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Earning the Status of Trusted Advisor

By David Yesford, Michael Leimbach, PhD

While it is all well and good—even honorable—really, to associate selling success with being a trusted advisor, what does it take to earn that status with customers in today’s buying environment?

Research by CSO Insights, the Aberdeen Group, and others has shown that just telling salespeople to be trusted advisors has not worked: Win rates have fallen and no-decision rates have grown. Customer behaviors seem to be saying that they don’t trust salespeople’s intent, and don’t see them as a credible advisor.

To address this concern, let’s explore three key principles that point the way to becoming a trusted advisor.

Customer behaviors seem to be saying that they don't trust salespeople's intent, and don't see them as a credible advisor.

1. Creating the Trust in Trusted Advisor

We have all seen articles stating that “relationship selling” is dead; however, salespeople will say trust, the foundation of relationship selling, is a must. Salespeople know that if you don’t have a strong, trusting relationship with your customer, you will never be seen as a trusted advisor, and you will never be successful.

First and foremost, creating a trusting relationship requires both a mindset and a set of actions. As a mindset, a salesperson must truly believe that his/her job is to help the customer solve their problem. Salespeople who mentally calculate their commission during a sale will quickly be seen for what they are–someone more interested in making the sale than they are in the customer’s needs and expectations.

In addition to having the right mindset, trusted advisors know how to demonstrate their sincere interest in helping the customer. The discipline of relationship selling is knowing how to show empathy, how to demonstrate credibility and competence, and how to anticipate customers’ concerns.

It is this mindset and set of actions that a salesperson must have to approach the sales process with authenticity, passion, and positive intent. Relationship selling is about who you are and what you do, and is communicated by actions focused on the customer and their needs. This leads to trust.

The best 'selling process' does not sell; it enables the customer to buy.

David Yesford

David Yesford, Senior Vice President of Wilson Learning Worldwide Inc. and Managing Director of Wilson Learning APAC, has more than 30 years of experience developing and implementing human performance improvement solutions around the world. He brings valuable experience, strategic direction, and global perspective to his work with clients. Mr. Yesford is an active member of the Wilson Learning Global Executive Board, with current responsibility at a global level. Over the years, he has held strategic roles in our core content areas of sales and leadership, as well as e-learning and strategic consulting. He has also held managing director positions in both China and India.

Mr. Yesford is the contributing author of several books, including Win-Win Selling, Versatile Selling, The Social Styles Handbook, and The Sales Training Book 2. He has also been published in numerous business publications throughout the United States, Europe, Latin America, and Asia Pacific. Mr. Yesford frequently speaks at international conferences and summits, focusing on issues such as sales and sales strategy, leadership, employee and customer engagement, brand, and strategy implementation.

Michael Leimbach, PhD

Michael Leimbach, PhD, is a globally recognized expert in instructional design and leadership development. As Vice President of Global Research and Development for Wilson Learning Worldwide Inc., he has worked with numerous Global 1000 organizations in Australia, England, Germany, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and throughout the United States. Over more than 30 years, Dr. Leimbach had developed Wilson Learning’s diagnostic, learning, and performance improvement capabilities, published over 100 professional articles, coauthored four books, been Editor-in-Chief for the highly acclaimed ADHR research journal, and is a frequent speaker at national and global conferences. He also serves on the ISO Technical Committee (TC232) on Quality Standards for Learning Service Providers and on the University of Minnesota College of Education and Human Development Dean’s Advisory Board.