‘Trusted Advisor’ was not an unfamiliar term to me as a Senior Program Manager at AXON; I have always aspired to become a trusted advisor to my clients. However, it was a phrase I considered synonymous with the title ‘Director’; a phrase that wasn’t relevant to me for a good few years. As I begun the AXON Visionary Leadership Model (VLM) training, I realized that I’d got it all wrong. We can all become trusted advisors to our clients. Job title isn’t part of the trust equation.

Trusted advisors: These two words are at the center of everything we do at AXON, but gaining clients’ trust doesn’t come overnight. It must be earned, which takes time and hard work, but the benefits are endless. As the relationship strengthens, clients increasingly ask for and act on our advice, projects become more strategic and enjoyable, and new opportunities to work together arise.

So what is trust and what can we do to become trusted advisors? In true AXON style, it’s time for the science…

Providing advice and delivering work at a consistently high standard is clearly essential for gaining our clients’ confidence. However, to truly become a trusted advisor, we need to go that extra mile and build a relationship with our clients on a personal level. This enables us to really understand their needs so that we can tailor our advice and ultimately add greater value.

Individual clients have different personalities and motivations, but following some basic principles will help us transform this theory into practice regardless of these differences.

① Listen, paraphrase and ask lots of good questions: show that we are passionate and understand what our clients are saying, where they are coming from and what they need from us

② Take the first step: be the first to reveal something about ourselves and invest in the relationship

③ Share ideas and build a shared agenda: be confident in communicating our thoughts, while making sure that we don’t force ideas and always ask for our client’s opinion

④ Make our clients feel valued: return our clients’ calls and emails as soon as we can and remember little details like their birthdays or children’s names

There is no quick fix to becoming a trusted advisor, but having a real desire to do the best we can for our clients is the winning ingredient at AXON (yes we like to bake!). If you are a good listener, ask questions and are genuine in your desire to be a partner to your clients, you’ll be a trusted advisor in no time!

For a few hundred more tips of the trade, I highly recommend you read ‘The Trusted Advisor’ by David H. Maister.

Felicity Murdoch