Becoming a Trusted Advisor

trusted advisor

There’s an old saying: If you keep asking questions and don’t get satisfactory answers, maybe you’re asking the wrong questions. Perhaps the right answer here is “Stop trying to promote your services”. Promoting your services is all about you – what you can do for your clients – not about what they need from you.

Most design professionals understand the idea of becoming a Trusted Advisor – a person or firm the client seeks out when they need or want help. But most design firm principals still seem to approach this idea from the perspective of what they’ve got to offer, and that gets in the way of “hearing” your clients.

The best guidance on how to overcome this instinctive approach is in the book The Trusted Advisor, by David Maister, Charles Green and Robert Galford. They lay out a seven-step process that will get you there – if (and it’s a big if) you have the discipline to follow it. PSMJ understands these principles, and teaches them as an integral part of the PM Essentials – Design and PM Essentials – Construction programs.


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You Asked...

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  1. Isn't being a "trusted advisor" just staying close to your clients and listening to them? What's special about this approach?


    That’s a big part of it, of course. Many firms do this really well! And they have very high levels of repeat business and referrals because of it. Yet, those firms are rarer than you’d think.

    In PSMJ’s experience, most design firms are more focused on projects than clients, and they tend to forget about those clients between projects. Which side are you on? Could you do better? Should you?

    Also critical to becoming a trusted advisor is to stop thinking about “business development” as a stand-alone activity. A better way is to think in terms of a whole-life cycle of building and maintaining client relationships.

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