As part of our new guest blogging series, we invited Matt Bird, international keynote speaker and leadership development consultant, to share some experience about becoming a niche expert and how taking risks makes a big difference when building good relationships. We’d like to thank him for taking the time to write this piece and provide us with a link to his complimentary copy of his eBook.
The House of Commons meeting room was packed for the launch of a cross-party report. The occasion had drawn MPs and Lords from across the parties as well as journalists, funders and business executives. At the front of the room was a table and five chairs, behind which sat a panel of subject matter experts chaired by a senior Member of Parliament. I was tucked in on the end of a row towards the back of the room. Initial presentations were made and now questions were being put to the panel. In the middle of the discussion the MP chairing paused and said, “That sounds like a question for Matt Bird!” After the initial breathlessness, I stood up and made some off the cuff points which I thought were rather clumsy but which met with a very warm reception.
The benefit of being known as a niche expert is that people come to you to ask for advice and wisdom rather than you going to them to sell. Perhaps I am too quintessentially British but I don’t like selling. I am resistant to ‘push marketing’ where you proactively promote your product or service to your target market in an attempt to persuade them to buy. I realise this is a bit idealistic but you might find yourself agreeing. I prefer ‘pull marketing’ where you focus on building your personal and organisational brand and reputation, so people come to you because you are known as the niche expert in certain subject matters. This is the dream for exceptional trusted advisers.
In business I avoid using the ‘F’ word – ‘Friends’ – because it polarises people. For some people ‘friends’ is a sacred category of relationship that is saved for their one or two nearest and dearest personal and private relationships. For others, they have lots of ‘friends’ and are indiscriminate about whether it is a friendship at work or at play. Personally I am a fan of friendship and making ‘fast friends’, my wife often laughs at me when I describe someone I’ve met once or twice as a friend but for me it is normal! Exceptional trusted advisers have the capacity and propensity to build strong relationships swiftly with a variety of clients.
Just as a restaurant maitre d’ will anticipate the needs of customers so an exceptional trusted adviser will anticipate the needs of their clients. You can create the time and space to think for your client. This requires a lowering of your self-orientation (which is the tendency to view the world as about you) and instead see the world as about your client. In that place you can still your mind, suspend self-instruction, be completely present in the moment and engage in multi-sensory listening on behalf of your client and their business.
Recently I was approached by a large organisation with a brief for a piece of work. The organisation was one of the largest, if not the largest within its sector, so the opportunity of working with them would have been exciting and fantastic for my own brand building. As I read through the brief I became convinced that what they were asking for was not what they needed and so decided to take a risk. At the pitch meeting I introduced myself and explained my perspective. I waited in trepidation…the client team began asking questions and I ended up spending twice as much time with them as anticipated. At the end of the session they made it very clear they wanted to work with me. I only wish I took risks more often. Exceptional trusted advisers take risks in their relationships whereas the average trusted adviser prefers to play it safe.
It takes time to shape what people think and say about you, so you need to play the long game. If people are going to change what they think and say about you, they need to have a consistently different experience of you to that which they thought they would have. This journey is going to take time so you need to be patient and persistent. Exceptional trusted advisers are very intentional about building, managing and protecting their professional reputation.
As a keynote speaker and trainer to firms of accountants, lawyers and consultants these are the five features that I find distinguish the exceptional trusted adviser from the average trusted adviser.
Matt Bird helps leaders and organisations build the relationships they need to achieve greater success. Receive your complimentary e-book ‘5 Keys to Being An Exceptional Trusted Adviser’ now at Relationology.co.uk