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This Is How You Become A Trusted Advisor
I’ve noticed a trend and I’m wondering how this compares with your experience. Some of the best prospects in the world, the one’s you really want to connect with, are also the most jaded. Call it life experience. Call it having been around the block. Call it defense mechanisms.
Whatever it is, these prospects seem to have a default setting of doubt. It’s as if they don’t believe a word you say even though you may not yet have said anything. Many of these prospects have gatekeepers whose sole job is to prevent distractions and block people from wasting their time. Getting through these layers is often extremely difficult.
But here’s the thing about these prospects. They have budget, need, and even a reason to do business with you. Yet, they’re not your client. They should be. There is a lot you could do for them. You could really have an impact on them if they would just trust you. But they don’t.
I have come to believe that one of the single biggest hurdles that professional service firms must overcome is the doubt-factor, the jaded-factor. This is not easy.
If you’ve been in business for five years or more and you’re profitable, clearly you are having an impact. There’s demand for your services. You have something great to offer. But if you are like many service firms, you feel as if you’re not growing fast enough to achieve your goals.
Here’s what I’ve learned. The path to consistent growth is marked by becoming a trusted advisor to great prospects who are a perfect fit for your company. I call this building invisible relationships. If you do this right, jaded prospects will come to trust you, like you and award you with their business. You will grow. Let me show you how to do this.
How Can You Tell They’re Jaded?
Do you find this to be true? Prospects with budget and with a recognized position in their industry, where they can easily be found online, are used to being approached for meeting requests and pitches. And most of them don’t like it. They want to be the buyer, not the one being sold. They want to be in control, not pushed. That’s what I see.
I told a story in a recent post about how many pitches I heard over the years when I lead the marketing function at Acclaim Technology. Once you’ve heard one pitch, you’ve pretty much heard them all. But it’s not just the old analog pitch that jaded prospects discount.
Here is another trend we’ve discovered at The Shattuck Group. People who have budgets and decision-rights are often private and highly selective in their business relationships. They have a very small set of trusted advisors.
This means when you discover them on LinkedIn, at least this is what we often see, their LinkedIn profile is often misleading. Their digital profile often looks just like thousands of other profiles. Their profile is understated, nearly muted, with sometimes just a work history.
I’ve seen people in control of multi-million dollar budgets who have fewer than 350 connections in their LinkedIn network. They are only in the groups that interest them. They ignore most connection requests.
So you see, it isn’t just their analog behavior that suggests that they’re jaded. Their digital behavior shows this as well. But I bet you might be wondering how these people got this way. I know I’ve certainly wondered about this. Why is doubt their default position? What happened to cause them to behave this way?
If you want to win over jaded prospects, you have to consistently bring them insights that matter to them and never trip their BS filter.
The BS Filter
To illustrate this point, I want to tell you a quick story. When I lead the marketing function for Acclaim Technology, I always knew when it was Tuesday. How did I know? Because every Tuesday at 1:00 PM, I got the same call from a guy who owned a local creative agency. I learned not to pick up that call.
Somehow, I made his list. And he called me faithfully every Tuesday for a year and left nearly the same voicemail. I admired his pluck and his determination. Clearly, I was on his tickler file. Some sales seminar along the way told him that if he just kept calling, eventually I would give in. But I never returned his call. Why?
Because I had a very sensitive BS filter. I could smell it a mile away. I’ll explain more about the BS filter in just a moment. But here’s the interesting part of this.
Initially I listened to his voicemails for around a minute before pushing the delete button. So he actually had a chance to say something that would catch my attention. But he didn’t do that. He never gave me a reason to call him back. All he talked about is how great his firm was and about the awards they had won. After about the fifth voicemail, I just automatically hit delete.
This is yet another trend I’ve noticed about jaded prospects. They have some of the most finely tuned BS filters in the world. What’s a BS filter? I think of this as like a dial on a sensitive instrument, the kind where the safe zone of the dial is all in black. But as that needle moves over, it goes from black to red. That’s the danger zone.
I see this happening all the time with astute decision-makers who have been around the block a few times. They are used to hearing all sorts of messages, and they usually make up their minds in a very short period of time about whether or not they think that message or that person is full of BS.
If you trip their BS filter, you lose.
How To Win Over Jaded Prospects
If you want to win over jaded prospects, you have to do three things very well:
- Bring them insights on topics that matter to them.
- Do this consistently at a very high level, with integrity that is above reproach.
- Never trip their BS filter.
If you do this, you’ll win. This is how you become a trusted advisor to prospects who are a great fit for your firm but who are mired in doubt. Let’s explore these a bit.
Bring Them Insights
In a recent post, I talked about the path to becoming a trusted advisor. I outlined the steps you need to take create insights that great prospects simply cannot resist. Here again are those steps:
- Build an ideal client profile.
- Ask yourself what matters to ideal clients: goals, opportunities, challenges.
- Ideate your best advice for these topics.
- Package this advice into short-form and long-form content marketing materials.
- Presume to be their trusted advisor before money changes hands.
A lot of service firms are sitting on a gold mine and they don’t even realize it. The collective wisdom of your best and brightest people about how to accomplish goals that matter to your existing clients – this wisdom – it’s a gold mine.
If you haven’t tapped into this yet, you are missing a huge opportunity.
Jaded prospects did not become jaded overnight and they won’t learn to trust you overnight either. That’s just the way it is. So if you want to win over jaded prospects, you have to demonstrate some staying power to them. You have to prove that you are constant, reliable and in it for the long haul.
At my company, we’ve discovered that we have to touch people with as many as ten unique insights for them to finally be ready to trust us. We watch this behavior online through our marketing automation platform.
But just because someone has come to trust us, that doesn’t mean they’ll become our client right away. You shouldn’t expect that to happen either. The conditions have to be right for them. Because, remember, they want to buy, not be sold.
There are five conditions that have to be in place for someone to be ready to become your client:
- Need: for which your products and services are a great fit.
- Budget: which is appropriate to your fees.
- Reason: a specific presenting reason to take action.
- Timeline: in which they must take action or there will be consequences.
- Dialogue: a willingness to engage in serious dialogue.
Remember the 95-5 rule. At any given time, 95% of everyone you are marketing to does not fit all of these criteria. Why do you have to pay attention to this? Because this is how you avoid the danger zone for tripping the BS filter.
Never Trip The BS Filter
One of the biggest reasons I see service firms losing deals is because they trip the BS filter somewhere along the way. Most relationships take time to form. If you do what I’ve described with bringing insights to prospects on a consistent basis, they will begin to trust you.
The goal then is never to trip their BS filter as you progress through the gates. Think of it this way. Every new deal, every new client, every new relationship passes through a series of gates. These gates all have to fall open for you to win a new client’s trust and budget.
Every time you pass through a new gate, you get a little bit closer to being a trusted advisor. But if you trip the BS filter, the gates start to close and you move backwards. The prospect cools off and stops responding to your emails and voicemails.
Here is yet another trend I’ve discovered with jaded prospects. Deep down inside, they know they have to award someone their budget to achieve their goals. They know they need the advice, guidance and support of an expert. So they are always playing tug-of-war in their minds.
One side of their mind says: “walk away. This will only lead to trouble. Your career will suffer or you’ll somehow lose if you trust this person. Do the safe thing and keep looking.”
Yet another side of their minds says: “if not now when? If not this person or this company, then whom? Whom can I trust to help me achieve my goals? How much longer am I willing to wait?”
If you trip their BS filter, the voice saying walk away wins and you lose. How do you avoid this?
First, give them great ideas that are on target for their goals. I recommend that all of your counsel, up to the point of a deal, is free and accessible online. Give them great ideas generously. The only thing you should ask for in return is their contact information.
Second, don’t use their contact information to pressure them into dialogue. Remember those five conditions I talked about for people to be ready for serious dialogue. Here is my experience. Busy people with big budgets and a lot on their plate don’t want to talk to anyone about a project until they are nearly ready to go. Once they are ready, they’ll pull you through the funnel. They’ll come to you with meaningful questions. They’ll be the buyer.
Third, when the time comes for dialogue, do your homework about them and understand everything you can about what they want to talk about. Look at their LinkedIn profile. Look at what they’ve registered for in your marketing automation system. Be ready with a set of great questions that expedite them through the consultative sale.
And whatever you do, don’t talk about your company unless they ask. Otherwise, it will start to feel like you’re pitching. Nothing will set off the BS filter faster, in my experience, than a pitch.
They Need You
I want to leave you with this last idea. Your prospects need you. They need what you have to offer. Here is a difficult reality. Most jaded prospects with sizable budgets and decision-rights think that service providers need them more than they need the service provider.
That isn’t true. I can tell you story after story of smart people who waited too long in their careers, too long in their analyses, too long in life. There are moments when key decisions need to be made and actions need to be taken. And if prospects who you could serve don’t have a trusted advisor helping them, the damage to them could be irreversible. I’ve seen this happen.
So I’ll say it this way. While the jaded prospect may be hard to get through to, you need to do this. You need to connect with them. You need to get past their BS filters and you need to help them. They need you.
How To Get Started
I want to help you accomplish this goal. So I have a free resource for you. It’s a video-based Action Guide called 7 Steps To A Content Marketing Program That Consistently Yields Ideal Clients. This great resource shows you how to build trust with jaded prospects. If you want to consistently grow your service firm, I know this tool will really benefit you.
About the author
Randy Shattuck is a senior marketing executive and founder of The Shattuck Group, a full-service marketing firm that specializes in growing professional services firms.
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