Becoming your clients’ trusted advisor
This guest blog post was written by Kathy Dixon.
The way my business started was a combination of curiosity, marital encouragement, and a touch of crazy. In 2013, I had just come out of a work environment that I was less than thrilled about and in a passing conversation with my husband where he insisted I had the experience needed to do my own thing, I decided to give the small business life a try! Over the years my business grew and through tons of trial and error – my belief about what it means to be a good leader within my business came into sharper focus.
Before I jump into the things that have worked for me through Oh Yes, I want to ask you to take a quick inventory of the filters you process life, business, and family through. Is there a guiding principle, whether shared or private, that keeps you grounded? Why do you do what you do? What’s your motivation for giving each day your best hustle? For me it’s 1 Peter 4:10.
I’m a firm believer that when you’re a business owner, the spectrum of things that motivate you in business and in your personal life – is a short one. Your family, close friends, and friend-preneurs become a part of your fun and they come to know your why, your who, and trust that you know your how. Passion is contagious.
The sparknotes version of my story is this: my father was a long time anchor, producer, and entrepreneur whose life was cut short in 2010 to pancreatic cancer. I have vivid memories of his office on K-Street and holding boom mics and cue cards on the White House lawn. There was legacy building happening in the hustle of his dreams. Fast-forward many years and a semi-expected layoff turned out to be the opportunity of a lifetime that I wasn’t quite convinced I was equipped for. The business grew and then baby #1 happened – and while trying to keep up with the steep learning curve that is motherhood while experiencing a definite shift in identity, mixed with some serious marriage troubles – I was officially on the corner of Hot Mess + I Give Up.
BUT GOD! And community! And putting in some hard work and asking for help began to make the difference. Sometimes life breaks us down a bit to birth something new. For me, that was a clarity on the gifts I was given and the purpose those gifts serve.
So why all the backstory and super personal and perhaps awkwardly intimate details? Because that’s the level of understanding of your client’s story that I want you to achieve. Regardless of the industry you’re in or how long you’ve been in business, that’s where I want you to go. What the heck does “Trusted Advisor” even mean? The Kathy version of this word is that you’re not just awesome at your job but you’re also awesome at being a human being!
Here are 5 things Trusted Advisors do…
They build deep relationships.
- We briefly covered this in the intro – but do you know your clients back story? Most entrepreneurs have one (if not a few!) pain points in their story that lead them to needing you. What’s the history and motivation in building their business? If they are new, perhaps your relationship will impact them beyond your services. Relationship builders go first. Give a piece of yourself through conversation and you’ll be surprised how quickly you earn the trust of your clients. This trust is not self-seeking. You may be a voice of hope and reassurance. I recently had a client reach out to take a spin class together and afterwards over coffee, I learned that she was going through some tough personal times. I had no idea as our relationship had been mostly business up until that point – but there was clearly something my team and I did that allowed her to feel comfortable enough to reach out. Those are the moments I’m reminded that this business is much larger than what we do.
Offer complete solutions.
- Man, if there’s one thing you don’t want to be known for – is ONLY operating in the lanes you’ve been tasked for. If there’s a hole you’ve identified in a campaign, project, situation – communicate it! If there’s an untapped opportunity that would be beneficial to the success and traction of your client – go after it. Your clients will come to you more often and unquestioningly take advice beyond your expertise when they can see that you’re FOR them winning on and off your turf.
Live out their personal brand.
- What are the core values of your company? Don’t have them? No problem. What are core values YOU operate from day to day? You are your company’s best commercial and word of mouth is still #1 at growing your business relationships. Trusted advisors are great communicators of those values and teach their teams by example. They pay attention to the small details that seem unimportant. Anyone can start a business but the goal is to remain in business. Do one thing every day to polish your personal brand. It may mean taking a team member out for lunch who has been off their game lately or jumping in on a client project that need more hands on deck. Your reliability takes you to a preeminent level in their eyes.
Have high emotional intelligence.
- Some of the most in-tune people I’ve met have been introverts. In fact, Oh Yes recently went through a rebrand with C&V and upon completing our project, she gifted me a mug with my new decal (first time seeing my new logo on something tangible!) and an orange (the color of my old logo that made it into the new one) business card case. Her gift was unexpected but the attention to detail in the gift meant more to me than she’ll know. Although the tears may have been a dead giveaway. Trusted advisors know how to give praise, they celebrate their clients wins, and listen for the unsaid goals, wants, dreams, and interests. They straddle the line of coach, friend, and consultant constantly, and ultimately – remembers that their client truly do know what is best for them without holding a grudge or taking it as a personal slight.
Sell by demonstrating.
- Trusted advisors don’t pull punches. They grow accounts and clients by taking ownership of the work to the point of becoming an extension of the business. Past client reviews precede them and the level of integrity demonstrated is what makes them stand out. They sell their services by doing it well.
Here’s what I know to be true for myself: my time on this earth is a drop in the bucket. My fulfillment comes from the relationships and impact I get to make. My business is just another vehicle to do those things. I often have to check my ego at the door and remind myself that my hope is to be a servant-type leader for my team and clients. Print out a few of the Client Profile worksheets and get to work putting yourself out there and creating lasting conversations past your service list!
Click here for your free Client Profile Worksheet here!
Kathy Dixon, Founder + Creative Director
Oh Yes Communications
@ohyescommunications + @ohyeskathy