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In the past, a salesperson would aspire to become their client’s trusted advisor. They wanted to be the person their client turned to when they needed help. To become a trusted advisor, a salesperson first needs to build trust. After trust, one must advise.

If you want your clients to treat you as a trusted advisor, you will need to develop a strong relationship, one deeper than the surface level connection that is the rapport building salespeople pursue. You also need to be an expert and an authority, by knowing more than your client and the many competitors vying for your client’s business.

It seems that many companies choose to follow the more transactional business model of technology companies. Many salespeople also suffer from an unwillingness to spend time with clients, and a push for velocity has caused sales leaders, sales managers, and salespeople to lose the thread. These factors are responsible, in part, for the poor state of B2B sales.

Every day, leaders receive emails pitching their solutions based solely on their title. LinkedIn is also used to pitch anyone who might have the authority to engage and potentially buy what the salesperson and their company sells. These types of emails, whether they are sent directly or automated, ensure the client’s first experience with the company is an inbox full of spam. Instead of showing up as a professional and an expert, they show up as beggars.

You will sell one of two ways. The first way you might sell proves you need something from your client. Selling this way will ensure you are never positioned as a trusted advisor. The second way you might sell as your client needs something from you.

How You Prevent Trust in B2B Sales

The more transactional your approach, the less trust you engender. When the way you sell causes your client to recognize you need a deal for yourself, you lose their trust. Humans can recognize when a person is self-oriented and pursuing what they want instead of the client’s goals.

One salesperson I know was not allowed to visit their clients because the sales leaders in his company believed it would take too much time. Instead, he had to sell over the phone, even though his clients were in the same city. Each salesperson was responsible for making 250 calls each day, proving their approach is transactional.

Always remember that anything you won’t do, one or more of your competitors are happy to do it in your stead. If you won’t give your client your time, you will never have the relationship you need to be a trusted advisor. One salesperson told me that his company is finally considering going back to face-to-face meetings.

How You Prevent Being an Advisor in B2B Sales

For as long as I have been writing here daily, I have suggested that, even when salespeople have their clients’ trust, they often fail to have the advice that would allow them to be advisors. First, we must lay the blame for the low level of sales effectiveness on sales leaders who have their priorities backward, focusing on efficiency instead of effectiveness. Activity that doesn’t produce the desired outcome is not efficient—no matter how little time it takes.

If we audited 100 sales organizations to determine how consultative they are by counting the number of times they counsel their client, offer advice, or offer a recommendation, the number would disappoint. The reason salespeople are wholly unprepared to provide a truly consultative sales approach is because their leaders don’t enable being an advisor. Most are comfortable with the legacy approach they used when they sold.

Without a sales methodology that is consultative and the insights that enable it, salespeople may be trusted without being an advisor. And just like that, we have lost another generation of salespeople to transactional selling approaches.

The True Nature of Sales in the 21st Century

Your buyers need a better salesperson, a better sales approach, and a better sales experience. If you believe selling is challenging, buying is even more difficult. Our current environment is one of great uncertainty. When a decision maker needs better results, they worry about making a poor decision and failing to improve their business results.

Throughout human history, leaders have turned to experts for help making crucial decisions. From kings to pharaohs to presidents, leaders look for a trusted advisor, one that can help them learn what they need to know to pursue their goals. A trusted advisor can help guide the decision-maker and give them confidence and certainty to move their business forward.

Most of the research suggests that trusted advisors are rare and scarce. A large part is due to the transactional and legacy approaches. But it is also because salespeople are not interested in doing the research, the reading, and the work it takes to organize their experience to allow them to lead their client as a trusted advisor. Until this changes, B2B sales will not improve the terrible current state.

The Decline and Fall of the Trusted Advisor

A good many salespeople believe selling is just a job; few believe it is a craft. The difference between these two beliefs explains why so few pursue mastery of consultative selling with the goal of becoming a trusted advisor.

In the future, there may be far fewer salespeople as the Gen Z demographic doesn’t seem remotely interested in sales. Those who sell will likely be an SDR or BDR, providing them with a poor understanding of professional sales. This poor start may cause them to determine sales isn’t for them and try a different job.

Unless sales leaders have a change of heart and build a high performing sales force with a high level of effectiveness, there will be few trusted advisors in B2B sales. Turning this trend around will require developing salespeople able to build trust with the ability to provide the advice that makes one a trusted advisor.

If you are a salesperson, you can pursue becoming a trusted advisor by doing the work of building a base of information and insights that will help your clients improve their business. Your clients will find you the most helpful when compared to the salespeople saddled with a transactional approach.


Post by Anthony Iannarino on August 14, 2023

Written and edited by human brains and human hands.

Anthony Iannarino

Anthony Iannarino is an American writer. He has published daily at thesalesblog.com for more than 14 years, amassing over 5,300 articles and making this platform a destination for salespeople and sales leaders. Anthony is also the author of four best-selling books documenting modern sales methodologies and a fifth book for sales leaders seeking revenue growth. His latest book for an even wider audience is titled, The Negativity Fast: Proven Techniques to Increase Positivity, Reduce Fear, and Boost Success.

Anthony speaks to sales organizations worldwide, delivering cutting-edge sales strategies and tactics that work in this ever-evolving B2B landscape. He also provides workshops and seminars. You can reach Anthony at thesalesblog.com or email Beth@b2bsalescoach.com.

Connect with Anthony on LinkedIn, X or Youtube. You can email Anthony at iannarino@gmail.com

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