Transforming Sales into Trusted Advisors

Any sales can talk with customers, but it’s quite something else to brainstorm together with customers and work with them on their business challenges. This role is reserved for trusted advisors, these individuals are invited to talk and connect by customers, even when there’s no explicit need for their products or services. They are more than just a supplier and are seen as a strategic asset and business partner for the customers goals. 
These trusted advisors are more involved in the customers business and key decisions that they make. Rather than just having to fill an order, these sales are invited to brainstorm and discuss with customers, before a decision has been made. 
Being a trusted advisor to your customers has two key benefits. First, a customer that sees you as a trusted advisor, will probably be a customer for longer. The value you bring as a sales to this customer far surpasses just receiving orders and filling that need creating a longer-lasting and stronger relationship. 
The second benefit as a trusted advisor is that  you’ll hear about new ideas, needs and strategic directions sooner. These topics will be discussed with you because they trust and value your judgement. This will allow you to create a new offer or shape your offer to suit the new directions of the company.
Challenges in becoming a trusted advisor
Even though the benefits of becoming a trusted advisor are quite apparent, note everyone who sets out to become one , succeeds. There are a number of reasons why Sales fail to make the shift to becoming a trusted advisor. 
The most common reason is that the Sales doesn’t have enough expertise about the industry or relevant trends to deliver relevant advice to the customer. When customers open up their schedule for advice, they want to receive relevant advice which shows you are knowledgeable on the challenges the customer faces daily. This requires reading up on industry insights and gathering information that could be relevant to your customer. From there you should get a grasp of how these trends and insights could impact your customer. 
Another key reason is that Sales fails to invest the right amount of time and attention to the customers to build a relationship and be continuously engaged with them. Customers are not interested in meeting up once every couple of months just to catch up on the latest, or receiving strategic advice from a vague acquaintance. To become a strategic advisor, the sales will have to put abnormal amounts of effort and time into building a relationship and mutual trust to become a strategic partner for the customers business goals.
Effective time Sales spends selling
Becoming and being a trusted advisor takes time and focus. While Sales’ time is primarily focussed on selling, their other time should be optimized for becoming a trusted advisor. That’s why it’s key to create time in a Sales’ week to read up on industry trends and invest time in the relationship with customers.
If you’d ask yourself how much time a sales would spend selling, you’d probably guess that that would be at least about 75% of the time. Of course there would be some administration and travel involved, but a sales would primarily do sales right? Researchers from Pace Productivity found out that the real amount of time a sales sells was quite different.
Starting out, Pace Productivity expected a Sales would spend his time focussing on the key activities to drive new deals:
  • Finding qualified prospects
  • Determining potential needs
  • Offering solutions
  • Closing sales
The challenge that they discovered in practice however was that a sales has to do all kinds of other activities. Like providing support or service, handling emails, attending internal meetings, writing reports and much more. Some of those you would expect a sales to do, but some are extra requirements that have built up over time. 
Pace Productivity set out to track the time Sales spends during an average week and found out that only 23% of a Sales’ workweek is spent selling. That’s about 9 hours a week, significantly less than expected. Most of time a Sales is working on administration and meeting, for approximately 15,2 hours a week.
Creating time and support to be a trusted advisor to your customers
The key in becoming a trusted advisor is freeing up the time to spend on interactions with your customers and gaining new insights in industry trends to share with them. Looking at an average week and the way that sales spends their time in that week, the biggest steps to freeing up time can be achieved by focussing on two key areas of improvement:
  • Reducing the administrative burden
  • Improving the hitrate of opportunities and meetings

Reducing the administrative burden
Working in consulting or professional services, a lot of administration has to be done. Common items are personal profiles of consultants, having an overview of available consultants, managing and updating all commercial CRM or sales systems, making projectcodes where consultants and professionals can record their working hours, etc. Automating this administration or removing the need for it would create significant room in the schedule of a Sales, but also room in the mind of the Sales to think of new insights for their customers. 

Improving the hitrate of opportunities and meetings
There are a couple of strategies to improve the hitrate of opportunities and the meetings that accompany them. First its important to only work on opportunities that you trust will be succesfull. While that might sound logical, in practice it could be quite complex. Key is qualifying the opportunity as soon as it hits your funnel by asking yourself “Is this an opportunity we could win?”. Answering yes on this question would mean that you can say yes to a number of other subquestions; “Do we have the right consultants or professionals for this opportunity?” and “Are our consultants and professionals skills an optimal match with the full ask of the customer?”. Key to answering these questions is knowing your consultants and professionals skills, past projects, ambitions and being able to match that to obvious and less obvious parts of the customer assignment.

How Leadcast can help
Leadcast has worked with numerous companies that have achieve trusted advisor status with their customers or are on the road to becoming one. Leadcast reduces the amount of administration a sales has to work on through automation and its smart algorithm qualifies opportunities and matches it with the best consultants and professionals they have in house. Leadcast enables them to be more successful in sales, free up valuable time and have automation and algorithms do most of their dirty work.