Richardson's eBook: Becoming a Trusted Advisor

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  Richardson's eBook: Becoming a Trusted Advisor Can Earn You a Seat At the Table
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  • 1. Copyright © 2015 Richardson. All rights reserved. eBOOK Written By: Kim Dean | @RichardsonSales BECOMING A TRUSTED ADVISOR CAN EARN YOU A SEAT AT THE TABLE
  • 2. eBOOK BECOMING ATRUSTED ADVISOR CAN EARNYOU A SEAT ATTHETABLE 2 Copyright © 2015 Richardson. All rights reserved. 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. “
  • 3. eBOOK BECOMING ATRUSTED ADVISOR CAN EARNYOU A SEAT ATTHETABLE 3 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 that I’ve found to be most effective in earning your seat at the table where decisions are made: 1. You have to be proactive — not just reactive to RFPs — and bring buyers new insights and good ideas. 2. You have to shape opportunities rather than wait for specs to be handed down. 3. You have to look out for the best interests of buyers, building a reputation for knowledgeable and workable solutions that add value. 4. You have to be more consultative than transactional. (This helps even in a transactional environment.) 5. You have to balance the pendulum swing in the sales process, knowing when to ask questions and when to provide insights. I recently met with a buyer who told me, “You seem to really understand what I’m trying to accomplish. I’m taking a risk in doing training because we’re not really buying training, we’re trying to buy results. We want to move our business forward, and I see that you get that.” What I also get are questions — lots and lots of questions. Buyers tend to bounce ideas off of me. They ask for my views on industry matters. They ask me about my competitors. They’ll also ask whether their competitors are experiencing similar issues and how I’m solving their problems. They see me as a credible resource, a kind of clearinghouse, for best-practice information. When buyers turn to you with questions, seeking your advice and counsel, it’s confirmation of your status as a trusted advisor. And when that happens, you should soon find yourself at the table, as part of the buying process, shaping opportunities rather than reacting to them alongside a crowd of competitors. Copyright © 2015 Richardson. All rights reserved.
  • 4. eBOOK BECOMING ATRUSTED ADVISOR CAN EARNYOU A SEAT ATTHETABLE 3 BENCHMARKS TO BECOMING A TRUSTED ADVISOR In the last segment we discussed 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. In this segment, we are going to review the road to becoming a trusted advisor to buyers and the several relationship benchmarks that sales reps 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: 1. Strategic impact: What business goals and objectives is the buyer supporting with this purchase? 2. Buyer needs: What’s important to the buyer on both a business and personal level? 3. Technical preparation: Do you have a thorough knowledge of the product or service that you’re selling? Being prepared in the right ways and 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 and if you can’t provide executives something they don’t already know, why should they buy from you? Another important consideration in your preparation is to focus on leading, not lagging, indicators of success. Doing so adds relevancy to the conversation. At Richardson, we talk about different value lenses with different facets to view how we present these leading indicators and ourselves to buyers: • Financial: How are we helping buyers meet their financial goals? • Technology: Are we helping them to steer clear of the noise and hype that surrounds technology solutions to focus on what really matters? • Strategy: Does our solution fit within the overarching goals of the buyer? • Partnership: Are we making a solid case for the value of working with Richardson? In our Trusted Advisor sales training program, we overlay the Preparation Model on these value lenses. This gives sales professionals a practical framework and the tools to think in depth about the behaviors needed to become a trusted advisor. And, you get a better idea of how to address leading indicators because these will be the measure of success and how likely you are to close a deal, instead of having it stall in the pipeline. By recognizing some of the benchmarks of becoming a trusted advisor, you can begin to have higher-level conversations with buyers about their current and long-term objectives, challenges, strategies, and opportunities. Copyright © 2015 Richardson. All rights reserved.
  • 5. eBOOK BECOMING ATRUSTED ADVISOR CAN EARNYOU A SEAT ATTHETABLE 3 6 WAYS TO TELL IF YOU’RE A TRUSTED ADVISOR — OR NOT Earning the trust of B2B 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. There is so much information out there that buyers sorely need someone to provide perspective and guidance at critical points in the business cycle. The problem is, “trusted advisor” status cannot be claimed. It has to be earned, and that’s not easy. Only an estimated 10% of sales professionals have truly achieved trusted-advisor status with their buyers. How can you tell if you’re one of the 10% — or not? 1) You’re a trusted advisor if your clients continually ask your opinion on industry matters and not just the product or service that you’re selling. 2) You’re a trusted advisor if you’re being brought into the decision-making process in advance of an RFP. 3) You’re a trusted advisor if your contact uptiers you, introducing you to the boss and to the project committee. 4) You’re NOT a trusted advisor if you’re introduced by the buyer as “just the sales guy.” 5) You’re NOT a trusted advisor if initial discussions with the buyer focus on price. 6) You’re NOT a trusted advisor if the extras that you bring your clients are donuts rather than market insights. Copyright © 2015 Richardson. All rights reserved.
  • 6. Contact the Richardson Team at 215.940.9255 Visit us on the web at RICHARDSON | 1818 Market Street | Suite 2800 | Philadelphia, PA 19103 Copyright © 2015 Richardson. All rights reserved. EB-431-001-615 RICHARDSON URL RICHARDSON CONNECTIONS Blog: Sales Excellence Review: Twitter: @RichardsonSales Facebook: Richardsonsalestraining LinkedIn Group: RichardsonConnect YouTube: Google+: +Richardson Group Copyright © 2015 Richardson. All rights reserved. Being a trusted advisor begins with integrity but also requires skill and strategy, which can be learned and practiced. Richardson even offers a Trusted Advisor program, which is based on a multi-faceted framework and skills necessary to develop a trusted, preferred-provider position with key accounts. So, what happens if you don’t become a trusted advisor for a buyer who is looking for additional insights and a consultative approach? No surprise: You probably won’t win the business, and your buyer will go elsewhere. And, if this had been your account, you will soon be on the outside looking in, as others rush in with their insights and consultation. The most important thing to remember when trying to position yourself in an advisor role is to focus on the end game for the business that you’re trying to win. Always keep in mind what is important to the buyer, not what is important to you, the seller.
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