November 1

You Can’t Be A Trusted Advisor Today Without This

You Can’t Be A Trusted Advisor Today Without This

It’s not easy to be a Trusted Advisor today.  Increased competition and rapid changes require constantly expanding and adapting your knowledge in order to provide the best possible advice to clients.  But being a Trusted Advisor isn’t just about sharing knowledge. At its core, it’s about forming a trusted relationship, based on authenticity, credibility, and empathy.  Right now, the way we form those relationships and communicate those qualities is going through a seismic change which also requires expanding and adapting certain skills. 

A recent study by Showpad found that eighty-six percent of clients prefer to communicate virtually.  And according to Harvard Business Review, it’s proven harder than ever to build those trusted relationships in a virtual environment.  

Perception is Reality

Do you believe you are the same trustworthy, empathetic, selfless person when you are face-to-face as you are in a virtual meeting? Of course you do!  But does your customer PERCEIVE you as having all those same qualities in a virtual meeting? Likely not. While you might say the same things, trust, empathy and interest are not just expressed by words. They are heavily influenced by your  nonverbal behavior. In fact, studies show that your behavior speaks louder than your words when it comes to trust, especially in those initial meetings. 

In virtual meetings, clients only see about 15% of you on their screen. And that 15% does not say the same thing as the 100% of you they see when in person. Besides this truncated view, the camera distorts, magnifies, and outright misses a lot of behavior that helps your client form an accurate picture of who you are.  

You can’t be a Trusted Advisor today without knowing whether you are sending off signals that say “trust me” or “proceed with caution.”  In the words of one of our great modern philosophers:

Adapt or Die 

How to Be a Trusted Advisor Today: 

1. Make Direct Eye Contact with Your Client

Studies show that we are more likely to trust people who look us directly in the eye. And when we see someone looking down – whether it’s a toddler or an adult – we associate that averted gaze with a guilty conscience, a lack of confidence, or uncertainty.  That means you need to consistently look at your camera to be perceived as credible to your client (as well as interested and confident!) 

The belief that direct-eye contact equals truthfulness is deeply ingrained and not easily dismissed – despite its inconvenience. New clients especially aren’t going to give you a pass because it’s hard. That’s assigning a logical response to an emotional reaction. Learning to make direct eye contact while reading body language is one of the many counter-intuitive skills you must master to be seen as a Trusted Advisor in a virtual world. 

2. Stop Talking So D*** Much!

Listening is one of the fastest ways to build trust. But listening in a virtual meeting comes with new challenges, like more distractions, unclear sightlines, and customers who have their video off. The result is a lot of awkward pauses that make sellers extremely nervous. To avoid this dreaded dead air, sellers often engage in long, drawn-out monologues. Most customers won’t exert the effort necessary to “break in” to these one-sided conversations, so the customer receives minimal airtime. No wonder they walk away feeling disconnected and unheard! 

As a Trusted Advisor you must develop the unique skills required to confidently engage with people who are off camera, embrace the pause without panic, and learn effective ways to draw out naturally passive audiences. Read one way to cure this conversation-killing habit here. 

3. Bring Authenticity to an Artificial World 

If a client senses that you’re not being authentic, they will hold back and avoid making themselves vulnerable. Being seen as a “real” person in a virtual environment has its challenges. A certain amount of artificiality is inherent in virtual communications however, we can avoid magnifying and reinforcing it. 

For example, would you feel comfortable sharing your biggest challenges with a floating head that appeared in front of your desk? How about with someone who has a lion sneaking up behind them? And what about if they were standing two inches in front of your face?  These uncomfortable and often jolting encounters happen frequently in virtual meetings when sellers refuse to adapt to their environment. It’s like showing up in skiwear to a swim meet. Discovering how to show up in a way that showcases your humanness and downplays the artificiality of the environment helps your customer feel like they’re talking to a real person, as opposed to a SIM.  

4. Show Interest and Empathy 

Would you trust advice from someone whom you didn’t feel really cared about you?  Of course not.  Expressing empathy and interest in others is a necessary quality for any relationship, and certainly for one between a trusted advisor and a client. But in virtual world, it’s not enough to feel empathetic and interested in the other person. You must be able to reflect back to your customer that you understand and care about them.

Empathy is a quality that is easily lost both verbally and nonverbally in virtual meetings. Many of small acknowledgements we make, like “mmm” and “uh huh” are lost because of the nature of virtual sound travel. Some of the empathetic body language we use in person, like leaning forward or nodding, can take on a more aggressive meaning on video. Add to that the fact that most people are much less visibly expressive when in front of a screen, and you can see how easy it is for a  client to feel like you neither hear nor care about them. 

“If your face has nothing to say, why are you on camera?”

To be an effective Trusted Advisor you need to know not just what your words are saying, but what your face is saying to your client. Most people have a “virtual poker face” which doesn’t give off an ounce of emotion. While we might get away with this in person, it does not serve us in a virtual or hybrid environment where we lack that physical energy and connection.  If, like most sellers you find that your face is not adding needed context and emotion, or in fact, sending the wrong signals to your client, there are things you can do.  But as with all of these skills, nothing is not an option if you want to be seen as a Trusted Advisor Today. 

Get Your FREE: Virtual Trust Builder Guide! 

Learn how to quickly build trust and avoid the 10 “Credibility Crushers” in virtual meetings, calls and recorded videos.




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