7 Benefits of going from a salesperson
to The Trusted Advisor in your market
- A Salesperson: Anyone given the job or hired as a salesperson. You can have the title of a salesperson the very first day you get hired. A stack of business cards and a price list and you are now a salesperson.
- A Professional Salesperson: This is a salesperson who knows how to sell and has a certain level of technical knowledge about their products and how they serve the customer. This level can certainly be rewarding enough for many people and provide for a successful sales career.
- A Trusted Advisor: This person has entrenched themselves into their industry and developed their own personal brand. Let’s dig into what it is and why you would want to become one.
Selling in any profession can be tough. Selling in agribusiness can be even tougher. Our farmers (customers) operate on narrow margins. They have high cash investments to plant a crop or raise livestock. Our customers manage a complex, high cash, low margin business with sometimes limited business experience. They use price resistance as their weapon of choice to get salespeople off their farms.
As sales professionals that attempt to sell to these farmers, we have to deal with an army of competitors. Yet, most will act almost exactly like their competitors. However, today begins your journey to becoming a trusted advisor.
The goal of every sales professional is to somehow go out into the market and differentiate themselves. They struggle to sell their products at higher prices than the competition as there is always someone willing to sell it cheaper. They want to be viewed differently than their competition. Often, they tell me they don’t go out and try to sell their customers. “I just go out there and get to know them”, they say.
So, I ask them a few questions. “Do your customers have time for non-work-related discussions? Are they looking for more friends? Or friends that also try to sell them something? How could you change that conversation to topics that pertain to the reason you stopped at their farm? “
WHY Become a Trusted Advisor? Before digging into what it means to be a Trusted Advisor, let’s uncover why you would want to aspire to this level in your career.
7 Benefits of Using the Trusted Advisor selling approach to your career
- Faster selling process
- Less price resistance (I didn’t say any price resistance)
- Less customer turnover
- More referrals
- More share of the customer’s spending on your product line (share of wallet)
- More impact on your customer’s business and livelihood
- More rewarding career
What is a Trusted Advisor? There are several definitions, but those I have known went above and beyond the typical salesperson’s abilities. They entrenched themselves so deep into their industry that they had a very strong personal brand. In many cases, their personal brand is stronger than their company or product brand. Customers do business with them. And by them, I mean a customer might only buy from a company because “Paul” or “Mary” is their salesperson.
Trust is at an exceptionally high level between the Trusted Advisor and the customer. Customers share more of their business and personal life details with their trusted advisor than with any other salesperson in the market. It’s as if you now have a seat on your customer’s board of directors.
In addition to being a great representative of their company, a Trusted Advisor continuously strives to learn more about areas outside of their direct product line. The agronomist will learn about their customer’s livestock business. The equipment salesperson will learn about how their customer purchases crop inputs or how they make grain marketing decisions.
As a salesperson, you go farm to farm all day long and learn how your customers are having success or making mistakes. You learn from these discussions. Over the course of a year, you might be on 400-500 farms and in front of hundreds of customers in meetings and network events. These are all opportunities to become more proficient in your role as a Trusted Advisor.
How do I become a Trusted Advisor? First and foremost, you have to learn how to become a competent professional salesperson.
The components of a professional salesperson are:
- Technical Skills: Knowledge of your products, your company, and how to use them for the benefit of the customer.
- Territory Management: How to run your territory like a small business. This is where to go, who to call on, and the rest of your go-to-market strategy.
- Selling Skills: These are what to do when standing in front of a customer. How to ask better questions, how to present your products, and how to close a sale.
After those skills are achieved, you can begin developing into the Trusted Advisor. To help others achieve this level of success, I looked back over what I did and what other salespeople did. How did these individuals set themselves apart? And, how can another salesperson learn to replicate those actions in a shorter period of time?
I found these seven essential skills to be key components of a salesperson stepping up and becoming a trusted advisor.
7 Essential Skills in Becoming a Trusted Advisor
- Work Ethic
- Interpersonal Skills
Some call these soft skills, which is a poor description. They are some of the most difficult to learn and even more difficult to implement in real life. There is no specific action item to develop these skills. If you want to be a leader in your industry, it takes a series of actions over the course of time. It’s a continuous journey to become better every day.
Each of these seven skills is focused on three areas: Customers, Company, and Industry
If you look at the skill of communication. It’s probably one of the easiest to learn and implement. In most cases, it’s simply doing what we know we should do. It’s being available. It’s answering your phone, which is step one in being trusted. Then, you break down communication skills by improving communication with your Customers, within your Company, and finally within your Industry.
For example, an equipment salesperson I worked with was an absolutely phenomenal communicator. He had the ability to reach out efficiently to customers, know what type of equipment they were looking for, and connect them. He was also a great internal communicator within his company. He fostered a relationship with parts and service managers beyond what any other salesperson had done. This allowed him to keep customers more up-to-date on when their equipment was in the shop or completed. Within the equipment industry, he stayed connected to several members of the trade association. Occasionally being asked to be on panels or speak at trade shows. This clearly showed his customers his commitment to becoming a trusted advisor in that part of the world.
One important point to mention is that you don’t have to use all of them in your journey. The successful salespeople I know used their strongest skills to set themselves apart.
I wish you the best in your efforts in reaping the benefits as you journey from salesperson to professional salesperson and ultimately become a Trusted Advisor.