Self-Orientation Will Kill Your Consulting Business

Prospects can sense your intentions.

Charlie Green and David H. Maister, authors of The Trusted Advisor, developed an equation that illustrates what impacts trust:

Trust = (Credibility + Reliability + Intimacy) / Self-Orientation

You can notice that all of the trust factors - credibility, reliability, and intimacy - are divided by what they call "self-orientation". This means that the more you focus on yourself and your bottom line, the less you are trusted.

A common trait of trusted relationships is that the advisor places a higher value on preserving and nurturing the relationship itself than on the financial outcomes of the transaction.

People like to be helped, but hate to be sold to. When you are talking to prospects, they can sense your intentions. The more focused you are on hitting your numbers, boosting your revenue, building your portfolio... the less likely you are to win their business.

Here's a list of threats that you should look out to, and that show you are more focused on yourself than on others:

  • A need to too quickly finish their sentences for them
  • A need to fill empty spaces in conversations
  • A need to appear clever or bright
  • An inability to provide a direct answer to a direct question
  • An unwillingness to say we don't know
  • A tendency to give answers too quickly
  • Name-dropping of other clients
  • A recitation of qualifications
  • Wanting to have the last word
  • Posing closed-ended questions early on
  • Proposing solutions before hearing the whole problem

The next time you get on a call, place this list next to where you take notes and check how many of these items you tick. Make it a practice to take a look at them before important sales calls.

Eliminating those bad habits will immediately improve your conversations, but to take it to next level you can also look at the via positiva. Here's a useful list of best practices that show you prioritize the relationship and care more about the other:

  • Let the client fill the empty spaces
  • Ask the client what's behind an issue
  • Using open-ended questions
  • Not giving answers until earning the right to do so
  • Focusing on defining the problem, not guessing a solution
  • Reflective listening: Summarizing what you've heard and repeating it back
  • Saying you don't know when you don't know
  • Acknowledging feelings respectfully
  • Listening to clients without distraction
  • Resisting with confidence a client's invitation to provide a solution too early on
  • Adding value after listening, not during
  • Taking responsibility for failure

Put the others first, and you will immediately gain trust and see the impact of it in your conversations, relationships, and business.

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