Guest post: Karin Nauth Shelley on The Trusted Advisor

Forrester alumna Karin Nauth Shelley, who recently joined me here at Kea Company, has written this excellent review of The Trusted Advisor. I met the book a dozen years ago, in a master class John Brodeur taught for senior managers at Brodeur Worldwide, and join Karin in recommending it.

The Trusted Advisor, by Maister, Green and Galford, has had a lasting effect on how I approach professional and consultative relationships. It’s a great basis for Customer Experience, in general. Having academic roots in psychology, the book’s approach just aligns naturally with my own personal philosophy. One of the things I recall most about The Trusted Advisor is its formula for relationships. No, I definitely don’t advocate a formulaic approach to relationships, professional or otherwise. However, being cognizant of the factors at play in relationships is crucial. I also believe it’s imperative that B2C and B2B services marketers consider the formula’s implications and how they relate to targetting products and services to prospects and clients. It’s just good business.

The Trusted Advisor formula is as follows:

TQ = C+I+R / S

  • T=Trust. The level of trust that the relationship inspires. This influences whether the relationship will be seen as valuable for both parties. It also underscores whether the relationship has the potential to grow. Measuring trust between individuals is challenging. Measuring trust between organizations, such as those involved in a merger, can take the question to another level. Company cultures can either foster or impede trust. And that character can touch all aspects of business.
  • C=Credibility. Is the product/service itself valuable? Does the firm have the capability (or credentials) to deliver the product/service and do so in the way required? Is the firm’s marketing aligned with what is actually delivered? Are the people surrounding the product/service credible? Are analysts citing, or casting doubt on you?
  • I=Intimacy. What kind of rapport exists between the two parties? Is there an understanding of the client’s business, and the challenges surrounding the business? Are you aware of how your product or service will impact your client’s end users? Is there a human approach to the engagement or is it just business? In the case of software design, is the UX smart? Does it demonstrate it truly “gets” the user?
  • R=Reliability. This is about the actions that underscore the relationship. Do the firm’s employees deliver what they say they will? Do they deliver when they say they will or promise the world then miss deadlines? Can you trust them to deliver bad news if the situation calls for it? In the software world, this is especially critical when commitments are made on product releases.
  • S=Self Orientation or Self Interest. What’s the primary focus of the person or the organization? Is there a balanced level of empathy for the client? Or, is this simply about doing a deal? Empathy is crucial in creating a rich customer experience. Customer experience can make or break product development.

Almost all of the formula is about people engagement vs. the product/service. The imperative therefore for strategic marketing is:

  1. Align the brand promise with the customer experience.
  2. Invest in identifying and cultivating a high value customer experience that wraps around your product/service, learn the benefits of CRM systems from providers like Salesforce
  3. Enlist and goal all employees as brand ambassadors.
  4. Actively engage HR and Delivery teams as part of extended marketing network.

You can read more about this equation at The Trusted Advisor: A Primer which includes details on how you evaluate your firm’s ability to be the Trusted Advisor.

RSAA score

10 Reach
8 Scope
10 Authority
9 Applicability
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