As trusted sales professionals, you must weigh up your short term need to hit quota and the long term customer relationship, knowing that if your customer grows, your sales grow, this should be an easy decision. If you sell the wrong solution, that customer is lost to you. You will not secure their future sales, and they will not refer you other potential clients, worst, you have broken trust, your reputation is damaged.
Gallup research shows that a sales strategy based on price and product will always lose, what wins is a relationship-building strategy that helps your customer succeed in their goals.
However, you have a critical bridge to build; first, the Edelman Trust Index states that trust is at an all-time low. Customers who have a transactional relationship with the sales representatives give the company 14% of their available business on average. Still, the percentage jumped to 47% if they perceived the salespeople to be trusted advisors.
Before achieving trusted status, the modern salesperson is an active listener and then a coach to their customer. Through your carefully selected questions, you guide the customer, not to the solution, but to make the best decision for their business that achieves their objective.
As a trusted solutions advisor your role is to ask searching questions, guide and co-create a solution that is in the customers’ best interest.
Scale Your Sales framework helps work smarter for your most valued customers. The Scale Your Sales framework allow you to retain and grow your existing customers. To future-proof your key customers and attract more key customers through referrals. If you want to develop the relationship, deliver on your promises, secure a long-term trusted partner, and increase your sales revenues. You must understand your key customers’ environment and their concerns and provide the tangible value and the experience that the customer wants.
A Trusted Solution Advisor is sought out as a source of valued advice and guidance. When the Huthwaite Group studied the client’s perceptions of professional service salespeople, they found that the critical elements of trust were candour, competence, and concern. It was the area of showing empathy for their clients, that made the difference.
Scale Your Sales 5 Steps to Becoming a Trusted Solutions Advisor and the Test Levels of Trusted Status:
- Build a deep understanding of your clients’/buyers’ world and business, better than the customer, who might have a siloed view of the problem they wish to solve. What are their priorities and their most pressing concerns, and why? Using your active listening skills, for example, not to gather ammunition for your next verbal gem – but to build a genuine and deep understanding of a client’s situation. Stephen R Covey book, Habits of Highly Effective People, habit No five is – Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood. Here you must demonstrate your emotional intelligence and concern through empathy (concern) and build rapport.
Test 1: Can you pick up the conversation where you left it in a previous discussion, or do you need to build rapport again before moving forward?
- Develop your environmental and business acumen. What is coming next, that will help or hinder the customers business? Being able to help and offer relevant advice across a broad range of issues – not just in your specialism demonstrates a board competence. Only then you become an indispensable partner – not just a supplier. Her you must build credible (competence) and demonstrate knowledge and experience in your subject area.
Test 2: Are you comfortable to explain the complexities of the industry and market drivers to a seven-year-old?
- Earn the right by giving value always (Gary Vaynerchuck in his book Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook) Trust does not grow overnight but can be lost in seconds. Never rush to answer a question, to pitch or to close. Every interaction with your key buyer and customers is a chance to either advance the clients perception of you as a valuable source of insight or not. I say, give, give, give value long before asking permission.
Test 3: Has your client or buyer said, what can I do for you, have you developed the feel of reciprocity?
- Establish a trust-based relationship by delivering on your promises, which transfers your knowledge through your rapport into relevant value. Demonstrate you have their best interest at your heart and prove you are trustworthy by always being honest (candour) and transparent in your candid interactions. Establish their buying processes and criteria for selection. Be the active listener, ask deep search questions, to coach and navigate the internal and external complexities so the customer decision-making unit can make the best decision.
Test 4: Can you make valued, timely and relevant connections that the client/buyer could not make for themselves?
- Elevate the conversations and the relationship into a partnership by quantifying value aligned to primary business drivers and customer outcomes. Leveraging both internal and external trusted relationships, you need a network of other specialists you trust as your resource. Here your network is your net wealth. You are comfortable to advise outside your core specialism because of your net wealth, your ability to connect the dots and deep grounding in the industry and market. As a trusted solutions advisor, you can shape the clients’ thinking and influence as a thought leader. Can you evaluate the tools necessary to implement a course correction plan or trusted to have the conversations that recommend a solution that will deliver the optimate results? You have more enduring relationships and secure higher sales revenue.
Test 5: Do people buy you, the impact you create, and not just the solution you advise upon? Are your customers your biggest advocates? Do they consistently recommend others to you? Do you have trusted relationships that would willingly support your cause and refer you to other like-minded buyers and customers?
To see the relevance of trust to build consensus, we do not need to look too far. Many governments struggle to engage their populations to trust the COVID vaccination and get the injection. If they do not get buy-in to this campaign, then the pandemic will circulate for many years.
My good friend David JP Fisher said, “You can’t outsource trust.”
In the LinkedIn State of Sales Report 2020, 88% of buyers agree that the salespeople they ultimately do business with are “trusted advisors.” Just 40% of decision-makers describe sales professionals as “trustworthy.” Although buyers may distrust the sales profession, they do trust, whom they consider trusted sales professionals.
Remember that people buy people first, then the service you
(the professional advisor) promised them and the company’s reputation.
Engaging, Educating and Elevating your key relationships into partnerships is a core principle of the Scale Your Sales Attraction Framework. These strategies help you engage and strengthen relationships towards a partnership mindset, which means you become the guide and the connector; you are the trusted advisor.
The 5 Steps to Becoming a Trusted Solutions Advisor and the Test Levels of Trusted Status is one of the six elements of Scale Your Sales Attraction within the Scale Your Sales Framework. If you would like your sales team to develop their trusted status as part of their sales and relationship building methodology, book a consultation.