What customers look for from a salesperson today is a lot different than what they wanted just a few years go.
The Sales Executive Council in Washington, D.C., conducted a recent survey that asked customers what they looked for from salespeople.
Here are the top five attributes they listed:
- Offers unique and valuable perspectives on the market. Customers look to salespeople to help them identify new opportunities to cut costs, increase revenue, penetrate new markets and mitigate risk in ways they themselves have not yet recognized. What sets the best salespeople apart is not the quality of their products, but the value of their insights.
- Helps me navigate alternatives. Customers look for salespeople who clearly differentiate themselves from the pack. They look for salespeople who can explain why they’re more valuable than others in the industry. These salespeople are able to stand apart and pinpoint areas where their unique advantages intersect with the customer’s critical needs. Customers don’t want to hear that there is only one way or a single solution. Options are essential because they create dialogue and discussion.
- Provides ongoing advice or consultation. Customer loyalty is much less about what you sell and much more about how you sell. The best salespeople don’t win through the quality of their products, but through the quality of the insight they deliver as part of the sale itself. They win customer loyalty not by “discovering” what customers already know they need, but by teaching them a new way of thinking altogether. Customers want salespeople to present innovative solutions to problems. They look for responsiveness and creativity.
- Shows me how to avoid potential landmines. Customers look for salespeople who understand their needs better than they do. These salespeople teach customers new perspectives, specifically tailored to their most pressing business needs. Salespeople have to know their customers’ business better than they know it themselves. Only then can they show customers different ways to think about their businesses and how to avoid potential pitfalls.
- Educates me on new issues and outcomes. Customers want someone who can challenge their assumptions. What data, information or insight can you provide that changes their thinking about their businesses? As technology opens new doors, overwhelmed customers find themselves looking for someone to guide them through the challenges they face.
Build credibility and trust
Here are six strategies to help you meet these customer desires by building credibility and trust:
- Increase credibility as a trusted advisor by bringing to the table innovative, highly differentiated solutions. Customers are so busy dealing with their own competitive pressures they may not have time to discuss tired ideas. What have you learned from other customers with similar issues that may help prospects or other customers?
- Do your homework. Focus on both results and the relationship. New conditions demand new strategies. Know more and turn that knowledge into value. Customers want insight. Go beyond asking good questions about the customers’ situation. Before getting in front of the customer, know the answers to questions about the customer’s own customers, competitors, strengths and weaknesses.
- Focus on results and relationships. Show commitment to your customer by adding value. Conduct periodic account reviews to summarize the value you’re providing and pinpoint areas for improvement.
- Market yourself more. As a salesperson in a competitive market, keep your name in front of targeted accounts as much as possible. Keep in touch with prospects through personal visits, emails or using the social media. Try to always have something of value to say or share with them.
- Go to school on your competitors. They have never been more aggressive or more vulnerable than right now. Develop defensive strategies for dealing with price slashes.
- Focus on your long-term vision rather than short-term results. Take the time to renew your goals weekly so that you’re focused on the long-term. Manager yourself wisely. Recharge or renew yourself and then put in enough effort to get where you want to be, not just enough to justify where you are now.
Source: Matthew Dixon is a managing director and Brent Adamson is a senior director with the Corporate Executive Board’s Sales Executive Council in Washington, D.C.