Up the client-relationship pyramid – Part 1

15 February 2022 Myra Knoesen

There is more to being a trusted adviser than just jumping whenever the client asks you to.

“A trusted adviser is in it for a long term relationship not short term gain, puts clients’ interests in front of their own, is genuinely interested in their clients and their businesses, is reliable - does what they say they will do, is credible (but doesn't feel the need to try too hard), gets up close and personal, connects emotionally, is genuinely passionate, enthusiastic and authentic,” says Michael Fleming, Head of KWC Legal.

Notable behaviours

“The trusted adviser understands that there will be times when the client’s best interests would be better served by not going ahead with a piece of work even when that means foregoing a lucrative job for the law firm. Trusted advisers are genuinely interested in their clients, personally, and in their clients’ businesses,” Fleming says.

“It is vital that you take the time to dig below the surface. Try really to understand why clients are asking you to do certain things or to work in a certain way. What is motivating them to do that? What underlying interests are causing them to take up certain positions on matters? Say what you are going to do and then do what you say you are going to do! Deliver on your promises. Even the small ones. Credibility is important,” he continues.

Authority, according to Fleming, is one of the major recognised factors of influence. “Clients are more likely to trust and be persuaded by people who they regard as credible, authoritative experts. So – become an expert! Seriously. Go on all the right courses, read all the relevant technical books, write lots of articles and get some more letters after your name (just don’t feel the need to put all of them on your business card).”

“Even though your clients and contacts won’t all become your best friends, it would be a good base point that they at least all liked you. Likeability is a huge factor of influence. The old adage about people tending to want to do business with people they know, like and have come to trust really is true. Trusted advisers understand that it’s vital that they try to make an emotional connection with their clients. The good ones do it by using stories, anecdotes, examples, analogies, imagery, visual aids, and even some light humour. Genuine passion and enthusiasm about your work, your clients, and your desire to help are impressive. Your body language and your verbal language should exude energy. Everything about you either says or doesn’t say “energy” – what you choose to wear, your comportment, posture, use of animated gesture, facial expressions and voice,” says Fleming.

“Yes of course you need to appear professional, but far too often, when they get in front of clients, lawyers appear to have had a personality-ectomy! It is imperative that you find your own style for all of this. Trusted advisers are authentic, genuine, real, individual people. The trick is to find a style that makes you appropriately memorable,” concludes Fleming.

In part two of the article, we look at the client-relationship pyramid and the actions you need to take to move up the ladder.


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