The other day, I was approached by a software supplier who asked me if I wanted our sales force to become Trusted Advisors. The question was out of context because that was not what we discussed at that stage. Regularly, I see and hear texts in books, the internet, and in sales trainings referring to Trusted Advisors. It seems to have become a buzzword and is used too lightly.
Here is the thing: In my view, being a Trusted Advisor is not the same as having just a trusted relationship with your customers. or being a good salesperson. Sometimes, I hear that salespeople gain the customer’s trust and credibility because they have known them for many years and they have fixed many issues for them. Although that is great, that is not what is meant by being a Trusted Advisor.
It’s a level up. Probably two or three levels.
First of all, ‘Trusted Advisor’ is not something you put on your business card. It is not a title like Vice President of Sales or the CEO of a company. Instead, it is more of a recognition given by your customers. You can only see yourself as a Trusted Advisor if your customers are calling you that. They trust you for your advice.
Top 10 Trusted Advisor Traits
What makes these salespeople stand out from the rest? When you read through the following, I would like you to reflect on yourself and evaluate what you need to stop doing and start doing. Here are my top 10 tips and guidance to become a Trusted Advisor. Evaluate what level you operate.
1-2 = Not yet, I need to start doing this. 3-4 = I do, but need to get better 5 = Yes, always.
1. They understand the Buying Clock
In preparing for meetings, a Trusted Advisor truly understands where their stakeholders are on the Buying Clock. Why is that so important? Well, you need to prepare differently if you meet with a prospect versus a second meeting where your contact likes what you say and sees enough value for a second meeting. The position of your stakeholder in their Buying Clock determines the objective of your preparation and the content of your meeting.
Average salespeople go into meetings with solutions they want to sell already in their minds. Trusted advisors don’t do that.
How well, do you understand the Buying Clock; 1-5?
2. They focus on business
Trusted Advisors focus on business. They build ideas on how they can help grow their customer’s business. Trusted advisors are not leading with their products and solutions. Instead, they use their business acumen to understand the customer’s situation and their challenges. Then, using their experience with other similar customers, they share insights into risks and opportunities they see that can impact the customer’s business performance.
Average salespeople focus on how they can close opportunities. Although that is the ultimate goal, that is not the primary focus of a Trusted Advisor
How well, do you focus on business in your customer conversations; 1-5?
3. They help first, then sell
Trusted Advisors use a modern sales approach where stakeholders experience a helping hand in narrowing down priorities, options, and what works and what doesn’t. When stakeholders are often overwhelmed by information, Trusted Advisors help them determine what makes sense as a next step to explore or do. Through this, customers find it easier to proceed with their buying process instead of doing nothing and falling back to their status quo. Selling is helping, and this requires an other-oriented mindset. Selling is not about you (me-oriented mindset) and closing deals but about how you can help your stakeholder move forward in their buying process. If you do this well, the sale will come.
How well, are you helping first, then sell; 1-5?
4. They follow a different sales process
When observing a customer sales meeting, you would immediately notice the difference in how Trusted Advisors conduct their meetings. Instead of a traditional sales process, they follow a modern sales approach. They don’t ask too many questions, but the ones they do ask are super relevant to the customer’s situation. They build credibility early in the meeting, and you will see their customers reacting like: “…that is interesting”, or “…I have never thought about that in this way”. Although you see a lot of collaboration going on, the trusted advisor obviously is in control of the process. Finally, you notice that the customer and the salesperson agree on the next steps. There is a commitment to meet with more stakeholders because what was discussed is certainly interesting for others in the Buying room, too.
How well are you following a modern sales approach; 1-5?
5. They cover the bigger Buying Room
Trusted Advisors are aware that decisions are not made by one person. The Buying Rooms are bigger, so understanding their standpoint and influencing needs to take place with many. With that in mind, you hear them often asking: “.. who in your company would have an interest in what we have discussed so far”? With more stakeholders involved in making decisions, Trusted Advisors meet with several of them to hear their situation, their challenges and their views of the company’s priorities.
How well are you covering the bigger buying room; 1-5?
6. They are strategic thinkers
They see the business through the buyer’s eyes. In their preparation for meetings, they figure out what drives the customer’s business and what external and internal changes may possibly affect the company’s objectives. They work hard to acquire business acumen so they can talk business with their customers. They know tactical conversations may get the deal, but strategic conversations, however, win a loyal customer.
Are you a strategic thinker; 1-5?
7. They find Change Champions
Change is difficult for everyone, and hence, Trusted Advisors realize that they cannot do this on their own. They need someone cheering internally for them. Being very much aware that most influencing happens when they are not there, Trusted Advisors choose a Change Champion and enable them with the right insights to influence others.
How well are you finding Change Champions: 1-5?
8. They Build Business Cases
Once the Change Champion and other stakeholders become interested in exploring a change, you see Trusted Advisors converting the change into quantifiable value. What does the desired outcome mean in dollars and cents (or any currency)? Trusted Advisors manage to encourage their Change Champion to prepare a business case that clearly shows what a change can mean to the top and bottom line of a company.
How often and how well are you building business cases: 1-5?
9. They facilitate consensus
One of the key traits of a Trusted Advisor is to be able to drive and facilitate consensus. Where before, we focused on finding the decision-maker, now, to move a group of people to make a decision in your favour, we need their consensus. Trusted advisors find common goals and get agreement from the buying room that their idea is helping their common goal. Gaining consensus is the new closing.
How well are you driving and facilitating consensus; 1-5?
10. They advise
In the end, trusted Advisors stand out from the rest because they advise. To do that, they have done everything mentioned in the previous nine traits. They are assertive and confident that their idea of helping their customer grow works. They have built the trust and credibility that their opinion counts. In the stakeholders’ conversations, they have created value, changed their perspective, and kick-started the buying process.
How well are you advising the buying room; 1-5?
How did you do?
If you score 50 points, look no further and start coaching those who didn’t. But most likely, we all need to improve something. Create an action plan based on your evaluation. The term Trusted Advisor should not be used lightly. It is the end goal of modern selling.