Selling is no longer following a sales process pushing products and solutions. Gone is the era of claiming success by using “smart” closing techniques. Instead, the challenge in sales is now understanding your prospect’s situation quicker and help them produce better results through conversations about change. In the new way of selling, you need to have an opinion on how you can help businesses prosper, grow, and be more competitive. You need to be able to advise on why a change is needed to get the results they are looking for. Prospects should perceive you as an advisor they can trust and a person worth talking to. Your advice needs to be perceived as the most valuable and worth paying for. On a scale from 1 to 10, what is your Trusted Advisor Ability Score?
A better question is probably: on that same scale, what score would your customer or prospect rate you? And what would their standards be on giving you a 7 or a 10 instead of a much lower score? Use the following criteria:
1. Your Mindset. This is the first thing prospects assess you on, the moment you step through their door or call them for the first time. First impressions last. What is, according to them, your motivation to have a conversation with them? Is your mind focused on making a sale and as such very inward-looking? Or is your focus on helping them advance as a business? Expect a 5 or below if the conversation is all about you and your company. You need to be interested in others to make these conversations worthwhile for them. Talking about your prospect’s business results and their plans, short and long term, will put you in the top league.
2. Your adaptability to the buying process. Your score goes up the better you are in understanding where your contact is in their buying process. The better you do this, the more relevant conversations you will have. With an average of six to seven stakeholders involved in the buying process, all are most likely in a different stage. Some are open for change, others prefer the status quo and oppose change. Depending on their view what is best for the business, you adapt your questions and your insights. You need to be relevant in every conversation. Remember that even the best sales pitch to people who are not ready for change will go nowhere.
Scoring well on the criteria above, will raise the trust your prospects will have in you. The higher the score the more the potential buyer perceives you as a person with integrity that has their interest at heart.
3. Sharing missing information. Businesses want to produce better results but often miss the insights and information on how to do that. One option they have is to make a drastic change: leaving their status quo and changing supplier. But according to research 80% of businesses are not keen to make such changes. They prefer sticking to their status quo and solving problems internally and with their current suppliers. It is actually these type of businesses where you can gain the most success. You can score high points, if you, in a making-sense kind of way, challenge them to look beyond their internal processes and current suppliers. They are encouraged to do that, if you come with a theory, backed up with information and insights on why they need to consider a change. Sharing something that they don’t know and is super relevant to their business challenges will trigger two kinds of thoughts:
Be honest to yourself, how well do you score on this measure? Go back to your last five meetings; have you shared information, probably already known by your prospects, or were you able to share something new, relevant, and insightful? Your contact’s reaction is your measurement. When you hear reactions like: “Hmm..that’s interesting, I never looked at it from that way” then you scored well.
4. Business Acumen. This is one of the new expectations buyers have of salespeople. Modern selling requires Business Acumen to supersede Sales Acumen. It is not about how well you can “sell”, but how well you can advise. You will be judged on how well you understand the customer’s business and your ability to have conversations with multiple stakeholders, about what a change would mean to their top or bottom line. Stakeholders would rank you high if you help them with building a strong business case of why an investment (changing to you, the more expensive supplier) is needed to produce the results they are looking for.
5. Building Consensus. Although you may have found amongst the stakeholder group a change-champion or two, there will be persons who oppose your ideas and proposed solution. Avoiding these people will not help you. And you cannot leave it to your change-champion alone either. You have got to be able to meet with the people who resist change. You need to have that difficult conversation. Stakeholders all have individual needs, but do appreciate and respect the company’s business needs. The new way of advancing opportunities is through building consensus. You need to talk to all people involved, understand their individual needs, and get consensus around the organization’s problems and challenges. Getting a consensus on your proposed solution is the most difficult. What does a change mean for each individual stakeholder and what does it mean for the business as a whole? As long as you keep it on a business level (see point 4.) you will increase your chances. Show them what strategic value you can deliver. This will give them new perspectives: What will a change mean to their P&L? Will they be able to grow faster? Can they potentially exceed their profit targets? Your business case needs to add more value than any other project. Building consensus is tough but it is the new way of closing.
Rate yourself on each buyers’ criteria and divide the result by five. What is your score? How well are you able to gain trust and provide advice? Is your results equal to or greater than 7? Then, you are on your way to becoming the Trusted Advisor buyers are looking for. Please feel free to put your score in the comments.
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