Yes… it is very popular now to “brand yourself” or to “have a brand”… and that may work well for some people. But, consider this… having or being a “brand” does not move you any closer to becoming a well-compensated trusted adviser to your clients instead of just another boring coach or consultant.
Why? Because a brand is almost always a one-way mass communication vehicle.
When we think about a respected mass market brand like Coca Cola®, things like TV ads, billboards, logos as well as positive attributes such as consistent taste and quality come to mind. Right? But, there is no true two-way relationship there. They don’t know you from Adam. Think about it for a minute… you can’t personally collaborate with Coca Cola to ensure the best outcome for your soda drinking experience!
Trusted advisers, on the other hand, have two-way relationships with clients and prospects. A brand is only a one-dimensional thing. You are a three-dimensional living, breathing person. Anyone can have a brand, but only you are YOU!
Our identities as coaches or consultants are so much more than a creative company name or snazzy symbol. Our true identity is the total of all the experiences that our clients have with us. It’s not your “brand” that makes you valuable. It’s your reputation as a trusted adviser that makes you respected and therefore valuable. It’s more about the authentic, unique “you”. Otherwise, any attempts to brand yourself will only be a facade.
When most coaches and consultants start in business, they often start with designing a logo or corporate identity with a particular look and feel designed to evoke confidence on the part of the prospect. But at that point, all that is more like an empty bottle that’s yet to be filled with fine wine. As we say here in the American Southwest… it takes more than a hat to be a cowboy.
Being an expert gets you to the table, being a trusted adviser will keep you there…
What Does a Trusted Adviser Really Look Like?
Here’s a shocker… Research I did on client attitudes a couple of years ago showed that expertise and technical savvy were NOT at the top of the list of attributes. Sure they are important, but not as important as these other things I list below. Why so much emphasis on becoming a trusted adviser rather than simply branding yourself? Here is my short list:
• Clients will pay your invoices without question or hesitation
• Be more inclined to accept and act on your advice without challenge
• Call you first when there is an assignment
• More likely to refer you to others
• Forgive you when you make a mistake
• Trust you with more complex issues
• Treat you more like a partner rather than a vendor
Unfortunately, the words “trusted adviser” are tossed around pretty loosely these days, so how do you know one when you see one? They are rare, my guess is that only about one in ten coaches and consultants fall into the category of trusted adviser. Do your clients see you as trusted adviser? Rate yourself on each of these seven checklist items to see where you might stand in the mind of your clients… (Not in your mind!) Trusted advisers clients’ understand that they will:
Put a client’s interests ahead of their own.
Work to understand the client’s underlying issues, not just their immediate wants
Be in it for the long-term, not short-term gain at the expense of the client.
Have the courage to deliver the truth and let the chips fall where they may.
Be relentless in their approach to problem-solving.
Deliver on their promises… even the smallest ones.
Have an authentic desire to help clients get the results they must have.
Here’s the bottom line… becoming regarded as a trusted adviser in the mind of your clients is about their expectations, your authenticity and your relationship with them. When taken together, account for a client’s decision to consider you as a trusted adviser… not a brand alone!