Over the last few years, the term “Trusted Advisor” has bounced around the channel like a beach ball at a political rally. It has been used as a business title, suggested as the central part of a go-to-market strategy, been the subject of far too many blogs and created more than one argument amongst channel partners and vendors alike.
On the surface, becoming a trusted advisor seems harmless and a desirable goal for MSPs and solution providers. After all, who doesn’t want to be the person or company your business customers look to when they need help?
The problem with that scenario is the expectations that term creates that many MSPs can’t fulfill. Promoting themselves as “trusted advisors” often creates more problems for providers and gives little in return. How so?
- Danger #1: the term doesn’t mean anything – or at least it is not specific to any current technology deliverable. As such, it distracts customers attention, minimizes technical and business prowess, and detracts from your company’s value proposition. Any professional services organization could make the same unsubstantiated claim.
- Danger #2: Calling yourself a trusted advisor is always assumptive, and that makes it a bad idea. Just because one customer trusts you does not mean everyone will and should. In other words, it does not convey expertise in either advisement or trustworthiness. Touting a business as a “trusted advisor has become “white noise,” in businesses. It’s like starting a sentence saying, “I am not going to lie to you.” Nearly everyone would expect the next thing out of your mouth to be mostly
- Danger #3: I can’t imagine a more tired or overused thing to say about yourself or your business. “We are your trusted advisor” simply adds you to the flock of other similar-minded advisors who were too unoriginal to differentiate themselves or simply not savvy enough to connect their services with the real value they provide. If you must use the word trust in your company’s marketing message, be sure it describes a particular offering and why it happens to be so reliable. “Millions of people trust XYZ product to protect their data, and we provide XYZ solution to over 200 paying clients in the metro area.” No humble brag, no unsustainable claims; just facts tied to a deliverable that allows your company to put the word “trust” in its promotion.
Let Others Own the Term
There is one place where “trusted advisor” makes sense. When one of your customers or associates uses the phrase to describe your business in recommendations, on your LinkedIn site, or if you are lucky, in a blog or media article. Here is an example:
“Dan Wensley has always been, at least for me, a trusted advisor. He is a talented sales and marketing expert and is, in my opinion, the leader of the popularization of the managed service movement in the SMB channel. When Dan talks, people do listen. For me, he is one of those people who care more about the people around him, is loyal to a fault, and exemplifies what the word trust is all about. When you look at the leaders in the SMB channel today, most of them are direct professional descendants of Dan and credit him for being a great mentor and leader. He makes a difference.”
Despite that glowing referral, Dan Wensley would never refer to himself as a trusted advisor.
That status is more about mentorship and professional growth, and less about business deliverables. It can be a great compliment but is always a poor marketing strategy. Deliver valuable solutions to your customers while engaging openly and honestly with your employees, community, and partners. As a direct result, over time, you will earn respect and reputation that comes from being a “trustworthy advisor”‒ thought you’d never use the term to describe yourself or your business.