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Five Aspects to Ensuring You Are Truly a Trusted Business Partner

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Executive Summary.

  1. Access.
  2. Trust.
  3. Sharing.
  4. Guidance.
  5. Go to..

pic andrewAn awful lot is written about becoming a trusted advisor or trusted business partner. So how do you really know whether you and your business is a trusted business partner of a particular client or clients? I've summarised some key indicators to act as stepping stones for you to measure whether you are or aren't. This month I outline five and the next five will follow in next month's issue. So how do you rate?

1. Do you have access?

If there were such a figure as a "client relationship doctor," Lloyds Banking Group Chairman Sir Winfried Bischoff would be the archetype. On being asked, "How do you know when a relationship is not going well?" His first response was, "If it's taking a very long time to set up a meeting, that's usually a bad sign!"
Can you actually get in to see important executives in your client's organisation? Some leaders are notoriously busy, and it does take time to get on their schedule. But if you don't have access, you may not be considered relevant! PS: If you think you have a good relationship, but the client says "There's nothing going on, it doesn't make sense to meet, that's still a bad sign. It means they don't really value your on-going insight and perspective.

2. Do you and your client trust each other to do things without extensive documentation, checks, and controls?

Trust is the essential foundation of every long-term relationship. Trust is the feeling that the other person will come through for you. It's the belief that they will meet your expectations. It's the confidence that they will demonstrate integrity, deliver competently, and focus on your agenda, not theirs. When trust is present, you don't need to constantly check up on the other person. You don't need to put in place endless controls and systems to monitor results.

3. Does your client openly share information with you?

In a healthy, trusting relationship, there is transparency. Does your client give you access to their plans and proposals? Do they freely share information with you, within the constraints of confidentiality? When you're a vendor, you get very limited access to information on a "need to know, restricted basis. When you're a trusted advisor, your client treats you as part of the inner circle.

4. Does your client confide in you and bounce ideas and decisions off you?

Does your client ever call you up to run a new idea or potential proposal by you and get your opinion? Or do they make important decisions and then call you afterwards? It's not reasonable to expect them to discuss everything with you, but if it's something in your domain, and the relationship is a strong one, they will most likely draw you in before reaching their final conclusions.

5. Are you the first person the client calls when they need something in your area of expertise?

This is an essential litmus test of a healthy relationship: Loyalty. If the client views you as interchangeable with other suppliers, then you're a vendor, and you'll be subjected to constant price pressure as the client continually shops around.

Andrew Clare is Managing Partner of reLiance a business to business relationship marketing practice. I focus on improving client profitability through developing, implementing and measuring sustainable, collaborative business to business relationships.

Cell: +27 83 326 2451, E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , Web: www.rassa.co.za, LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/andrewclare


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