Recently I was asked what the profile of a Trusted Advisor is. A better understanding of their skills and abilities is very helpful, for example, in recruiting the next generation of salespeople or in coaching your existing salesforce to help them become Trusted Advisors. In previous blogs of “The Sales Advice”, I have shared that Trusted Advisors have the following:
Skills and Abilities
- Sell with the buyer’s perspective
- Are strategic thinkers
- Step outside their comfort zone
- Are sense-makers
- Talk more than average salespeople
- Talk to more stakeholders
- Help companies with growing their business
- Can kick-start the Buying Process
- Change a buyer’s perception
- Overcome Hidden Competitors
- Influence the Buying Process
- Drive the customer’s agenda, not theirs
- Build business cases for change
Trusted Advisors are also able to spend more time in the Why Change? and Change to What? Phase, before pitching their solutions. In these early stages of the Buying process, they use their business acumen and situational knowledge to provide context for the customer to understand trends, risks and challenges that may impact the customer’s business. They do not come across as consultants but as someone who can bring simplicity and sense into the conversation. This customer interaction has nothing to do with the original way of selling.
They Understand, Verify and Ask
Trusted Advisors start customer conversations by showing they have done their homework and understand what the company is trying to achieve, including the challenges that go along with it. The objective in those first minutes is to come across as credible so they earn a spot at the customer’s table.
Then they verify their understanding with the customer. Have they missed anything? They listen carefully without jumping to conclusions, followed by Asking a relevant question. For example:
- The economy is slowing down; how are you planning to achieve your top-line growth targets?
- What strategic initiatives are currently driving your profit ?
- What programs are enabling customer loyalty?
- Can this be better? What room for improvement do you see?
- How much of your business comes from customer acquisition?
- Would you like that to be more?
- How much more?
They Share Insights and Tell Stories
Trusted Advisors bring a different perspective to the table. They have a different view on how things can be done based on their experience and research they came across in preparation for the meeting. They also share these insights as stories.
Trusted Advisors know that the first part of the Buying process is not about them, their company, products or solutions. It’s all about the customer’s business and how they can help. The profile of a Trusted Advisor is different than what it was in the past for sales executives or account managers. It is a step up. Their skill set is more than selling.
Ps. a note to recruiters: It’s time to revisit the sales executive’s recruiting profiles!