February 25, 2013

Corporate sales training has seen a shift towards the consultative approach in the past 30 years, but there is still a long way to go. It seems the whole concept of “trusted advisor” is not fully understood in corporate business sales, which leads to the failure to close and a lack of confidence in this sales philosophy.

For those who might not be sold on the trusted advisor approach or have failed when using it in the past, here are some reasons that corporate sales training should give consultative sales methods a chance:

  • Get higher access: A transactional salesperson doesn’t really need to deal with a high-level corporate buyer, much less a C-suite executive. After all, a one-off transaction usually goes to whoever offers the most competitive margin, which anyone with a calculator can figure out. These sales folks are usually dealt with by underlings way down the totem pole. By acting as a trusted advisor and really understanding the prospect’s business, however, the chances for a more thorough conversation with higher-ups increases, allowing for the discovery of other areas of potential sales within the organization as well as referrals to higher-ups at other companies.
  • Become part of the team: That being said, as CBS Money Watch’s Geoffrey James humorously points out, no one really wants to buy from a trusted advisor. What he means is that corporate business sales really deal with solving business problems, not doling out advice like a sage. Executives would love for someone to solve an issue or even manage a piece of their business for them competently, and that is why they “hire” you to do this by buying your product or service. Want to become a trusted advisor in corporate sales? It all boils down to listening and solving the businesses’ problems with your offerings.
  • Create value in the sales process itself:  One big differentiator between traditional, manipulative sales and the trusted advisor approach is that, done correctly, the advisor approach can open the mind of the prospect to new possibilities never considered before. By learning about the prospect’s business, his competition, the market, and industry best practices, the trusted advisor can bring a lot more to the table than just a one-off solution — she can actually contribute to the growth of the company and therefore be rewarded with further business.

Corporate sales require a different skill set than B2C or small business sales. The stakes are higher and the “runway” to get to the close is often much longer. The consultative approach lends itself to this longer timeframe, as the trusted advisor knows that building a relationship takes a while, especially one which might lead to millions of dollars in sales.

Therefore, sales managers seeking better closing ratios from their corporate sales teams should correct any strange ideas of what being a trusted advisor really means in the minds of their people. Doing so will only result in a better ROI from any subsequent training sessions, and a bright and prosperous future for their companies.