Sales Skills – How to become a trusted advisor

October 5th, 2018

Salespeople, particularly salespeople in certain industries, are among the least respected occupations out there, bested only by attorneys and politicians.  Now that’s not me talking, but the annual survey done by the Gallup research organization.

Why is that?  This article answers that question along with how salespeople  can develop their sales skills and transform from being distrusted by a client to becoming a trusted advisor.

Let’s talk trust for a second.  In most high-dollar sales environments, the buyer must make four buying decisions, and they are made in a specific order.  First, the buyer buys you (the salesperson).  If the buyer doesn’t “buy” you, you won’t close the deal no matter what else you do.  Next, the buyer must decide to buy your company.  Then it’s buying your plan or solution, and finally buying your price.

Trust is the single most important element to the buyer making that first buying decision – that decision to “buy” you.  Frankly, trust is so critical in any meaningful relationship, whether in your personal life, a leadership role, and certainly in a sales environment.  If you trust the other person, you’ll listen, you’ll believe, and you’ll be engaged.  If you don’t trust the other person, you don’t have anything.

In the sales arena, you must move from a “salesperson” persona to a trusted advisor persona.  This requires becoming trustworthy in the eyes of your buyer.  Your buyer has to believe you have their best interests in mind.

How do you gain trust – how do you achieve trusted advisor status?  There are four strategies to gaining trusted advisor status.  They are 1) it’s all about them – not you, 2) you seek the best solution in the most cost-effective way, 3) you listen and respond with empathy and sincerity, and 4) if it’s not a good fit, you move on.  The rest of this article explores each of these four strategies.

It’s not about you – it’s all about them

You want to make a sale – I get that.  You think your product or service is the best – I get that too.  You think you are the best – don’t most good salespeople?  But, it’s not about you, your product or how good you are at sales.  It is all about your customer – their well-being, their success, their employees and their family.  Mentally disconnect your needs, your commission check from what’s important to your customer, and act in the best interest of your customer.

Seek the best solution in the most cost-effective way

As much as we talk about selling value and not competing on price, money is always an issue for your customer.  So how do you neutralize the “price” issue, so you and your customer can focus on the best solution and avoid getting hung up on the economics of the deal.  You do this by ensuring the customer that you will achieve his/her objectives in the most cost-effective way.  After all, that’s the right thing to do.  In addition to that being your mental state, you might say things like “whatever we decide, I’ll focus on achieving your objectives in the most cost-effective way possible”.  Another way to communicate your perspective here, is to say something like “I commit to be a good steward of your money and find the most cost-effective way to getting you what you want”.

If this sentiment is truly your perspective, and you communicate your perspective in a sincere way, you will take a huge step to gaining trust and becoming a trusted advisor in the eyes of your customer.  Plus, you take a big step in moving the focus from money to the best solution.

You listen and respond with empathy and sincerity

Our research shows that listening skills and empathy are among the two most important skills for a good salesperson.  The most important trait customers seek in salespeople is the ability to solve their problem.  You’d agree that it’s hard to solve a problem if you don’t know what it is and if you don’t understand the implications of that problem.  Asking good questions and listening intently are the ways to understand the problem and its implications.

Being able to put yourself into our customer’s shoes, empathy, is the next thing.  Empathy is critical for two reasons.  First, it creates an emotional connection between you and your customer, and that connection motivates your customer to share his/her problems and the implications to those problems.  Second, it allows you to experience mentally the customer’s challenges – enabling you to better understand what your customer is experiencing.

If it’s not a good fit, you move on

Don’t ever sell something your customer doesn’t need or from which he’ll not benefit.  Your reputation is more important than that.  In fact, salespeople who sell things to people they won’t benefit from is the reason salespeople rank among the least respected occupations.  Top salespeople are in it for the long term.  They value their reputation as a trusted advisor far greater than their next commission check.

If during the sales process you determine you’re not a good fit, or your product/service isn’t the best match for your buyer, admit it and move on.  There’s more than enough business out there for salespeople who are trusted advisors to their customers.

In summary, get past your buyer’s first buying decision – the decision to buy you – by positioning yourself as someone who can be trusted to have your buyer’s best interests in mind.  Communicate in a way your buyer knows it’s all about them – not about you.  Seek the best solution in the most cost-effective way for your customer.  Listen intently to understand your customer’s problems and respond with empathy showing your customer you understand them.  Finally, never sell something that isn’t right for your customer.  If it’s not a good fit, move on.  Your reputation as a trusted advisor is far more important in the long run.

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