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The shift from sales reps to trusted advisors

State of buyer engagement in

Buyers today can obtain product information and read reviews without ever talking to a salesperson, embarking on as much as 57% of the buyer’s journey alone. Because prospects and buyers are more educated their expectations have also increased.

Customers today expect salespeople to act as trusted advisors. When buyers come to salespeople, they expect sales to build off the research they’ve done, to provide them expertise, and provide additional sales collateral that they need to make a purchase decision. A trusted advisor is a salesperson, but a salesperson may not be a trusted advisor.

It is important to understand these b2b buying changes, why they are happening, what buyers expect, and how sales leaders and sales teams can adapt their strategies to the modern sales cycle.

Modernize traditional B2B selling

According to research from Forrester, sales teams in 2019 and beyond are increasingly moving to a consultative approach. Sales people that help buyers navigate through complex products or buying decisions are highly valued in today’s modern sales cycle. Modernizing traditional selling involves transforming sales representatives into trusted advisors.

So what exactly is a ’trusted advisor’? Anthony Iannarino, B2B sales industry speaker and thought leader, says the following about trusted advisors. “The idea of being a trusted advisor isn’t something separate from being a sales person; it is a set of behaviors and attributes that great salespeople possess. Being a trusted advisor means that you have the ability to diagnose your client’s business problems and challenges and then to make the right recommendations to improve their situation.”

Shift from sales rep to trusted advisor

Being a trusted advisor, presumably on top of day-to-day sales activities, sounds like a lot of work. Why would a sales rep want to take the extra steps and invest the additional effort to engage in consultative activities with their prospects?

Below are a few reasons to consider making the transition, many which revolve around the need for sales reps to develop trust and add value:

1. To adapt to changing buyer expectations.

Just as the B2B selling space is evolving, so are buyer expectations, needs, and requirements for their sales reps. There is also a higher perception of risk involved, as buyers fear reduction in job security, damage to their professional credibility, inability for the software to technically perform as promised, and loss of monetary investments.

2. To advance deals more efficiently and effectively.

Trusted advisors can move deals through the pipeline more quickly because of the relationship that they have built with prospects. Research shows that the more trusted an individual is, the greater their sales effectiveness.

3. To provide a better sales experience.

Sellers should focus on on the sales experience. A McKinsey study showed that 70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated. A sales rep that embodies the principles of being a trusted advisor can deliver a positive customer experience and prospects and customers are more willing to engage with sales conversations.

How do sales reps act like trusted advisors?

You can’t just be a trusted advisor – you have to work towards it and earn it. This role takes time and investment of effort, and it must be developed through deliberate actions.

Trusted advisors offer value and actionable insights. They do not just push products and try to make a sale. They focus on the customer’s ROI. They do not just consider price and revenue for their organization.

Trusted advisors think long-term and build relationships. They do not just go for short-term gains. Trusted advisors make decisions about what’s best for the customer. They don’t always prioritize their own interests.

Trusted advisors are constantly learning and are viewed as subject matter experts. They do not just scrape by with minimal knowledge. They constantly visit their company’s sales portal to stay updated on the latest industry, company, and competitor news.

1. Practice active listening and ask challenging questions

If a rep doesn’t understand what their prospect’s problem is, how can they sell a solution? Sales people act as trusted advisors by asking open-ended questions in order to learn about their customer’s needs, challenges, and pain-points. Top salespeople summarize prospects responses to show that they were actively listening and that they accurately understand the business problem.

2. Tailor to the buyer’s needs and emphasize value

B2B buyers look for vendors who understand their business and the challenges they face and who can offer valuable insights into resolving their pain-points and business problems. In fact, sales teams that challenge and engage prospects with value-add insights are twice as likely to hit their quota. Adding value to prospects means being able to provide perspective on the market, knowing what to say to support a prospect’s business case, and offering relevant content to help the prospect make a purchase decision.

3. Focus on honesty and building relationships

Prospects can tell when you are being insincere or simply pushing a product down their throat. Trusted advisors focus on sincerity, authenticity, and genuine passion. If a solution won’t solve the customer’s problem, then it shouldn’t be recommend. Top sales reps and trusted advisors focus on maintaining and preserving the relationship at all costs. If you want to keep your customers for the long term, you’ve got to become invaluable by becoming a consultant they can trust.

Sales enablement technology

Sales enablement technology helps shift sellers to be more valuable to buyers by acting as trusted advisors rather than salespeople. Sales enablement technology helps sales reps to become trusted advisors by equipping them with the tools to develop business relationships and build their credibility. This technology enables reps to be proactive rather than reactive by helping them know what to say, by recommending the right content at the right sales stage and increases buyer engagement.