You can compete to allow you to win an order or a project, and you can compete to win a client for life. Once you succeed in the second approach, you no longer need to compete for orders or projects.
To win a client for life, the client must believe you are capable of taking care of all their needs. Your client will need to recognize that you are an expert and authority, someone who can help them make the decisions they need to succeed. You will become a decision-maker for the client.
Why Most Salespeople Are Not Trusted Advisors
Many people treat selling as a job instead of a craft. They believe selling is simply a way to make money. This superficial perspective prevents them from being someone their client can turn to for counsel and advice.
Why these salespeople struggle to win a client for life is because they don’t do the work. Instead of researching the client in preparation of their first meeting, they show up cold and ask questions they could easily answer in two clicks on the client’s website. Someone who doesn’t aim to be a trusted advisor fails to research the client’s industry to discover their headwinds and tailwinds. They are not willing to do the reading, so they won’t show up with a list of questions that prove they have done their homework.
To win a client for life, you must be willing to do the work to position yourself as someone who knows what other salespeople don’t know. You can ask well-crafted questions based on your research, or you can ask questions that prove you are not the average salesperson.
One necessary attribute that will position you as a potential long-term partner is your knowing more than your clients about the results they need. You can find this information disparity at the intersection of your industry and your client’s industry.
Most sales reps try to position their company and their solution instead of positioning themselves as experts who can educate their prospective clients. To execute this approach, know what your contacts don’t know. When we talk about creating value, we are talking about educating and leading your clients to the better results they need.
It is easier for a decision maker to give you an order or a project than it is to give you all their business. Your contacts will not trust you with their business if you don’t prove that you have a deeper understanding and greater experience than your contacts.
If your prospective client knows as much or more than you do, they may need you to take care of an order, but they will not hand their business over to you. You need to be the person your contact believes will ensure their success.
How You Know Where You Stand
Every meeting with buyers and decision-makers is an audition. Passing the audition means proving you can make decisions for your clients, making you a single source of advice and service. Reps unwilling to do the work to be One-Up will fail their audition. By not proving they can own the responsibility of helping the client make decisions, they get an order instead of a client for life.
The questions your contacts ask you in a sales call is evidence of how they perceive you. If they ask the same pedestrian questions they ask every sales rep, you may be considered for a project. When a contact asks you a question about what they should do, you have evidence that the client recognizes you are capable of being a long-term advisor.
Proactive Updates and Avoiding Problems
An average salesperson will take the order and move on to the next client. If a current client has a problem, the salesperson will loop back and try to provide them with another order. An exceptional salesperson is able to brief their clients about changes in the industry and proactively update them before they have a problem. This helps decision-makers feel comfortable delegating responsibility to the salesperson.
To own the category, you must prevent problems rather than waiting for your contacts to ask for help. You can only be a trusted advisor if your advice arrives before the client fails.
When your client recognizes they no longer need to pay attention to some area of responsibility because you have taken that on, you own the client as it pertains to that area.
The earlier you establish that you are prepared to own the responsibility, the faster you can build a client for life. This requires researching your client and their industry, even after you win the first order. Experts research, read, and study what they need to know to brief their client and help them make change before a failure forces them to do so.
How to Win a Client for Life
To win a client for life, you will need to stand out as someone who does their homework and puts in the effort to be a trusted advisor. You must also maintain information disparity, always being ahead of your client regarding the trends and forces that may cause them problems. Unless you protect your client from these problems, you invite a competitor to help your client change.
Greater responsibility for taking care of your client is a prerequisite for this relationship. As B2B sales becomes more transactional, a truly consultative approach will find you winning deals and developing long-lasting relationships built on value creation and caring.
Leaving this article, plan to do the research that would make you a cut above your competition. Study the value creation strategies that position you as a trusted advisor. Use what you learn to prove you are the only person your client needs to continually improve their results without having to worry they don’t know enough about the threats and opportunities for their business.