You know that old question of “how do you know when a salesperson is considered successful?” Is it how much they produce in bookings? How many cold calls they make in a month? The amount of profit they sell at? How well they do in presentations?
Looking at this question from different perspectives we will likely see a different answer. For example, the Operations team, while absolutely concerned about profit, would likely focus on the successful salesperson being one that brings in the most labor hours. After all, labor hours is what fuels operations. What about accounting? The number crunching team may want sales from customers that pay faster or pay at higher margins. There is nothing wrong with any of these viewpoints, but are they truly what a Salesperson thinks about as being successful?
For me (not necessarily all salespeople), I believe success is when a salesperson becomes a Trusted Advisor. Reaching the level of trusted advisor is to have the customers buying YOU, not what you are selling. Ultimately, I want to have a referral customer say we have “The Lone Star System” installed as opposed to a product or manufacturer's name. There’s nothing more gratifying than reading the specifications or set of plans and it says, “System shall be provided by Julie Fischer of Lone Star Communications.”
There are multiple stages in developing a relationship of trusted advisor. This is commonly referred to as Know – Like – Trust. Know is when the customer finds out who you are and what you do. They also quickly decide if they care about either of those. You are known when they can recognize your face and who you and your company are. You are already in their contact database and they readily know how to reach you. The Like phase comes after knowing. This is when the customer asks themselves do they like you and/or do they like what you are saying (establishing relevance). At the like phase, you are free to move about the facility and are recognized as belonging. You have established champion relationships that can get you meetings with higher ups. The third stage is trust in which you must prove to the customer you are a subject matter expert, you have a proven track record, and that you can help them in some way. Trust is when you can get a meeting whenever you like. You know their family and they know yours. They are willing to risk their status on your behalf. The customer calls you for out of the box thinking or asks you for solutions to problems they are having.
Becoming a trusted advisor has a couple of key benefits. First and foremost is you shorten the sales cycle. You do not have to “do the dance” when you are a trusted advisor. Instead, the client makes a request, you provide a solution and price, then your proposal goes through their approval process. Often when at the level of trusted advisor, customer presentations are not even needed. A second benefit of being a trusted advisor is little or no competition. When the client thinks of you and only you for solutions, the competition must work three times as hard. Staying a trusted advisor takes continued efforts of earning that trust and proving to be reliable. We must always do what we said we would do.
Being a trusted advisor is not only a sales activity. All of us can be trusted advisors in our respective roles. Project Managers become trusted advisors to general contractors. Service technicians can be trusted advisors to biomed or facilities. CAS’s should be trusted advisors to clinical leaders. Throughout Lone Star Communications, we should all strive for that One Purpose…. to be Trusted Advisors.
-Marquis Woodard, Director of Sales, Houston