B2B sales professionals acknowledge that the internet has an impact on the way their prospects buy. Buyers conduct research to identify their business needs and find solutions to address those needs. According to research conducted by CEB/Gartner, B2B buyers conduct almost 60% of their research online before they even reach out to a solution provider. This shift in buyer behavior is causing a fundamental change in the buyer-seller relationship! So why strive to be a Trusted Advisor?
Growing buyer apathy towards salespeople
To put the implications of this change in sharper focus, findings in a recent report The Growing Buyer-Seller Gap, published by CSO Insights, less than 23% of B2B buyers surveyed selected “Vendor Salespeople” as one of the top three resources used to solve business problems. This weakness in resource preference is having a significant impact on when buyers choose to engage salespeople. The CSO Insights report goes on to say that 70.2% of buyers surveyed wait to engage a salesperson until after they have fully defined their needs and almost half of surveyed buyers (44.2%) identify needs and select a solution before engaging a salesperson.
Trust is at the center of B2B Selling
First the bad news. According to LinkedIn’s 2020 State of Sales Report, only 40% of buyers describe the sales profession in general as “trustworthy” while 25% describe the profession as “morally and ethically challenged.” Now for some good news! For sales professionals, one factor can stem the tide of buyer indifference and provide a competitive advantage – trust!
In the same 2020 report, LinkedIn has found that 35% of sales professionals surveyed said that trust is a critical factor in closing deals and 25% ranked it second. They ranked ahead of ROI and Price. The LinkedIn report goes on to say, “With salespeople and buyers agreeing about the value of trust, it’s comforting that our survey indicates that successful salespeople do win the trust of buyers – 88% agree that the salespeople they ultimately buy from are “trusted advisors”. Clearly establishing that trusted professional relationships is still at the center of B2B selling.
How do I build trust with the B2B buyer?
Statistics point to the critical need for trust in the buyer-seller relationship. With that in mind, how can sales organizations establish trust with their buyers? One answer is to pursue the role of Trusted Advisor to the buyer. However, achieving this level of endorsement is far easier said than done.
Saying you are a Trusted Advisor doesn’t make it so in the eyes of the customer. To achieve this level of relationship requires strategic intent. It also requires a desire to put the needs of the customer first in every interaction. Without this commitment, the term Trusted Advisor is simply a cliché.
A Trusted Advisor:
- Strives to understand the customer’s business at a strategic level
- Understands the gravitational pull of status quo
- Provides buyers with valuable insight and alternative perspectives
- Prepares and asks insightful questions and has strong critical listening skills
- Possesses a strong sense of situational and self-awareness
- Provides a vision for what is possible beyond the gravitational pull of status quo
- Demonstrates a genuine passion for the buyer’s success on both a business and personal level
- Understands that being a Trusted Advisor is about value creation for prospects and for customers
- Articulates a strategic point of view and will pursue the best solution even if it is a difficult path
Benefits of Trusted Advisor status
- Ability to define and shape the prospect’s solution concept early in the decision process
- Play an active role in the customer decision process by providing them with education, fresh perspective and guidance
- Reduce the buyer’s sensitivity to competition and to pricing pressures that can erode profitability
- Shorten the sales cycle by being able to identify and mitigate issues early in the buying process
- Gain customer access and endorsement for cross-selling and upselling opportunities
- Insulate your position within an account when changes in decision influencers occur.
- Become a trusted go-to-source for solution ideas and earn “first look” advantage for new opportunities in development
The world of B2B sales is changing rapidly regardless of what business sector you compete in. The integration of technology and AI, the ubiquity of information and the consolidation of buying decisions within companies will require a new generation of sales professionals. Regardless of the technology advancements, the value of human connections and trust are essential in the buyer-seller equation.
Companies that focus on building trust, transparency, accountability, and putting customers first will always benefit from a competitive advantage. Aspiring to become a Trusted Advisor is the individual expression of that business approach.
For more information visit p3sixtyadvisors.com/welcome!