Every interaction you have, whether in business or life, will lead to a reaction from the person with whom you have interacted. Most of us want all our interactions to leave a positive lasting impression. Sales reps often fall into two personas. The first persona is the vendor who is trying to make their quota with little to no regard for their customer. The second persona is the trusted advisor. These sales professionals are known for their expertise, dependability, work ethic, follow-through, industry knowledge, and trustworthiness.
Customers have two mental buckets when it comes to thinking about sales professionals. One is the order taker or vendor. Sales reps falling into this bucket are often interchangeable. They’re like ordering an Uber when you need it: Uber takes you where you need to go, then you get out and never know one Uber from the next one that comes your way. In these times, sales reps who fit into this persona are rarely going to close the deal or keep the deal. The following characterizes the order taker or vendor.
- A sales rep has zero understanding of the needs of the customer
- There is no focus on connecting with or developing relationships with customers
- The only goal is to close the sale, with no consideration of customer needs
- There is no thought given to challenging the customer’s thinking or offer options and alternatives
- Sales reps offer no insights or ideas on the application of their solutions
Businesses need trusted advisors in these competitive times. Occupying the customer’s other mental bucket is the strategic partner, otherwise known as the trusted advisor—the person they can turn to with questions, or for problem-solving, or for advice, or as the individual they call upon when they need to purchase a solution. Viewed as a credible source of information on industry trends, competition, and strategic solutions. The trusted advisor is known for:
- Having a complete understanding of customer needs (both known and unknown)
- Placing extreme importance on connecting with and developing relationships with customers
- Making customers’ needs their number one priority in the sales process
- Challenging the customer’s thinking and offering options and alternatives.
- Providing insights or ideas on the application of products or services
Whom Do You Want to Be?
Are you an order taker or a trusted advisor? The good news is, the choice belongs to you. Because you and only you are in control of how customers perceive you. Much of the customer’s perception depends on your sales approach: If you treat a customer like just another transaction, they will likely treat you as just another salesperson. If these are the circumstances, there is little chance of building a productive rapport. Not only that, but the customer will focus on a single factor, price. When the price is the basis of your relationship, the cost to you is that you won’t retain customers over the long haul. It’s simple. When you’re no one to them, sooner or later someone else will come along and offer a better price. Then—just like that—instead of retaining the customer, you won’t even be part of their thought process.
You receive what you offer to customers, when you treat customer relationships in the “fast food” fashion, like a disembodied voice ordering a burger and fries in the drive through. The “fast food” experience will be what you receive in return. Sales is still very much a business of people. There’s no self-checkout, no phone tree, no “we are experiencing longer than normal wait times.” In this age of automation, one thing remains the same in sales—people sell to people. Sales reps can come close to being widgets. However, as trusted advisors, you become good stewards of your customer base, and keeping your people skills fine-tuned is very important.
The Importance of Communication
As a trusted advisor, you stay in touch with your clients, positioning yourself to be there for the client, whether you expect to make a sale or not. Check-in with them, show interest in their business. See what projects are in their pipeline. If you’re on top of your clients, offer your expertise—you probably have something to share that would be of value to them, and you can discuss ways you and your company will be able and ready to deliver solutions. You’re a sales professional for many reasons, but one of them is your desire to problem-solve. The customer has an issue and pain point; you have a great solution. Right?
Trusted Advisors Invest In Their Clients
We all hear people say you should live in the present. However, sales is different. It’s the order taker or vendor who lives in the moment: making a quick sale, moving on to the next one, making that sale—or not—and moving on again. If you prefer to be a trusted advisor than just some sales drone, don’t put a deal before your relationship with your customer. Trusted advisors may seize the moment, but they know their history, and they always have the future in mind. As a rule, they place a higher value on the customer relationship than on their commission check.
Trusted advisors have clearly defined priorities that help keep customers ahead of their competitors. At the point of making a sale, be sure you’re aligned with the customer and understand the urgency of their needs. Clearly define the pain point you’ll be solving for them. Savvy buyers are scouring the Internet before meeting with salespeople. Part of your job is to know their business as well as they do. Know your competitors and help your customers sort through the data and offerings that are on the Internet. You’re also there to translate the information, so it is meaningful to the customer. Far from being a chore, this is an excellent opportunity to help customers navigate around the information-clog of the Internet, which has muddied their decision-making process. Here is the perfect time for you to shine. Share your well-executed business case and speak in terms that are meaningful to them.
A trusted advisor leaves the role of sales professional and enters into the role of a “strategic partner” because they’re allied with customers in the common cause of carrying out best practices for business, now and down the road. Trusted advisors are not only there for the pre-sale, but post-sale as well, because they hold themselves accountable for outcomes following a sale. As a trusted advisor, your customers will understand that you are a part of their team and organization—along with the many other things you bring to the relationship.
Watch our on-demand webinar to learn more about how to use business insights to build credibility.