Category Archives: Trusted Advisor
Confessions of an Old-school Sales Professional
When I look back over my sales career, I realize that I mainly operated as a relationship-based seller. I had my share of successes with this approach, but I also saw a number of opportunities vanish just as they should be closing.
In one particular instance, I invested 18 months in building a great relationship with a client. At the eleventh hour, as the deal was set to close, it was pulled out from under me. Why? My main contact wasn’t the one who made the buying decision; it was her boss. I had been so embedded in my relationship that I developed a blind spot about considering other people who might ultimately be the decision-makers.
My biggest mistake was believing in old-school sales training, which taught the value of creating a connection with people, because, “if they like you, they will buy from you.” Today, with the knowledge of hindsight, I offer this addendum: It’s not enough to rely on just your interpersonal skills, staying in the opening phase of the sales process, when establishing relationships are key. Too many things can happen to derail the sale, so don’t put all your eggs in the one basket of relationships.
There are several other baskets of sales approaches and, as I’ve come to learn, those that are too narrowly focused can create undue risk of lost sales.
Charismatic: This is the relationship approach. » Continue Reading.
Benchmarks to Becoming a Trusted Advisor
In our last blog post we discussed, as a trusted advisor, how to earn your seat at the table as part of the buying process so that you are able to help shape opportunities rather than just react to them. Today we are going to review the road to becoming a trusted advisor to buyers and the several relationship benchmarks that sales professionals need to keep in mind on their journey.
Few things are more important than preparation when meeting with a buyer. How well you prepare can immediately differentiate you from the competition. The focus of your efforts should cover three important areas:
Strategic impact: What business goals and objectives is the buyer supporting with this purchase? Buyer needs: What’s important to the buyer on both a business and personal level? Technical preparation: Do you have a thorough knowledge of the product or service you’re selling?
Being prepared in the right ways, focusing on these three areas, can go a long way toward securing that elusive second meeting with buyers, especially on the executive level. If you don’t ask the right questions, if you can’t provide executives something they don’t already know, why should they buy from you?
Another important consideration in your preparations is to focus on leading, not lagging, indicators of success. Doing so adds relevancy to the conversation.
At Richardson, » Continue Reading.
Becoming a Trusted Advisor Can Earn You a Seat at the Table
“The hardest thing about B2B selling today is that customers don’t need you the way they used to.”
That is the first sentence of “The End of Solution Sales,” an article about the changing environment in business-to-business (B2B) sales that appeared in the July 2012 issue of Harvard Business Review.
At the heart of the matter lies the fact that buyer behavior has been radically altered by the Web, even in just the last few years. We have all seen the now magical statistic many times that buyers are 60% of the way through the buying process before they consult with a salesperson.
Moreover, the buying process itself now typically has more decision makers, often involving a committee that must reach consensus, instead of a single contact. This adds delays to the selling process, resulting in slower pipeline velocity, more stalled deals, and even the dreaded “no decision” status. Only those who are transactional sellers in a transactional business or those who become trusted advisors have the ear of the right buyers and can move deals through the pipeline effectively.
The problem is, “trusted advisor” status can’t be claimed. It has to be earned — and the only opinion that matters is the buyer’s.
So, what can sales reps do to differentiate themselves and elevate their status with buyers to become trusted advisors? Here are five tips » Continue Reading.
Why Consultative Selling Is Still Relevant
There will always be someone proclaiming that their New! Improved! sales model tops all others in getting through to today’s ultra-informed B2B buyer and in winning deals. Maybe it’s the pressure and stress of an increasingly competitive business environment that creates a kind of desperation around the search for new answers.
In looking for the next silver bullet for successful sales, we must be cautious not to get distracted from proven fundamentals.
Sellers do not need a radically new way of selling that contradicts or retires the principles of consultative selling. The goal of consultative selling is to focus on client needs vs. your product to ensure that your solution is relevant. If being relevant to clients still matters, then consultative selling, by definition, is still relevant.
We must remember that the philosophy, underlying psychology, and skills of consultative selling are timeless. They enable the seller to deeply understand the client’s unique situation and to tailor a solution that is in the client’s best interest by approaching the buying situation through the client’s eyes — and in doing so, the seller earns the client’s trust and business.
What is different today, in light of changes in the selling environment, is the need for sellers to have a higher-order level of skill in consultative selling to effectively leverage their knowledge, experience, and expertise to engage clients in insightful dialogue.
These higher-order » Continue Reading.
What’s your Questioning Strategy?
Asking to be a strategic advisor to your client usually never happens. But, having the right questioning strategy can build the credibility required to become one.
The questions that you ask and the way that you ask them can define how you operate and how you are perceived by clients.
Do you ask the questions that get you paid? These questions are your bread and butter; they’re part of your comfort zone. These questions allow you to position your solution and the need for your product or service. These are what we call “current situation questions” — questions that probe how the client is currently operating, his/her level of satisfaction with the operations, and facts about how he/she does business.
All good questions, but they’re the wrong places to start.
The best first questions are strategic ones that explore the client’s main objectives. What is he/she trying to accomplish? What are his/her key priorities and objectives? Why did he/she decide to change from X strategy to Y?
Why should we ask these questions first? Because we don’t want to focus on our agenda; we want to focus on the client’s. At this point, we want the client to talk about what is most important to him/her. We want the client to take the conversation — and us — where he/she wants it to go, not where we want it to go.
Some people think that asking too many » Continue Reading.
Insight Selling: Essential Skills for Shaping and Creating Sales Opportunities
Opportunities to grow your business with a major account come in three different modes: Respond, Shape, and Create.
When you respond to an opportunity, the customer has already identified the issue, the solution, and the expected outcomes. Now, a provider is sought. This is the most reactive style of account development. The scope and budget are usually already set. Pressures on both price and competition are often high. By no means should you ignore such opportunities. Flexibility is a key element of business. You have to be able to respond as well as initiate. But, responding is not the best way to develop and grow a business relationship.
Why You Must View the Customer as “Them” not “It”
A theme we keep returning to in this blog is the idea that the most effective sale professionals focus on creating value and building trust with customers. You don’t just put your product or service in front of the public and say, “This is good. Buy it.” — however good your product or service may be. Other companies will also have good products. They will also be able to offer good services, possibly even as good as those offered by your company. We hear the term “solution” often today. It may even be overused, particularly as a fancier and quicker way of saying “product or service.”
Selling SaaS: Essential Activities and Key Dialogues to Expand After You Land
Closing deals is important. However, closing alone is not sufficient for SaaS company success. Driving to profitable growth requires generating renewals, maintaining cash flow, and minimizing customer churn. This quest for lifetime customer value depends on two key activities and two key dialogues: