When asked how they are most often viewed by their customers, only 32% of salespeople we polled said they were “Strategic Advisors.” The rest claimed labels like “Deal-Maker,” “Specialist,” or “Friend.”
That’s too bad because becoming a trusted advisor is the ultimate achievement for a professional salesperson. If done right, it means open doors, a fountain of self-generated leads, and in most cases, shorter sales cycles.
What can you do to help the salespeople on your team earn the status?
According to the Marketing Leadership Council, the greatest drivers of customer loyalty include:
- Help avoiding potential land mines
- Help navigating the alternatives
- Valuable perspectives on the market
- Education on new issues
- Ongoing advice or consultation
- Help quantifying financial value
Unfortunately, delivering those kinds of things requires tremendous effort on the part of your sales team. Here are a few steps you can take to help your salespeople earn trusted advisor status:
- Provide Access to Education
Because most of those drivers include education, it’s your job to provide the tools your team requires to inform their prospects and customers.
Becoming a trusted advisor is about having access to the knowledge that prospects need. The most successful salespeople have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge they can convert into customer value. Sales managers seek resources that can help salespeople elevate their business conversations.
What knowledge does a salesperson need in order to have a meaningful conversation with the people to whom they’re selling? For example, is there a new regulation that might impact their prospects’ business? If so, where can you turn to get the information they need to discuss it?
Generally speaking, salespeople should be able to answer their customers’ questions like:
• How do I avoid making mistakes?
• What’s new and important? What’s new but not important?
• Are there ways to realize better outcomes?
• What technology should I watch out for?
• What are the “best-in-class” companies doing?
As a sales manager, find information that addresses the “hot topics” their prospects and customers are facing and then share it with your team. Provide them with subscriptions to trade journals. Introduce your team to subject matter experts. Think of converting sales meetings into monthly lunches with experts on your clients’ businesses.
Team-up with your marketing department to provide teaching events for your customers. Ask your salespeople to moderate round-table discussions for their customers featuring the subject matter experts you’ve introduced to them.
- Reinterpret What They’re Doing
It’s hard to read your own label when you’re inside the bottle. Salespeople sometimes need help seeing the expertise they have to offer. This is especially true when they’re selling to prospects they perceive as “above” them.
Demystify their successes and help your team understand the value they can offer to prospects. Remind them of their past successes and how they can use it again. Internally, a salesperson might not be an expert, but externally, they’re far more knowledgeable than most.
Determine how they can effectively communicate their knowledge to their prospects. For example, might a white paper help? If so, partner with a ghostwriter to get something written with your salespeople’s names on it, then ask them to send it to their prospects. (As an aside, be sure they include a definitive next step so that there’s a good reason to follow-up. This will allow them to contact the prospect for a reason other than asking for an order.)
- Talk to Their Customers
Learn from the people who already see them as trusted advisors. Reach out to their biggest advocates and ask what makes them so happy. It’s a great way for you to show your appreciation for these customers and get a sense of what makes your greatest salespeople so great.
Talking to their customers gives you the opportunity to check-in with them to uncover what else you and your organization can offer. After all, some of the best new ideas come from customers.
In order to help your salespeople become trusted advisors, you should help them in whatever ways you can.
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