Becoming a Trusted Advisor to Clients
Do people see you as a trusted advisor?
From a salesperson’s point of view, potential clients begin as a list of names. At the end of the day those names are thought of as potential dollars. Sometimes what they really are gets lost in the quest for more sales.
But if you adjusted your perspective towards your clients, you can not only make more sales but help more people in the process. The change comes first with recognizing that those potential clients are actually real people with real life problems – problems that they are willing to pay to get resolved. Keeping this in mind is an important part of of your recipe for success.
The next step is to realize that you also have a specific set of skills that is unique to you. Those skills are your experience helping similar types of clients. If your product or service is in a narrow niche you may already know this, but what if you are selling has broader applications? In that case, you may want to shift your perspective and look at who your customers are and how you can use your experience with each of your clients to help another.
This is one way that you will set yourself apart with your clients from the competition. It goes beyond just creating and developing your unique selling proposition. But it’s difficult to make this shift in how you approach your clients. You’ve likely been trained to focus on the unique selling proposition of your company and told that it will set you apart.
You can really stand out by making prospective clients know that you understand that they are unique.
Setting yourself apart includes taking advantage of personal skills, experience and expertise. Look at your prospect list and compare it to your list of past clients. There are likely similarities there. There are probably several prospective clients with the same concerns as past clients, concerns that go beyond the application of your product.
This is a secret part of selling that I have found to be key to success. You should find that clients business interesting enough for you to learn what value you can bring to that business.
Stress this to your client and suddenly you are looking different then other salespeople with a similar product.
The rewards are that you’ve just elevated your expert status in the eyes of your clients.
You’ve just demonstrated that you are uniquely qualified because of this experience and that will instantly set you apart from the competition that is still using a blanket approach to selling their product.
It’s a subtle shift in your selling technique but it is an effective one. There is no better (or easier) way to set yourself apart from the competition then to highlight your unique experience. This is not what happens most of the time with sales calls. Usually, the salesperson gets caught up extolling the virtues of the product.
Prospects not only want to know the solution, but they want to know how the solution applies to them specifically.
Instead, they usually get a long list of benefits—many of which apply to them, but also many that don’t.
You can fix this by taking the time to know your clients. Stop looking at them and seeing dollar signs and start seeing them as real people with real—unique—problems to which you have the solution. Then start figuring out how your product can help each client specifically.
How Sales Techniques Work – Relationship Selling
All you have to do is go to your local store and stand by the return counter and wait. Every so often there will be one customer who will catch your attention – and not for the right reasons. Their voice will begin to get louder, and you will begin to see the feeling of frustration with the employee who is trying so diligently to help this customer out. Sometimes no matter how appropriately you follow procedure and protocol on dealing with clients, there are some people who you will never be able to satisfy.
Some people feel this way in their relationships, as well. And, it is usually at that point that the person will sit back and evaluate the pros and cons of the situation or relationship. Is the amount of aggravation and stress really worth it? It may be easier to walk away from a relationship with a few battle scars. However, in the business world, there is a little more at stake – sometimes millions of dollars.
Our jobs today are hard enough. Downsizing, for example, now expects us to get the job done with less manpower. And with the every present elephant in the room – the pressure to make our numbers – it becomes increasingly difficult to pick and choose the clients that we would like to have in our portfolio.
THiS IS NOT ALWAYS YOUR ONLY OPTION.
At a certain point in our lives, we seem to really "wake up" to what really matters in our lives. As stated in my prior blog, the better we know ourselves and really understand what makes us "tick", the better we will be at directing our lives in the direction that we intended. We become more careful in the friends that we choose, and will sometimes "weed out" the ones that no longer fit in our lives. So why, then, do we have to feel as if we need to put up with customers who will never be happy?
We all know what a poison will do to our bodies. It will branch out to all of the major organs and systems in our body until finally it becomes too much to handle, eventually killing you. Now this may sound like an extreme example, however, the truth of the matter is that stress can kill, and the older we get the more tuned in we get to how important the way we spend each minute of our day really is.
Of course, we all need to work, and there are some of us, like me, who feel as if they were born to work. I am saying this to show you that I am not wimping out and telling you that every difficult customer that comes along should be "dismissed".
However, what I am saying is that IT IS OK TO CHOOSE YOUR CUSTOMERS AS MUCH AS THEY CHOOSE YOU.
The world is full of an infinite amount of personalities and temperments, and as it is through this "fine tuning" process that we will get better at which business relationships are just not worth your energy.
Look hard at the types of clients that you are serving. Who do you REALLY enjoy working with? Who do you dislike? By first identifying the kind of clients you want your business to have, you cam work on attracting those specific kinds of people. HOW? Quite simply, JUST DROP THE BAD ONES. Call them up and politely tell them that you do not want to do business with them anymore.
Looking at this quickly from the outside, it may seem like the last thing you should do. However, by doing this you will come to enjoy your job more and have increased energy and focus for the clients that you do like.
it's very similar to the laws of attraction. If you keep good, positive clients around, more good clients will come to you. And, in the end you will be working for the clients that you like with a renewed energy.
Having a positive energy and attitude at your job will spread to others like wildfire. And by no means is anyone saying that you should turn down money making opportunities when things get too hard. Rather, just know that it is OK to be selective, and go with your "gut feeling" sometimes. The farther you get in your business world, the more you will trust your own instincts, and the more confident you will feel in every decision that you make.
Determining which clients add value will allow you to enjoy your job more and have increased energy and focus for the clients that you do like. If you keep good, positive clients around, more good clients will come to you.
In a tough market your current key accounts are like gold dust. And never forget that your key accounts are your competitor’s key prospects (and vice versa).
So what points does a key account manager have to remember right now?
1. Work like you were on their payroll not yours
If you are doing your job 100% then your customers should feel like you are representing their interests more than your own company’s (in reality you are representing both equally).
2. Know about your customers’ customers
How can you be a real business partner if you don’t know about the business they are in? Learn about their competitors and other suppliers. Read the press. Go to the websites. Study the blogs. Look at the annual accounts and directors’ reports. Become an expert in your customers’ business and you will often find you know more than most of their employees!
3. Innovate and be seen to contribute to competitive advantage
It is important to be seen as a business which moves ahead and makes progress – even if those innovations are not directly relevant to each customer. If their strategy is low price/high volume then help them to save cost. If they are a premium price supplier help them to justify that position by better quality. If they are niche strategists help them to seem different.
4. The more business they give you the more you give them in return
The worst crime is to take them and their business for granted. Give them more service, more value added and maybe even better prices – before they ask for them all. Even loyal clients can be very fickle and emotionally swayed. Make sure they not only feel good but also can justify continuing to give you their business – they may be challenged by procurement, top management or even by your competitors.
5. Maximum friends – minimum enemies!
Of course it’s a lot better if everyone likes you as well as knows you – and that means everyone you come in contact with regardless of their level or apparent importance. Not everyone can love everyone else in any walk of life but always try to adapt your behaviour to the personality type you are dealing with. Never allow any disagreement or conflict to remain open. Do you know why you need everyone to feel positive about you? Because you and your company are human and therefore will make mistakes from time to time. Friends help you solve problems. Enemies love to spread the word about them!
6. Keep in touch with organisational changes
People come and go and get reorganised. Strategies and priorities change. Change is a threat to you if you are a current supplier – so stay close to all your client contacts so that you learn about it fast. Change is an opportunity for a new supplier – so make sure that you behave like a new supplier even if you are the old one!
7. Build your contact base
Your success will usually depend on a wide range of people – users, authorisers, influencers, budget holders, procurement, consultants etc. How many of them do you know personally? How many do you keep in regular touch with? Every gap in your contact base is a threat to you and an opportunity for someone else.
Key account management should really be called “key account development”. You’re not aiming just to manage the business you’re aiming to build it. The best way to be a top key account manager is to develop your business by helping your customers’ to develop theirs!
TACK’s Client Centred Selling methodology is built round these principles and the TACK IQ software that goes with it is designed to help you make it all happen in practice.