Sales has evolved a long way from the quick-to-smile salesman aggressively guaranteeing that they can meet every customer’s need. Prospects have more knowledge and power at their fingertips today than they ever did before. Many times, customers have already researched multiple solutions before they ever get in contact with a sales rep. They know the ins-and-outs of each service they are looking for, they’ve read reviews, and they have already formed opinions. The traditional salesperson can’t thrive with this imbalance of power.
The role of the salesperson has evolved to overcome this. Instead of facilitating transactions (“sign this contract and we’ll send you 25 of x”), becoming a trusted advisor for prospects is the key to selling. The trusted advisor’s role includes facilitating transactions, but is much, much more.
What is a Trusted Advisor?
Caring about the client ends up generating more income than focusing solely on closing the deal.
A trusted advisor is someone that a prospect can expect to have business acumen and insight into their pain points. The trusted advisor has the knowledge and expertise to advise the prospect on what solutions are – or aren’t – appropriate. This includes walking away from deals where the solution will not help the prospect achieve their goals. The trusted advisor gives helpful advice, advice that is based on facts, yet still connects emotionally.
Building a relationship with the prospect is paramount. It creates benefits for both the seller and the prospect. A seller with a strong relationship gets access to clients more often, removes focus on price, gets recommendations accepted more often, and can lead to client referrals. The prospect benefits by being more comfortable reaching out to the seller for advice, lower stress in interacting with the seller, and overcoming more problems more quickly.
Why be a Trusted Advisor?
We’ve been training our sales team to be trusted advisors because it has real impact on the company’s bottom line. But don’t just take our word for it, Brookeside Group ran a study to compare the traditional transactional salesperson and the trusted advisor. The results speak for themselves:
“Customers who had a transactional relationship with the representatives at an IT VAR gave the company 14% of their available business on average, but the percentage jumped to 47% if they perceived the VAR’s salespeople to be trusted advisors. That’s a 33% difference that can be attributed solely to relationship strength!” (link)
Although buyers are influenced by their perception of the product and the company they deal with, the salesperson they connect with has meaningful influence on the sales cycle and why the prospect buys.
Trusted Advisor Techniques
Creating a strong relationship and influencing the prospect’s path to a solution takes time and effort. A few easy ways to strengthen a relationship are:
- Understanding the prospect’s situation and show interest in the prospect as a person
- Informing the prospect of trends in their industry and how they compare to other firms in their vertical
- Staying in touch – don’t only contact to sell
- Acknowledging mistakes
- Preparing before each call to clarify your content and brush-up on the target prospect and vertical
- Taking notes on each connection
It’s important to remember that the prospect’s perception is everything. Emotions and biases often trump facts and figures, which is why using these techniques to create a strong relationship is so important.
One of the most important ways to understand the prospect and become their trusted advisor is to Read and React, which we will cover next week.