Do your customers view you as a trusted business advisor? Are they continually asking you for help in solving their business challenges? Or are you just another vendor on their long list of suppliers? The type of relationship you have with your customers can dictate both your access to key decision makers and your ability to sell your products and services.
A study was conducted by the University of North Carolina Kenan-Flager Business School to better understand how senior executives view their relationships with sales professionals. The conclusion was that trusted business advisors had significantly higher access to executives, were involved far more in helping them solve complex business challenges, and had much higher engagement and sales as a result.
The low end of the totem pole is being viewed as a vendor by your customers. If they need something you sell they will put your company on a list, with dozens of others, and send you and them a request for proposal. They already know what they need, you and many other vendors provide that, and all they are looking for is to buy it at the lowest price. Competing and winning with this model is not only difficult, it isn’t sustainable.
If you have positioned yourself as a problem solver, you’ll be invited in to consult with senior executives and brainstorm ideas on how to help solve the problem they face. They won’t just invite you, they will invite others. Based on the unique solution that solves their problem, and the value proposition of doing business with you, they’ll make a choice. Your odds of winning in this situation is much higher than being perceived as just another vendor.
At the top of the list is being a Trusted Business Advisor. Senior Executives view trusted business advisors as someone they can count on to help them solve business challenges, even when they know the company you represent doesn’t provide the product or service. They will ask for your opinion on business challenges, like reducing costs or expanding to other markets. You will not only be involved in initial conversations, but throughout the entire process of addressing this challenge.
To become a trusted business advisor takes time. First, you have to demonstrate credibility. In other words, you know what you are talking about. Second, you have to earn trust. This is not about you, it is about helping them. Trust and credibility are the foundation for being perceived and utilized as a trusted business advisor.
Trusted business advisors don’t sell anything. They help senior executive solve complex business issues and have positioned themselves as someone who can continually be relied upon for sound business advice. And trusted business advisors typically generate 10X the revenue as sales professionals who are viewed as just another vendor.