theGrogroup Director Alex Shacklock offers his opinion on a key step to becoming a trusted adviser and the importance of offering an opinion based not just on your technical expertise, but also on your vast commercial experience of working with many other clients to ensure success and pitfalls are avoided.
Professionals need to be braver in offering opinions..
A month or so ago, I finally had my book published. Don’t worry, this isn’t an attempt at self promotion – the book experience is important in the context of this article on taking a key step to becoming a trusted adviser.
The book proudly claims that it offers ‘Guidelines for Winning Professional Services firms’ – a bold statement indeed. We have had great feedback and endorsements from readers of the book, and a few questions about some of the principles and the facts and proof behind them. Yet these are difficult to answer – because much of the book is based on our opinion. Our extensive experience, successes (and failures – the best learning experiences), engagements, conversations and relationships has created a wealth of knowledge – and we drew on this to create our view on the key steps firms can take to be successful.
Now more than ever clients of professional services firms are needing high quality advice, support and …yes opinions. The world is becoming more complex and faster. Traditional markets, practices and processes are being constantly disrupted. Clients are often searching for not only the right answers, but the context, cause and effects of those answers. Now more than ever, your advisers need to know how to become a trusted adviser.
Being able to offer opinion, often without the facts, without direct experience and without precedent is a key trait of trusted advisers. And it requires real bravery.
Law and accounting professionals are trained from an early age to become technical specialists, to understand the rules, policies and procedures. As they develop in their careers they usually focus on one specific area of service, or discipline and become masters of knowledge. If a client has an issue or challenge that lies in the middle of the area of specialism then the professional finds it very easy to give fantastic advice.
Bravery comes when the professional offers an opinion on a client issue which lands outside the ‘deep well’ of knowledge, or it is a new challenge, or it is an unknown, for example a decision is required to be made now which will affect the business or individual sometime in the future. Many professionals shy away from this due to a fear of being exposed or a fear of getting it wrong.
But we are not talking about a stab in the dark here, or a gamble. Back to the book analogy – we are talking about offering an opinion based on the vast experiences of the professional, the successes and failures, the skills that have been developed and the networks that have been built.
Great advisers gain additional confidence from gleaning as much knowledge and understanding about the client’s circumstances, their business, their environment and their challenges. Great advisers often do this so well that they know more about the client’s situation than the client themselves! Our Trusted Adviser programme focuses on the need for modern professionals to be constantly curious, to be able to have wide ranging business conversations and to be able to ask great open (and sometimes basic) questions (and this requires bravery, as to do this properly, talented professionals need to drop the ‘ego’ and often play dumb!).
We meet many professionals who are limiting their advice (and their potential) by not sticking their neck out of their deep well of knowledge. Being brave and stepping out of this comfort zone will help them be more effective to their clients and will help their firms to be more succesful.