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Sales Eye - Are you your client's trusted advisor (Feb 2nd, 2004)

2013-07-10
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Are you your client's trusted advisor?

2nd February 2004

 

One of the wonderful things about the Polish language is that there are always so many words to express subtle differences between similar concepts. In English, we have 'friends'.

 

In Polish, you have 'współpracownik', 'kolega', 'kumpel' or even the prized 'przyjaciel'. The same is true in sales language. In English, almost everyone in our line of business is called a 'sales person.' In Poland, you can be an 'akwizytor', 'przedstawiciel handlowy', 'sprzedawca' or even 'handlowiec'. We don't care what it says on your business card. What's most important is how your client views you. So, are you an 'akwizytor' or are you a strategic partner in the eyes of your customer? The difference is essential if you expect to be a top performer in your company or industry.

 

If you've ever been to sales training or read a sales book, you've no doubt come across the Sales Relationship Model. You know, the bottom of the pyramid is the sales rep who has basic product knowledge, listening skills and empathy. At the top is the sales professional who is considered a 'trusted advisor' by his client. When you achieve 'trusted advisor' status, you have a close personal relationship, you make decisions together with the client, and often times think the same way. In effect, you become more of a partner than someone who just sells them things. We've put together our own list of what we think it takes to be an 'advisor' or 'sales consultant.' Ask yourself - do I fulfill these definitions?

 

Deep knowledge of your own business and how it adds value to the client.

Don't just be a price calculator. The more you understand about why your product or service is superior, the better it is for your client. If you want to be seen as an expert, someone the client turns to for advice, then you should know the intricate details of all the features and benefits. Go the extra kilometer and visit industry trade shows and read relevant publications. Any knowledge you acquire above and beyond your normal 'company training' will give you an advantage over other salespeople.

 

Knowledge of the client's business

Knowing your own products and services is not enough. How well do you know your client's business, their challenges and opportunities? Do you know their top three competitors? What about their distribution channels - how do they get their product to market? How big is their sales force? What other countries do they operate in? The more you know about their business, the more relevant information you will be able to share with them. For example, last week an awards ceremony was held for the Central European Real Estate Community in Warsaw. If you have real estate clients, don't you think it would be useful to know who the winners were, and what people were recognized for outstanding achievements? Get a copy of your top client's annual report, read it and understand all the activities that your client is involved in. You may uncover an entire new segment that you might be able to help with. It also helps to know their schedule of events such as trade shows and annual meetings. Read their press and do Internet searches; the more research you do, the more valuable a resource you will become for the client.

 

Creative thinking about clients' problems

We talk about this one a lot, but the same solution does not apply to every situation. Like a doctor, you can't prescribe a remedy until you completely understand the problem. Too often, sales people talk and give solutions, when they should in fact be questioning and listening - even taking notes. Clients are looking for solutions to their complex issues, and they are depending on you to provide them. You should think about "how I can help" and not "how much I can make". If you are thinking about how much commission you are going to make, instead of the best way in which you can help your client, then shame on you. You are the type of person that gives the rest of us a bad name. Back in the 70's there was an old saying, 'a client is someone who has your money in their pocket, your job is to get it back.' That doesn't apply anymore - if you think it does, then choose another profession - professional gambler, for instance!

 

Build long-term relationships

Building and gaining trust takes time. If you are trying to make a quick sale, it will be obvious to everyone. Instead, take the time to build the relationship. Statistics say it can take seven meetings to get a sale. It takes a lot more time than that to build a solid relationship. Our friend, Cliff Quicksell (great sales name!), actually has a desk and computer reserved for himself at some of his clients' offices. They value his opinion and ideas so much that their interaction with him is as a partner rather than as a sales person. It takes serious commitment to become a top performer. You chose this profession, so put in the extra effort it takes to become a success. If you are genuinely interested in improving yourself and improving your career, then the hard work that you put in will pay off in the end. Clients will trust your opinion and will start treating you as an equal and as a valuable resource to their business. And then the benefits will really flow - no matter what it says on your business card.

 

From Warsaw Business Journal by John Lynch, Matt Lynch -"The Sales Brothers"