Your Route to the Top: Be a trusted adviser

Choose wisely. You can't be everything to everyone, so find out who makes the decisions before focusing your efforts. No-one is born a trusted adviser - earning trust takes time.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Surpass yourself. Woody Allen quipped that '95% of success is just turning up', and he's half-right. Reliability is key to gaining trust, but you need more to stand out. Exceed expectations by setting difficult deadlines, then beating them.

Stay curious. Neil Rackham, author of Spin Selling (McGraw-Hill Professional, 1988), worked with Kodak's sales team to bring in more than a million dollars of new business. How? By asking questions. They found issues, problems and needs simply by taking the time to talk (rather than to sell).

Add value. To get space in busy diaries, you need to make an impact. Prove that time spent with you is worthwhile. Offer free advice, develop strategies, clarify issues and do things on spec.

Keep it real. A senior client asked a management consultant how he could develop his team. Having experienced the team's arrogant resistance to change, the consultant concluded: 'I don't think you should bother.' His honest reply deepened the level of trust between them. Straight talking counts for a lot.

Have presence. It's not just about what you say, but the way you say it. Use a measured tone, with frequent pauses and fewer, better words.

'Open the kimono.' Silicon Valley tycoons use this term when revealing a business idea. What are you willing to share? To get clients to open up, you must delicately test their boundaries. Reveal a piece of yourself: if they respond, it will deepen intimacy; if not, you'll know not to push it in the future.

Pace yourself. Research shows that we often see the other as less trustworthy than we see ourselves. Assume nothing: developing trust is a journey, so take it slowly.

'The Mind Gym: Give me time' is published by Time Warner Books (£12.99). Contact the firm at

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