Being a trusted adviser is a much overused phrase and is rarely achieved.
Why? Many salespeople believe they can determine if they are trusted advisers, but the reality is that clients determine if they are a trusted adviser. Customer behavior and research on falling win rates and rising no-decision rates show that most customers don’t trust salespeople or see them as trusted advisers.
Salespeople can solve this problem by asking themselves three key questions.
1. Why Should the Customer Trust Me?
If their only answer is “because I want them to,” then they are not a trusted adviser.
Trusted advisers know that creating a trusting relationship requires both a mindset and action. As a mindset, salespeople must truly believe that their job is to help the customer solve his or her problem. Salespeople who mentally calculate their commission during a sale will quickly be seen for what they are—someone more interested in making the sale than in the customer’s needs. If you and your company can’t be the best for your customer, you shouldn’t be there.
In addition to having the right mindset, trusted advisers know how to demonstrate their sincere interest in helping the customer. The discipline of establishing trust involves showing empathy, demonstrating credibility and competence, and anticipating customers’ concerns.
It is this mindset and these actions that allow a salesperson to approach the sales process with authenticity, passion and positive intent. Being a trusted adviser is about who you are and what you do, not what you want.
2. Do I Know How the Customer Wants to Buy?
For years, sales executives have drilled into salespeople that they must follow a systematic sales process to become a trusted adviser. Countless resources have gone into developing procedures, software, websites and checklists—all demanding that there is one best way to structure the sale. That is simply wrong.
The best selling process does not sell; it enables the customer to buy. The antithesis of the trusted adviser is the salesperson who believes that if they just follow these five (or seven or nine) sales steps, they will be successful. This process is almost always inauthentic and transparent to the customer. The actions of a trusted adviser help the customer buy the way they want to buy, not how you want to sell.
The discipline required to facilitate the customer’s buying process is helping the customer:
- Discover the urgency behind their need and defining the problem to be solved
- See which elements of a solution have value for them and which elements don’t
- Gather support for the solution within their own organization, creating alignment for action
Salespeople cannot help a customer buy using a seller-centric sales process; they need a two-way conversation, led by the customer, to understand the problem and urgency.
3. Can I Help the Customer Reach the Other Side of Complexity?
“I would not give a fig for the simplicity this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity” (U.S. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.).
For a salesperson to become a trusted adviser, they need to help their client reach the “other side of complexity.”
Buyers today have almost an infinite amount of information available at their fingertips. The responsibility of a trusted adviser is to help customers make sense of this complexity, cutting through the clutter to find the right solution that will solve their problem.
The trusted adviser must be able to make connections the customer has not made, simplify complex information, and link the customer’s problem to the advantages and benefits of the solution. A trusted adviser listens to the customer, shares business insights, reduces (not creates) confusion and presents possible solutions to the problem.
Earning the Title of Trusted Adviser
While all salespeople take action, many take the path of least resistance, doing what is comfortable or necessary to make the sale. However, to become—and remain—a trusted adviser, the salesperson must go beyond always doing what is necessary. It is hard to achieve status as a trusted adviser; it is even harder to keep that status.
Salespeople must take ownership of creating trust, facilitate the customer’s buying process and make sense of complexity. Those efforts will produce long-term relationships that present multiple opportunities while enabling customers to buy how they want to buy.