If you are going to be a trusted advisor, you need only two things: trust and advice.
The slide deck that your company has provided you, the one that starts with your company history and your great successes, is not advice. It a proof provider designed to give you credibility in front of your prospective client, an outcome that is rarely—if ever—obtained.
The logos of the big companies you serve and their testimonials are proof that people like you and believe you do good work, or at least good enough that continue to buy from you. The logos are still an attempt to prove that you are a safe choice, a reputable company, and someone that can be trusted with your dream client’s business.
Your products, your services, or your solutions are also not advice. They may be something that makes sense to recommend, but only in context of a much larger conversation. By themselves they provide nothing that resembles advice, and they do nothing to position you as a potential strategic partner. When you rely on what you sell to give you credibility and create a preference, you aren’t anything close to providing advice.
There was a time when it would have been safe to believe that if what you sell comes with little risk, is inexpensive, and isn’t a complex decision with many factors to consider, that the approaches above may have been acceptable. But in B2B sales now, even if a sale that shouldn’t be considered complex, they more and more resemble a complex sale, meaning these approaches are less effective over time.
The “advice” thing isn’t easy to acquire. You have to work in an industry long enough to know how things work for you and your clients. You have to develop a deep interest in business, preferring CNBC to Howard Stern or banal political shows where people yell at each other over issues manufactured to split you into a voting segment. You have to spend time with your clients, allowing them to teach you their business, how they think about their most strategic decisions, and how someone like you should be helping them. More still, you have read, study, know things, and gain the experience that gives you the credibility to offer your advice.
If this seems like a daunting task, know for certain that it is. If it seems out of reach, know for certain it is not. If you want to be successful selling B2B you need to be intentional in learning what you need to know and seek out the experiences that will in-form your counsel later on (but sooner than you might believe). Your intentionality here will differentiate you from most, and everyone who has what you want started where you are now.
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Filed under: Sales