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Trusted Advisors are Valued Partners, Not Interchangeable Service Providers
A trusted advisor is a sales professional buyers seek out for advice and counsel. They are viewed as a credible source of information on industry trends, competition, and strategic solutions.
Trusted advisors are more than a vendor — they play an active role in the buying process, shaping opportunities rather than simply reacting to buyer demands.
Buyers Need a Trusted Advisor
Earning the trust of buyers has become increasingly hard for sales professionals to achieve in today’s information-rich, instant-search culture. Yet, it is precisely this wealth of information that creates an opportunity for those in sales to become trusted advisors.
Buyers sorely need someone to provide perspective and guidance at critical points in the business cycle.
They need a partner to help them sift through information in order to determine what is most relevant and useful for them.
The problem is that “trusted advisor” status cannot be claimed. It must be earned, and that’s not easy.
Becoming a Trusted Advisor in Sales
Becoming a trusted advisor in sales begins with integrity but also requires skill and strategy, which can be learned and practiced.
Some specific qualities of a sales professional working to earn the right to be a trusted advisor include:
- Buyer-centric Preparation: Preparation for a sales call should begin and end with a focus on the customer. Sales professionals should always consider the information that the customer wants to get out of the meeting. This type of thinking builds trust and adds value to the conversation.
- Asking Great Questions: Trusted advisors demonstrate their preparation and the value they place on their customers by asking questions that show an interest in their customer’s business. Asking about risks and rewards, strategic drivers, and emerging initiatives shows the buyer that the sales professional is more interested in building a relationship than a money grab.
- Proactively Creating Value: Trusted advisors are always thinking about proactively adding value for their customers. Often, they will offer insights that are not directly related to closing the sale. This approach pays off over time as the sales professional demonstrates their ability to help their buyers solve their business challenges.
- Responding Honestly: A salesperson who wants to earn trusted advisor status is always forthcoming about the solutions they can and cannot They are also careful to manage their buyers’ expectations. This demonstrates respect and ensures that trust will not be lost because of overpromising.
- Linking Solutions to Needs: Trusted advisors connect the dots for their customers. They clearly link different elements of a solution to a specific customer need and filter extraneous information. Explicit solution/value mapping shows buyers that the sales professional has diligently assessed and captured their needs and is committed to driving real value for the buyer’s organization.
- Maintaining a Collaborative Tone: Being a trusted advisor means the salesperson is in a relationship with the buyer. Therefore, it is paramount that the sales professional continuously works to maintain an environment of openness, collaboration, and mutual respect. The salesperson should work to earn the right to the customer’s time and attention.
- Standing by Their Morals: Buyers know when sales professionals are being duplicitous, manipulative, or shortsighted. Sales professionals must demonstrate character and be genuinely focused on helping their buyers reach their goals.
How to Tell If a Sales Professional Is a Trusted Advisor
Sales professionals might have a difficult time determining whether they have achieved trusted advisor status.
There is no formal ceremony or declaration of a shift in the relationship. Sales professionals must search for clues in their interactions with customers that indicate this change.
Here are some buyer behaviors that might be indicators that a sales professional reached trusted advisor status.
- The buyer seeks the sales professional’s opinion on industry matters and not just the product or professional service they are selling.
- The buyer brings the sales professional into the decision-making process in advance of an RFP.
- The buyer introduces the sales professional to the boss and to the project committee.
Benefits of Becoming a Trusted Advisor
Sales professionals who achieve trusted advisor status have earned a seat at the table. This means that they become a part of their buyer’s organization’s strategic team. This means that they have more opportunities to position new solutions, renew existing contracts, and access other groups within the organization.
Beyond greater access and integration, sales professionals who are viewed as trusted advisors enjoy benefits, including:
- Bolstered client loyalty and retention
- Shortened sales cycles and competitive threats
- Decreased fee pressure and increased margins and profitability
Trusted advisors are also less likely to have to combat buyer cynicism. In a study published by Judgment and Decision Making, researchers found that many buyers are less likely to buy from a sales professional because they perceived information provided by unfamiliar sales professionals as untrue.
Trusted advisor is the most powerful esteem that a sales professional can earn from their buyers. It is a status that should be treated with respect and nurtured before, during, and after every interaction.