinda" undermines your authority, and it's a word that has crept into the national vocabulary at a shocking rate. Listen for it. You won't be able to unhear it now.
There are so many ways to diminish your credibility; they are also easily fixable. Start by writing out what you want to say. It could be an email you want to send or a role-play of what you'd like to say to the client. Look at the language and see which statements make you sound unsure or weak in conviction. Your sentences will typically improve and become more direct when you remove the opening phrase, such as:
- "I think that..."
- "In my opinion..."
- "It seems like..."
Anticipate what you will say and practice it. Get comfortable with the ideas and the phrasing, especially removing your crutch words. Saying things aloud makes it clear how confident you are in your ideas. Practice until you sound natural, and it can roll off your tongue in a conversation.
Be their advocate
Thanks to the abundance of online information, there's no excuse to not stay informed about your clients' activities, as well as their industry and local marketplace. When you familiarize yourself with their business operations and company vision and use online tools to monitor their company name and industry, you'll likely find valuable information that warrants proactive communication.
Consider a few scenarios of how this information could help you help them:
- Acknowledge their accomplishments or progress: It could be as simple as congratulating them on a recent achievement or recognizing their strides toward their goals. Clients appreciate knowing that you are paying attention beyond the sales cycle.
- Offer advice or tips for improvement: If you have ideas on how they can enhance their operations—for instance, by improving consistency across locations through standardized training—don't hesitate to share your insights.
- Provide information to boost their business: If you come across new technologies that could replace outdated systems or identify trends from other industries that could apply to their business, sharing this information can prove immensely valuable.
- Help them gain a competitive advantage: If you spot a trend or development that could give your client a competitive edge, such as a strategy successfully implemented in a different industry, don't hesitate to bring it to their attention.
- Mitigate risks or seize opportunities: By staying informed about potential risks or opportunities on the horizon—for example, a new large employer planning significant hiring that could impact their employee base—you can help your client prepare and make informed decisions.
If you have solid business ideas or concerns that your clients need to consider, let them know right away. Avoid waiting until a disaster strikes and saying, "Eh, I thought this could be an issue." Instead, take a proactive approach to the relationship, assuring them you have their best interests in mind and they're benefitting from your objective perspective.
When I hire someone in a service capacity, I begin the relationship by seeking their advice on improving. I explicitly encourage them to reach out with their ideas proactively. Doing so allows me to receive guidance and be a repeat customer or a potential referral source. Unfortunately, it is rare to find people who take me up on this offer.
Happy and successful clients not only contribute to your current revenue but also serve as a direct link to new clients. Establish solid advisory relationships, and you'll find that asking for referrals from your clients will become infinitely easier.
Content provided by Q4intelligence
Photo by fizkes