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Saturday, 10 December 2011

Don’t Trust the Trusted Advisor.


I have just read TAS Group’s white paper “Moving from Vendor to Trusted Advisor.”

It’s well written. It is a typical piece of Marketing ‘Content’ designed to excite and to promote their “Product” TAS Deal Maker. However, it falls between two stools.
It neither excites, nor was I left gagging for a demo of the Product!

What struck me was The Story of “Salesman Matt”, published by the CEO of The TAS Group
Donal Daly’s “Select Selling Sales Field book” - about a man called Matt.



Daly describes Matt as: “the ‘personification’ of the Trusted Advisor.”
And, it is Daly’s detail of
what a Trusted Advisor actually DOES that disturbs me!

A lot!

“Over the 15 or so years we’ve known Matt,
he has had three different employers,
but he has always retained the same four major customers.”

They don’t say that Matt left Employers to join Competitors taking the “HIS” customer with him or not.
But, it is clear that Matt as a “Trusted Advisor” to ‘his’ Customer
should not be treated as a “Trusted Employee”.



The flaw in this ‘Trusted Advisor’ thinking is that Matt “OWNS” his Customers.



“HIS” personal ‘relationship’ is bought, and paid for, by his Employer.

Those ‘Customers’ are Customers of Matt’s Employer;
Matt simply has stewardship of the Account.

I have had the pain of Managing Salespeople like Matt;
they withhold Key Data about “their” Customers,
while spending Company money on developing “their” relationship “Trusted Advisor”.

Trusted Advisors accept both a Salary and a Bonus,
but reserve ‘their rights’ to act in their ownbest interest”.

They are really ‘self-employed’ Agents,
earning their living from exploiting an Employer to fund ‘their’ Business and
their Employer’s Customer to pay a second time for ‘their’ results.

Trusted Advisors should not be trusted.

Not trusted by their Customers as their income depends upon their “Sales”, not their advice.
Not trusted by their Employers in whose interest they are paid to act, to sell,
not to give ‘Trusted Advice’ to a Customer.

Thankfully, we have some Evidence to base our Sales Decision on.
The evidence based models of The Challenger Sale,
would show that the “Trusted Advisor” is in fact part ‘lone wolf’ in ‘relationship’ clothing.


  1. Brian, I agree with a lot of your scepcticism about whether being an untrusted employee contradicts being a trusted advisor to one's customers. I don't know the story behind "Matt," though if it as as you theorize, I would quite agree with you.

    I do want to pick a bone with you, however, about your citation of the Challenger Sale as contradicting the Trusted Advisor notion. In that book, the lowest performing category of salesperson is the "Relationship Seller." The data is, as you point out, quite damning.

    Except for one MASSIVE dishonest fact: NOWHERE do the authors justify giving the lowest-performing category the name "Relationship Selling." They simply assert, with no data or rationale whatsoever. In fact, the described behaviors of that lowest performing group rhyme with suck-up, kiss-ass, non-confrontational, zero-content schmoozing.

    Nobody in the "relationship selling" category, in which I include my own Trust-based Selling, would EVER assent to such a description. Every one of those attributes is a relationship killer.

    The off-handed gratuitous labelling of that category as "relationship"-based is a breathtaking act of intellectual dishonesty. You do you readers no service by casually labelling it as "evidence-based" – it is no such thing.

    That simple act of mislabelling, in an otherwise thoughtful and data-based book, deserves to be called out for what it is: a simple act of intellectual dishonesty. A true trust-based salesperson is the farthest thing from a "Lone Wolf." Whether that is what Matt is or is not, I don't know, but don't confuse it with trust-based selling.

  2. Thanks, for your comments Charles. You, of course have a dog in this fight, you are a trusted Advisor on TRUST, You earn your living, and reputation, based on selling trust.
    This may indicate Confirmation Bias, a hedgehog approach. I have no dog in the fight. A Fox approach, including Behavioural Research, Behavioural Economics, and Statistical Analysis and Evidence Based enables to state the Trusted Advisor, is manipulative to both the Buyer and Employer. Indeed it IS a combination of the Lone Wolf/Relationship Builder.

    Alas it is You, who fail to understand The Challenger Sale, and indeed Evidence Based Sales Behaviours, in fact you earn a living by misrepresenting them. Trust Based Selling is simply Folk Psychology, and its prototype the 'Trusted Advisor' is the true Intellectual Dishonesty. Again Thanks for your Comments.

    1. Brian, by your definition, any expert in an area should be disqualified from expressing an opinion because they've got a vested interest in their expertise.

      Your claim that "A Fox approach, including Behavioural Research, Behavioural Economics, and Statistical Analysis and Evidence Based enables to state the Trusted Advisor, is manipulative to both the Buyer and Employer" is completely unsupported by any data at all, at least none that you appear willing to share. By contrast, I invite anyone to visit my website, and examine all the stories, testimonials, assessment tools, and references to make up their own mind.

      I leave it to your readers to determine whose position is ridiculous here.