Customers Talk To Those They Trust!

By Jay Valentine

Trusted Advisor Selling — Selling That Works!

The Trusted Advisor

In an age when nobody takes calls, trusted advisors are the way in.

Tech buyers live in a jungle of familiarity where most products look pretty much the same. Vendors spend 40 percent to 70 percent of revenue, sometimes, over 100 percent in VC-funded endeavors, to influence those buyers. Marketing machines churn out whitepapers, Marketo-SPAM emails, and ABM (account-based marketing) lead gen initiatives. Most buy DiscoverOrg lists with the same names and at the same firms for their reps to call.

Buyers cannot recognize anything in that technology jungle — everything looks the same. Everyone uses the same words. Their websites look the same. They are, within a category, virtually indistinguishable.

The common reaction of the Sales VP and the CEO is to train sales teams with massively expensive selling techniques such as GrowthPlay — thus their reps spout the same mantra as their competitors. “Mr. Prospect, let’s imagine the after-state of how your operation will look when we solve this problem.”  Everyone says it!

Sales training and tactics for the last generation were about persuading that buyer when you were in front of him or her. That doesn’t work when one cannot get an appointment.

Buyers do not take calls. They do not take appointments. They do not meet with sales reps to offer responses about, “So, what keeps you up at night?” They hide their identities using Hotmail.

The art of persuasion is in a different place in today’s B2B selling model. The issue is persuading a potential buyer to pay attention. Buyers do what we all do when looking for something new: They talk to friends and trusted advisors.

The transaction-minded B2B selling machines crank out user stories, flood their websites with logos of other victims, and post endless videos of low-level customer managers discussing how some product changed their lives.

We talk to transaction-level VP of Sales types all the time. They all agree buyers are most influenced by trusted advisors. Being transaction minded — which is not a compliment — they say, “We train our sales reps how to become trusted advisors to the business.”

Really?

Some 28-year-old kid is talking to a senior executive about how she can move them to the digital transformative promised land? Just bet a career on it because they have read the annual report and DiscoverOrg material, they are a trusted advisor!

This fails every time it is tried. Wake up.

Your sales teams are by definition never a trusted advisor because they are there to sell their stuff, period. They can ask all the “challenger questions” but the buyer wisely knows this is another sales tactic.

Trusted advisors inhabit the circle of incumbent vendors. They are the consultants who have long-standing relationships with the key executives. They know the information not contained in the DiscoverOrg report about buying intentions and problems to be solved.

They are trusted because they have delivered. Your sales rep has not.

Members of our sales teams identify key accounts to penetrate. We work to find incumbent vendors. Sometimes it is a plumbing vendor like VMware or a security product. Those are never the trusted vendors for the exec.

There are the consulting groups with a vested need to bring in new solutions. We invest the time to show them how radical digital transformation is happening in our accounts. They get to know us and some of our customers.

Often, before we even ask, they bring us in for a casual lunch with the key executive. In several cases, they asked to meet our small but quite impressive customer base. We are happy to oblige. Now they owe us.

The cost of sales here is close to zero. The cost of marketing is zero. The benefit is we now are connected to an advisory, boutique in nature, who takes us into multiple accounts.

The greatest benefit is nobody else does this. It is too hard. It does not map to quarterly performance metrics. Transaction mindsets will not invest in trusted advisors because they are, well, transaction minded. This is a strategy, not a transaction.

Do what others are not doing and you will find the way to the buying executive. You can be sure you will be one of the only ones doing it.

Reprinted from Software Executive Magazine OnLine

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