Is trusted advisor the theme of the week? I have at least half a dozen emails, voice mails and other rubbish asking to be my trusted advisor on everything from social media to something called talent optimization ( which is either bagpipe lessons or a hit squad for employees I don’t like).

Forgive the unfortunate visual but asking to be my trusted advisor is a bit like asking to be my strapless bra. Which is to say that it’ s something I need infrequently; it’s incredibly necessary when the occasion arises and it’s pretty freaking intimate when it happens. I don’t buy my unmentionables on the phone or from my Twitter feed, and I sure as hell don’t anoint anyone a trusted advisor just because they ask. May I suggest that if you do either of these things, you need to reevaluate some life decisions.

Like this company: They don’t just want to give me a mortgage for a home I can’t afford; they were ” …founded on the principal (oh dear) that if you do the right things for the right reasons, everything else will take care of itself. We have not waivered (good to know; sounds like it involves lawyers) from following that basic business concept. …We believe in being more than just a loan officer, we are your trusted advisor. ..We want to be your trusted advisor for life.

Trusted advisors are like friends; they tell you the truth. They don’t try to sell you things. They don’t sugar-coat the situation. They are the ones with courage to utter “yes, your arse does look fat in that”. Or tell you your website sucks or your pricing is screwed or your strategy crawled out of a bottle of Ritalin.

In addition to being violently truthful, trusted advisors must also be objective. How many suppliers do you know who would walk away from revenue because it’s the wrong thing to sell you? Not many, I would wager.

I think there are three things required in a trusted advisor:

  • Expertise you lack
  • Objectivity you can prove
  • A track record of telling you your arse is fat

Indeed, I would argue that all three conditions need to be present to qualify as a trusted advisor, which means that it will probably take longer than the twenty minutes most of these people have allocated to becoming my BBFF (business best friend forever).

The other thing I think we fail to consider in wrapping ourselves in the Trusted Advisor Flag is that it’s a pretty precarious position and it requires a lot of discipline to retain this status. My dentist is a good example of not doing it all that well.

I used to think my dentist was a trusted advisor.  After all, she’d been sticking her hands in my mouth for 15 years and I left each appointment with the same number of teeth as when I arrived. But suddenly I had some kind of problem. Suddenly she needed to see me every three months instead of every six. Then one of my kids needed to go every three months to monitor his candy habit. And my other kid needed some sort of quarterly intervention. Hmmm. Did my family’s oral hygiene suddenly decline? No, but two other dentists opened shop in town. Guess what I did? That’s right. I told my children to brush more often and I went to a new dentist.

If you have victimized your sales channels with a “let’s become trusted advisors” strategy, or you’ve offered to be somebody’s brassiere, stop right now and work instead on keeping your customers long enough for your front line people to tell them their arses are, indeed, ill-suited to their jeans.