The art of building trust: The cornerstone of a Trusted Advisor's role

You will learn how to build trust by enhancing credibility, reliability, and intimacy, while aligning your interests with clients.

The art of building trust: The cornerstone of a Trusted Advisor's role

In the realm of advisory, whether in leadership, sales, or consulting, trust isn't just a component of the relationship—it's the foundation. Understanding how to build and maintain trust is critical for any advisor aspiring to be genuinely trusted by their clients. At the heart of this understanding lies a formula that can guide advisors in cultivating trust effectively:

T = (C + R + I) / S

Here, T stands for Trust, C for Credibility, R for Reliability, I for Intimacy, and S for Self-orientation.

The trust formula explained

This formula shows that trust is built on three pillars—credibility, reliability, and intimacy—while being potentially undermined by self-orientation. Self-orientation, which reflects the motives behind your actions, must be carefully managed. High self-orientation indicates a focus on your own needs rather than those of the client, thus eroding trust. Successful advisors align their interests with those of their clients, reducing self-orientation and enhancing the relationship's trustworthiness.

1. Increasing credibility

Credibility is essential for establishing trust. It assures clients of your knowledge and skillset, laying a foundation for the relationship. Enhancing credibility involves:

  • Doing your research: Understand not only your client's business but also the industry trends and challenges they face. This preparation shows your dedication and competence.
  • Showing references, competencies: Demonstrate your qualifications through case studies, testimonials, or sharing relevant experiences. Visible proof of your past successes reassures clients of your ability to handle their specific needs.
  • Asking questions: Engage with the client by asking insightful questions that not only reveal deeper insights into their situation but also show your interest in understanding them better.
  • Using the language of the customer: Communicate using terms and concepts familiar to the client, making complex ideas accessible and ensuring clarity in discussions.

2. Boosting reliability

Reliability builds on credibility by demonstrating your consistency and dependability in all interactions:

  • Having prepared meetings: Always come well-prepared for meetings, respecting both your time and that of your client, and setting the stage for productive discussions.
  • Quick post-meeting notes: Provide concise and clear summaries after meetings to reinforce what was discussed and ensure mutual understanding and agreement on next steps.
  • Being fast in your reaction: Show that the client's concerns are your priority by responding quickly to their inquiries and needs.
  • Making promises and following up on these: Solidify your reputation as reliable by consistently fulfilling your commitments.

3. Enhancing intimacy

Intimacy in a professional relationship involves building a genuine connection, showing understanding and care for the client’s personal and professional well-being:

  • Being empathetic: Truly understand and reflect your client's feelings and business realities.
  • Being discrete: Handle all shared information with utmost confidentiality to build trust and show respect for the client's privacy.
  • Showing emotions: Appropriately sharing emotions can humanize interactions and strengthen bonds.
  • Understanding the personal goals of the customer: Tailor your approach to help clients achieve their personal and business objectives, demonstrating your commitment to their success.

4. Aligning self-orientation

Reducing self-orientation involves aligning your interests with those of your clients, emphasizing a partnership rather than a transactional relationship:

  • Help, not sell: Focus on being helpful, addressing the client's problems and needs without pushing your own agenda.
  • Asking suestions instead of offering solutions: Facilitate a dialogue that allows clients to arrive at their own conclusions, empowering them and demonstrating your respect for their autonomy.
  • Don’t bullshit: Maintain absolute honesty in all dealings. Transparency is key to building lasting trust.

With all this you always need to keep in mind: It’s not about you, it’s about the customer. Prioritize the client's interests over your own. This selfless approach is often recognized and valued by clients, fostering deeper trust.

The imperative of genuine interest

For trust to flourish, an advisor must genuinely care about the client's success and well-being. Clients, or humans in generel, are exceptionally good at sensing insincerity, which can severely damage the trust in a relationship. A trusted advisor must cultivate a true heart and real interest in the person they advise.

By applying the principles of the trust formula and maintaining a consistent focus on the client's needs, you can build robust, trust-filled relationships. In the advisory profession, where relationships can define success, maintaining integrity and sincerity are not just beneficial—they are essential.


Building trust as a trusted advisor involves more than just expert knowledge and a gift for communication. It requires a dedicated effort to enhance credibility, reliability, and intimacy, all while ensuring that your motives are aligned with the interests of your clients.

By consistently applying these principles and genuinely focusing on the client's needs, you will not only build trust but also forge lasting relationships that are mutually beneficial. Remember, the essence of being a trusted advisor lies in being genuinely invested in the success and well-being of those you serve. Maintain this focus, and you will become an indispensable part of your clients' success.