Talking 'Trusted Advisor'

Apr 04, 2019 • FeaturescommunicationsmanagementNick Frankservice excellenceSi2PartnersCustomer Focus

Si2 Partners’ Nick Frank outlines why we can’t just expect our field service engineers to naturally achieve the status of trusted advisors without guidance, training and empowerment. 

Just because we tell our people we want them to be Trusted Advisors, does not mean they will succeed. We can give them mobile systems to escalate leads to sales, implement compensation systems and KPI’s to encourage behaviour, and provide training on service offers, but without embedding a Trusted Advisor mindset into our service teams, these efforts will be wasted.

The good news is that many of the traits of Trusted Advisors are already in the DNA of good service people. What they need is clarity on their role and an understanding of how to talk to customers so that they achieve a WIN, WIN, WIN:

• A Win for the customer so that every conversation they have moves them closer to their goal;
• A Win for the company to develop customer loyalty and profitability;
• A Win for themselves so they feel great about their job. 

What makes a Trusted Advisor different? At the very minimum they are good customer problem solvers. What starts to differentiate them from others is their ability to have meaningful conversations with customers that always seem to move towards solutions. They are able to provide options together with the benefits for various decision the customer might make. They normally have a high level of personal maturity in that they do not try to tell customers what to THINK. Instead they influence them by what they SAY and DO, and because they consistently deliver, customers trust their advice.

As the notion of a Trusted Advisor is widely used across sales & service, the job context is extremely important. For example, in field service and technical support the Trusted Advisor role is more about providing options than closing deals. Whereas in sales it is more about how we build rapport and credibility within a consultative selling process. Clearly understanding the context in which the Trusted Advisor mindset is being developed is vitally important to successful adoption.

In all cases, importance of having a great conversation cannot be underestimated. Technical people can have a tendency to focus more on the narrow problem than the wider customer relationship. This can lead them to missing important data in the problem-solving process and so failing to find the route cause.

Or just as important, the company misses out on opportunities to add value to the customers business whether that be through helpful advice or the identification of commercial activities. Another challenge many technical people have is that without realising it, they can talk in a way which makes customers defensive or aggressive. For example the next time you are having a conversation, listen for the “…yes, but…”. You may notice that it is a way of saying NO, which probably pulls up really negative feelings for you the listener. The trick is to learn the language that turns these negative situations into positive outcomes.


"Technical people can focus more on the narrow problem than the wider customer relationship..."



Sales people also need good conversations, and in particular understanding the art of closing the deal without losing their rapport with the customer. This is a very different version of Trusted Advisor and it is important not to get the sales version mixed up with technical service.

Service leaders who want to improve how their teams communicate with customers, might consider having the following conversations with their own people:

Clarify what you mean by a Trusted Advisor and the role they play in your organisation. In particular the customer needs and what makes them successful, as well as your companies business goals. This is where distinguishing the difference between selling and advising will be absolutely critical to your success

Develop a Mindset where every conversation we have with customers moves them a step closer to their goal. It may not be the complete solution, but it is a step in the right direction no matter how bad and uncomfortable the situation is. This very basic philosophy is key to training your people to deal with conflict, as well encourage them to have dynamic and collaborative relationships through solution orientated language.

Provide Tools and methods that allow us to actively listen, to talk more effectively, to manage conflict and resolve difficult customer situations. These tools are critical to helping us to prepare ourselves to be a Trusted Advisor in what can be challenging and stressful situations.

Practice in real-life scenarios with your team to see how they react under stress. We are constantly amazed at how confident many service people are about talking to customers in a training environment, yet it all falls apart in a customer situation.

Refresh: Developing how your team interacts with customers is not a one-off event and needs to be constantly mentored and coached.

If you want to develop the Trusted Advisor in your teams, then in addition to processes and propositions, you will need to start to have conversations about their role in the business, the listening skills they must develop and the language to use in order to create dynamic solution orientated relationships.

If you would like to know more about developing Trusted Advisor programmes in your business, then you can contact nick at nick.frank@si2partners.com or visit the si2 website here.