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9 Traits of a Trusted Adviser

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When you think of a sales person what words spring to mind?

Many people view sales as underhand, sleazy and full of loud mouthed, aggressive, pushy people who have the gift of the gab who you shouldn’t trust as far as you can throw them. This couldn’t be further from the truth as people who fit this image tend to have short term careers as a sales professional.

To enjoy a long term career in sales you need a completely different approach than that envisaged by some. Research (Johnson, Grayson 2005) shows that the more trusted an individual is the greater their sales effectiveness. The people who have great records in sales are those who understand the need to build effective relationships with potential clients. The stronger the relationship the more likely a client is to heed the sales person’s advice. As the saying goes:

Fool me once, shame on you, Fool me twice, shame on me.

People will quickly realise if you are insincere and you are only really interested in what’s in it for you. If you are selling to them they might fall for your sales patter once, but you are unlikely to gain repeat business or personal recommendations from them.

If you want to be TRUSTED, be HONEST. If you want to be honest, be TRUE. If you want to be true, be YOURSELF.” Nishan Panwar

So how can you build effective relationships with people around you? Here are 9 of the most common traits of people who have managed this;

1. The Trusted Advisor: Is authentic

Trusted Advisors are genuine, real, individual people. People can sense when others are being insincere and the relationship never develops beyond the civil stage as the client mistrusts the sales person’s motives. Transparency is a critical factor in building relationships with people. They will warm to you if you are true to yourself and are straight with them in expressing your views. If you want people to reveal their true feelings and their thoughts about the subject matter discussed you need to start the ball rolling by being yourself and saying what you really think.

“Be yourself; everybody else is taken.” Oscar Wilde

2. The Trusted Advisor:  Puts clients’ interests first, rather than their own.

If you are focussed on what you want to get out of the relationship this becomes evident to a client as you are not really listening to what they think. You are not paying attention to them and are just waiting for an opportunity to achieve your goal. This smacks of insincerity and if you are really serious about building an effective relationship with a client, you need to listen to what is important to them. Sometimes this can mean you telling them that your products/services can’t help meet their specific needs at this time. Doing this, when appropriate, strengthens your client’s trust in you and they are more likely to return to you or recommend you to others as they know they can trust your opinion.

“When a consumer derives value – especially from something that was given to him for free – he becomes the best kind of evangelist.” Mitch Joel

3. The Trusted Advisor: Is genuinely interested in their clients and their businesses

When managing sales teams, I always found that the people who enjoyed the most success were those who were driven by curiosity. The best sales people I have ever worked with tended to listen far more than they talked. When with clients they asked great questions not to establish opportunities to sell, but more to understand a client and their business. By showing this level of interest their clients were more open with them and invariably opportunities were identified through the discussion. People who own or run a business are passionate about it and showing interest in them and their business allows them to share that passion. Listening, really listening, is the key skill here. This naturally strengthens the potential relationship as you are making them feel valued and they don’t feel they are merely a route to another sale.

“If you are not taking care of your customer, your competitor will.” Bob Hooey

4. The Trusted Advisor: Believes it is important to understand the client’s underlying needs not just wants.

A greater connection is made with others when you understand what drives them, what motivates them and with a client this requires you to ask in depth questions to encourage them to dig beneath the surface of what they think they want. Often a client needs to be challenged about why they are interested in a particular product or service. Gaining clarity on their true needs can often lead to the sales consultant recommending a completely different course of action. Not selling them “what they want” but rather “what they need” increases respect and can change the nature of the relationship and help develop greater levels of trust in the future.

“Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody’s going to know whether you did it or not.” Oprah Winfrey

5. The Trusted Advisor: Is reliable – they keep their promises.

If you are continually failing to do what you said you would do, people will lose respect for you and faith in your ability to deliver on your promises will be severely diminished. Clients want people they can depend on and when they know that you will keep your promises that you will deliver on time they will relax, safe in the knowledge that you will look after them.

“You can’t build a reputation on what you’re going to do.” Henry Ford

6. The Trusted Advisor:  Is credible

Clients are more likely to trust and be persuaded by people who they regard as credible, authoritative experts. The language we use helps a client assess our credibility, as does our level of confidence when talking about a particular subject. When faced with someone who is regarded as an expert in their field we will defer to their experience and place credence on their views. Sales people can strengthen their personal credibility by continuing to develop their knowledge and skill set. Demonstrating continual professional development is a key element of showing credibility to our clients.

“If people like you, they’ll listen to you, but if they trust you, they’ll do business with you.” Zig Ziglar

7. The Trusted Advisor: Connects emotionally

“People are persuaded by reason, but moved by emotion; [the leader] must both persuade them and move them.” Richard Nixon

He might have been talking about leaders, but Nixon’s comments apply equally to sales people. People can understand logical reasons to buy a particular product or services, but it doesn’t necessarily drive them to action. We need to build emotional connections with clients on a personal and business level. Understanding each other’s values and beliefs helps build these emotional connections as we gain an appreciation of what drives our behaviour. People tend to think in stories and visual imagery is an important draw for our imagination. If we are really going to connect with clients we need to draw pictures for them and tell stories to give them a connection to us, our company and our products/services.

“Nobody counts the number of ads you run; they just remember the impression you make.”  William Bernbach

8. The Trusted Advisor: Is genuinely passionate and enthusiastic

We all like to be around people who are passionate and enthusiastic in life, it rubs off on us and successful people often cite being around passionate people as a major factor in their own success. It is no different in a work situation, you can have the greatest product and service the world has ever seen, but if you can’t get excited about it why should anyone else? Enthusiasm is contagious, have you ever sat with someone who is laughing uncontrollably and you have started laughing with them even when you don’t know what they find so amusing? Your clients won’t welcome you back if you are dull, boring and unenthusiastic about your work and life in general!

“If your work is becoming uninteresting, so are you. Work is an inanimate thing and can be made lively and interesting only by injecting yourself into it. Your job is only as big as you are.” George C. Hubbs

9. The Trusted Advisor: Believes the goal is to develop a long term relationship and not merely achieve a short term gain

“You don’t close a sale; you open a relationship if you want to build a long-term, successful enterprise.” Patricia Fripp

If you think about your strongest relationships, do they tend to be the ones you have had the longest? Feedback from clients I have worked with tells me that their main priorities are to feel valued and to deal with a professional. Being with a sales person who is only interested in getting an order, doesn’t really listen to them, and isn’t interested in them as an individual is very unlikely to lead to a profitable relationship for either party. Word of mouth recommendation is possibly the most powerful and effective forms of advertising and this is likely to happen if your focus is on building long term relationships with your clients.

“Most people think ‘selling’ is the same as ‘talking’. But the most effective salespeople know that listening is the most important part of their job.” Roy Bartell

How many of the 9 traits are you currently displaying in your role?

If you were to ask your clients, how many would they recognise?

What could you do differently?

About the author: Michael Schofield is an associate lecturer and tutor on Business and Personal coaching courses and undertakes coaching projects for individuals and teams across the UK. He is also a member of the coaching framework for UK Sport.

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