Recommended Read: The Trusted Advisor

“RSPA Recommended Read” is a series of articles in which RSPA staff members share details from books we think would be helpful to leaders and aspiring leaders at VAR, MSP, ISV, and vendor member organizations.

By: Jim Roddy, VP of Sales & Marketing at the RSPA

Our industry – retail IT VARs, ISVs, vendors, and distributors – would be a heck of a lot stronger if we all followed the principles outlined in The Trusted Advisor by David Maister, Charles Green, and Robert Galford. Successful channel companies advise their clients and steer them towards the best outcomes; mediocre companies are just pushing products and focusing on price.

The channel has been talking about “trusted advisors” forever, but have each of us actually earned that distinction? The authors say that question isn’t ours to answer. Only our clients/partners can issue the verdict of whether we are trusted or not.

The entire book is stellar but to me the most valuable section is a list of 22 traits trusted advisors have in common. Here’s part of that list (you’ll have to spend $15 to buy the book to access the full listing):

Trusted advisors –

  1. Are consistent (we can depend on them)
  2. Always help us see things from fresh perspectives
  3. Don’t try to force things on us
  4. Help us think things through (it’s our decision)
  5. Criticize us and correct us gently
  6. Don’t pull their punches (we can rely on them to tell us the truth)
  7. Are in it for the long-haul (the relationship is more important than the current issue)

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  1. Give us reasoning (to help us think), not just their conclusions
  2. Give us options, increase our understanding of those options, give us the recommendation, and let us choose
  3. Challenge our assumptions (help us uncover the false assumptions we’ve been working under)
  4. Act like a real person, not someone in a role
  5. Are reliably on our side and always seem to have our interests at heart
  6. Have a sense of humor to diffuse (our) tension in tough situations
  7. Are smart (sometimes in ways we are not)

RSPA Recommended Read Rating: 9.5/10

After providing that list, the authors then instruct, “Ask yourself: which of these traits do my clients think I possess?” Better yet, how about you ask some of your best customers to review the full list and give you an honest critique? Ask them of these areas where they think you are the strongest and where can you improve.

Don’t let yourself off the hook by asking, “Do you think my company is weak in any of these areas?” because kind-hearted people will say no. Hold out for at least three areas where the client feels your organization could improve and ask for specifics to help you better understand their mindset.

I’m such a huge fan of this book I recommend it to all RSPA members who ask for customer service training guidance for their staff. And we even named the RSPA podcast “The Trusted Advisor” to drive home what we’re aiming for – and what we think you should shoot for as well.

Purchase your copy of The Trusted Advisor here.

Don’t forget to visit the RSPA Solution Center – a web platform designed to connect VARs and ISVs to providers of innovative solutions

Jim Roddy is the Vice President of Sales & Marketing for the Retail Solutions Providers Association (RSPA). He has been active in the POS channel since 1998, including 11 years as the President of Business Solutions Magazine, six years as an RSPA board member, one term as RSPA Chairman of the Board, and several years as a business coach for VARs, ISVs, and MSPs. Jim is regularly requested to speak at industry conferences and he is author of The Walk-On Method To Career & Business Success and Hire Like You Just Beat Cancer. For more information, contact