The dilemma of the trusted advisor

Last Friday I went to see my accountant. Then I walked next door to visit my lawyer.

I would have seen my doctor too – to get the full triumvirate and 200 extra frequent flier miles – but I had an appointment with him the week before.

I like seeing my professional advisors.

They know so much more than me about what they do than I know, so I just give them the work and they come back with an answer.

And I know they’re not going to sell me bookkeeping services or legal contracts I don’t need. Just those that I do.

I trust them.

That whole “trust” thing is important.

I’m always telling my clients and prospects that a newsletter serves to position them as a “trusted advisor” rather than salesperson.

I tell them that over the long term (and even the short term) they’ll get more business that way.

For this to work, the newsletter content needs to be informational … not just promotional.

It should help the client make the best decision. It should serve the client’s best interests.

It should sell clients on products that those clients should have, but are perhaps not aware of, but only if that product is likely to benefit them.

It’s at this point that I sometimes run into trouble with members of my newsletter service.

Indeed, I lost a member for this very reason last month.

What, for example, happens if the best decision for one of my members’ clients is not to sell their home or not to buy particular insurance policy?

Won’t my newsletter just be turning people away?

HERE’S AN EXAMPLE: An article in my November real estate newsletter is called “Remodel or buy: which is best for you?”

The article gives lots of useful information that will help people decide which route to take.

Trouble is, they might decide to remodel their home. And that means the real estate agent doesn’t get the listing.

Now, I would say that’s fine. We’re in the business of lifetime relationships here. What’s good for the client is good for the real estate agent. Maybe they won’t sell their house this year.

But what about three years down the road? Which agent will they work with? The one that just tried to sell them, or the one who listened to them and gave them valuable advice?

Here’s another example.

One of my insurance newsletters contained an article about buying the right kind of auto insurance. It said something along the lines that people should review various policies to make sure they get the one that’s right for them.

But what if the insurance agent doesn’t offer those policies?

Will they lose the business?

Or will the customer respect them for it … and continue as a long-term client?

And should they … if they really want to serve their customers … find a way to offer that policy?

HERE’S WHAT I THINK (and I try to follow this in my own business):

I try to offer the “best in class” products for my clients.

But if I’m asked if a product is right for my client and I think they would be better served by using another product, I say so.

Then I either decide that I need to make that product for this client, or I tell them they should work with a competitor

SO TELL ME: am I right? Or am I being naïve?

Am I throwing business away? Or am I building a platform for long-term success and greater referrals?

Should my newsletters stop giving advice that might result in losing a sale?

I’d like to know what you think.