Thursday, March 12, 2009

Becoming a Trusted Advisor

Part of every sales methodology is the phrase "become a trusted advisor." Yet we devote little time helping people become advisors to our clients, let alone trusted ones. Our sales methodologies are typically geared more towards a scorched earth policy, than a build for the long term approach. Sales people are rewarded for large, upfront contracts that help the company meet short term sales goals. And they are often punished for long sales cycles. Turning over sales reps then makes it more difficult for the next rep, as the client's first question is "how long will this one be around?"

It is often entertaining to see how this manifests itself with clients. One can not ask (and certainly not beg - which was entertaining to witness), nor expect it. The right is earned over time.

A few things to consider as you are developing your "Trusted Advisor" sales program:
1. Are your people intelligent and insightful about the market and their customers?
2. Can they talk about the customer's business without selling all the time?
3. Can they put the client's needs ahead of their own?
4. How well do they listen, and ask insightful questions?
5. Are they likable, and trustworthy?
6. Are your campaigns and people consistent, or opportunistic?

There is a great deal that goes into a "Trusted Advisor" and the program, the people, and the organization need to support long term customer value. To get there, you must has a passion for your client's goals.

1 comment:

  1. Great stuff Michael, again. I would like to say that I adhere to the "Trusted Advisor" sales program. It's not terribly difficult to put some effort into learning a bit about your customer's business and what they are attempting to do as a company. Annual reports are sometimes a good place to start. What I've found works really well, ask a lot of questions, but make sure they are well thought out and not looking for information that could have easily been found on the company's .com web site.

    Another key thing, write it down. If you are asking insightful questions, but not writing down their responses, the person is going to assume you don't care about their thoughts. Plus, you may forget some nuggets that can be used later to show that you were listening.

    There's a really good book I recommend any sales / pre-sales person read. It is Demonstrating to Win by Robert Riefstahl. While it is mainly targeted at pre-sales folks, it has a lot of information about doing discovery, which should be a key capability of any sales person. We should always be doing discovery.

    That's my $0.02.