Beginning over a decade ago, the Trusted Advisor concept became a pinnacle for strategic sales and account managers to reach. David Maister’s book increased awareness of the term. Trusted Advisor generally means earning your customers’ trust and commitment — seeing you as an ally, with the customer’s interests at heart as opposed to strictly your own.
This takes a different angle than customer focus. One can be focused on a customer or prospect without their best interests at heart, much the way the predator snake focuses on its prey. Most people can eventually discern the intent behind the interest someone shows them.
One test for being trustworthy in strategic selling is taking enough time to listen and think about the customer’s problem and implications before offering a solution. Unfortunately, the tendency instead is to offer "premature solutions,"according to Neil Rackham, author of the classic, Spin Selling. In this interview with thought leader Charles H. Green, Rackham says we are often too eager solving the customer’s problems with our products, services and tools before investing more detailed listening and consideration that their issue warrants.
The 80s comedy, "What about Bob?" is a family favorite for us and depicts a scene that illustrates giving "premature solutions" and worse. Egocentric therapist Dr. Leo Marvin (Richard Dreyfuss) offers new patient Bob Wiley (Bill Murray) a solution for Bob’s numerous neuroses, after only a few minutes into his observing and questioning of the patient. Standing at his bookshelf Dr. Marvin says that there’s a groundbreaking new book that can help Bob…. that he has it here somewhere….. oh here it is! Dr. Marvin then pulls from an entire shelf-full of identical copies his own brand new book on the therapy he is recommending.
Bob Wiley overlooked Dr. Marvin’s duplicity but it’s just a movie and his character was quite neurotic. Strategic customers and prospects are more perceptive. It won’t help building trust if we prematurely offer customers our favorite or core product as "just happening" to be the right solution for them.