Most business owners and managers are eager to find good advice – and that makes sense. If someone else has expertise, why not borrow it (or at least consider it) when you’re making an important decision?

But when you ask for that advice (or when it’s handed to you without a request), stop to ask yourself whether the source has a stake in the advice.

Time and time again, I’ve seen business owners make advertising decisions that didn’t always seem to be good ones. And time and time again, when I asked them why they made those decisions, they cited advice from the sales rep who called on them.

Now, I’ll freely admit that the men and women who sell advertising are among the nicest people you will ever meet. (And I’ll also tell you that I’m a salesman’s kid, so I have a soft spot for good salespeople.) But if you’re going to regard them as trusted advisors, please don’t lose sight of who employs them and how they are compensated. (As a disclaimer, when I stand to profit – or lose – from a client’s decision, I share the fact with them so they can consider my position as they review my advice.)

Ask a newspaper rep how you should spend your ad budget, and you will probably get strong urging for newspaper advertising, along with research supporting that recommendation. You probably won’t hear, “I wouldn’t choose newspaper now. I saw a study saying radio works well, too.” It’s not a matter of deceit; it simply means they are loyal to their employer and the medium they know best.

Never hesitate to ask for advice; just remember they have a stake in your decisions.