Whether you are a seller working with prospects and customers or a sales manager working with sellers, trusting relationships are critical to your success.
At Axiom, we help sellers and sales managers become trusted advisors who deliver better results for their companies, their people, their customers, and their families.
What Is a Trusted Advisor?
Nearly everyone has experienced the power and value of a trusted advisor relationship at some point. Perhaps this was a physician or an attorney, maybe an accountant or financial planner. Whatever their profession, trusted advisors demonstrate two critical characteristics that set them apart from their competition and make them invaluable resources to those they serve.
First and foremost, trusted advisors are people for whom our interests are their number one priority. When engaging with a trusted advisor, we never feel as though we have to withhold information or provide an incomplete picture of our situation because we are certain that they will always act in our best interest. As a result, we share more information earlier and more often with trusted advisors than with others.
Second, trusted advisors have the skill and knowledge needed to help us be successful. Let’s face it, we may share with friends and family and may have authentic loving relationships with both. But that doesn’t mean you want your favorite brother-in-law performing your surgery or filing your taxes.
Trusted advisors possess expertise they can leverage to help us. However focused or broad their expertise may be, we also trust that they are authentic enough with us that they will leverage it fully without purporting to have something to offer when they do not.
It is in this unique balance of expertise and authenticity that allows the trusted advisor to build sustainable, productive relationships.
Why Become a Trusted Advisor?
Numerous studies illustrate the value of becoming trusted sales advisors. When sales professionals become trusted advisors to their prospects and customers, they produce better results. When sales leaders become trusted advisors to their sellers, they produce better teams. Perhaps even more importantly, trusted advisors experience the internal reward that comes when one’s personal and professional life are completely aligned.
Far too often in this profession sellers and managers are told about the importance of authentic relationships just before they are taught a skill that puts them at odds with the very people they are supposed to be serving. This disconnect sabotages productive relationships and sales performance.
Trusted advisors never place their need for results above the needs of those they serve – because they don’t want to and because they don’t have to.
What Do Trusted Sales Advisors Do?
Becoming a trusted advisor isn’t a one-time decision because developing the skill and knowledge to add value to our relationships isn’t a one-time event. One of the hallmarks of trusted advisors is that we trust in their expertise.
We know that our trusted advisor never feels as though she has learned all she needs to know or has mastered every skill necessary for her success or ours. Trusted advisors become masters of their craft by continuously learning.
Not only does this mean they study within their field, whether medicine, finance, telecommunications, technology or chemical engineering. It also means they study more broadly in an effort to better understand the people and businesses they serve. This includes a pressing desire to continuously improve the way in which they best interact with those they serve in order to constantly add value.
4 Steps to Becoming a Trusted Sales Advisor
Becoming fully proficient with this engagement can set one expert apart from the other. The necessary steps, while simple to understand, afford tremendous opportunities to grow trusting relationships.
1. Learn about the people you serve.
Trusted advisors are curious – they are genuinely interested in the people they wish to serve. Not because they think it may give them an opportunity to sell something and not because they think it will make people love them.
On the contrary, they do it because they love. They love to learn about others and they love the unique differences they find in every interaction with everyone they meet. But they aren’t random either. Trusted advisors have a system by which they learn about others, a way to dive in on what really is important to each and every person they meet.
At Axiom, the model for learning about the issues that are most important to prospects and customers is referred to as DIG, which stands for Description, Impact, and Gap.
2. Use what you’ve learned to help these same people make better decisions.
Trusted advisors know that decisions create our experiences and they never take another person’s decisions lightly. They also become experts at differentiated decision making and are able to help their prospects and customers use what they know about their own issues to develop clear differentiating criteria they can use to make more informed decisions.
At Axiom, the model for developing differentiating criteria is known as DICE, which stands for Description, Impact, Criterion and Evidence. Trusted advisors who engage with customers in the development of criteria also learn the skill of benchmarking as a means of helping to shape criteria with those who are struggling with differentiation.
3. When you make a recommendation, make it in a very compelling fashion.
Sales advisors do this by speaking in specific terms to the issues that are important to the other person. They know that people will do more to avoid near-term pain than they will to gain future benefits, so they learn to speak in specific terms about how today’s decisions are impacting today’s issues and tie this to a clear picture of a better future.
At Axiom, the methodology for presenting recommendations in a compelling fashion is referred to as PCSB or Problem, Cause, Solution, and Benefit.
4. Always collaborate to address concerns.
Advisors are able to do this because they never consider the concerns of another person to be an objection to the advisor’s position. Trusted advisors understand that making good decisions can be difficult and would never minimize or ignore anyone’s concerns.
On the contrary, they help frame the concerns in an objective fashion so as to illuminate the real issue. They help their prospects and customers understand the true significance of the concern and they work with the other person to determine what can be done to resolve the issue.
At Axiom, the model for this interaction is IQRIQA, which stands for Identify, Quantify, Relate, Isolate, Qualify, and Answer.
Ready to become a trusted advisor to your prospects, customers or sales team? For more than 25 years, Axiom has helped enterprise sales teams become trusted advisors. Our unique Sales Learning Solution integrates selling and coaching methodologies with applications and online micro-learning activities to ensure your team experiences continuous incremental improvement on their unique individual journeys to becoming trusted advisors.
Perhaps most importantly, we engage in an authentic relationship to become trusted advisors to your team. The result is ongoing upward sales momentum, stronger longer-lasting relationships and a sustainable competitive advantage.
Bob Sanders has more than 25 years experience in sales, sales management, and marketing. Bob has served as President and CEO of AXIOM Sales Force Development from 2006 to 2018. His passion about sales behavior and coaching helps develop people into their best selves. Since Bob joined AXIOM as a partner in the fall of 1993, he's helped dozens of companies around the world generate hundreds of millions in additional revenue. Bob holds a degree in Marketing from Miami University. He has been a keynote speaker at numerous corporate events and industry conferences. He is a founding underwriter and frequent contributor to the Sales Management Association. He co-authored AXIOM's “Selling Sciences Program™” workbook and audio program, and is a contributor on "A Journey to Sales Transformation". When Bob is not advocating on behalf of buyers and sellers worldwide, he is an avid cyclist, father, and husband.