Reliable Advisor or Vendor?




Reliable Advisor or Vendor?

I spend a lot of time talking to various clienteles, colleagues and contemporaries about their business. In those conversations, my help to them focuses my expertise which primarily is in four areas of their profession: Strategy, Structure, Staff and Skills. Because I spend hours talking to them, I learn quite a bit. In my analysis of many of those discussions recently, I came up with an interesting revelation that is really why they want to talk with me.

Recently a colleague asked me to present to a group of people I had never met and he had rarely spoken about. At the end of event, as he was walking me to the door of the facility, he suddenly looked over at me and said “Thanks for coming out. It will be great for the sales team to use the same language as our executive leadership–by the way, do you know a really good electrician?”

I happened to know of an exceptional electrician and gave him the contact information for that business. Then I asked him a question. “Why ask me for good electrician?” “Simple,” he said. “Every time I spend time with you I receive great value; many times unique and challenging. More importantly, if you do not know an answer, you tell me that as well. Your honesty and integrity leads me to believe that if you recommend someone; they are really good.”

Take a look at your business model and ask yourself what it is that you provide. If you sell copiers, you probably spend quite a bit of time talking about copiers; if you sell IT services, you probably spend hours discussing data storage, disaster recovery or whatever your niche is. Here is the challenge: the goal of sales is not to be a vendor of a product or service. The goal is to become a reliable consultant to the clients you serve. Some call it being a “trusted advisor”.

“Okay,” you say. “Everybody knows that, but what does it mean?” Well, the description is fairly simple. A reliable advisor is a person relied upon by their clients to have expertise in not one, but in many areas of a business. A trusted mentor is the person who gets a phone call about a question clearly outside of his specific area of responsibility, simply because the decision maker values his/her judgment and perspective.

Here’s a challenge for you. Over the next 14 days, keep track of the number of questions your patrons ask you about issues that they are facing–ones that you or your company does not provide a solution for. How are you providing a Total Customer Focus?

Times are hard-hitting, and the economy is giving buyers an excuse to be even more selective about who they work with. But one thing has always and will always be true in sales: reliable advisors keep their accounts while vendors get replaced.

Mark C. Green, PhD
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