Why do customers perceive some sales people as trusted advisors and others as just the reps they get quotes from?
Most sales people want to become their customers’ trusted advisors, but there’s more to becoming a trusted advisor than just having a helpful attitude and great product and industry knowledge.
For a customer to truly view their sales person as a trusted advisor, the sales person has to know everything that is going on in the customer’s account, regardless as to whether they are directly involved in the solution delivery activities (product fulfillment, project services or post-sales support).
The challenge for most sales people is that they spend most of their time in contact management or CRM software and have little or no visibility into what is actually happening regarding solution delivery, administration, or support-related activities in their accounts.
The Problem with the Client Information Collection Process
If a sales person does want to stay on top of everything that is going on in their accounts, they have to rely on internal face-to- face meetings, handwritten notes, printed copies of documents and the odd excel spreadsheet of customer information.
The problem with this approach is that the minute they leave the office to go visit the customer, all of that information is now out of date.
So, if a customer asks their sales rep if their order has shipped, if the project is on schedule, if a trouble ticket has been resolved, or when their service contract expires, most sales reps don’t have that information available to them at their fingertips. They usually have to contact someone back at the office or wait until they get back to the office to provide the answers the client needs.
Even if the sales rep has some of those answers documented in their handwritten notes, the client may have conflicting information: “Well, that’s not what the PM told me earlier today.” or “That’s not what the last update in the customer self-service portal says.”. This is because client information is constantly changing and being updated and the reps hand written notes don’t reflect those changes.
So, how can the sales rep possibly have all the information required to be consistently up-to-date in order to provide the information the client wants in real-time and become the trusted advisor the client needs?
If your sales team are consistently out of step with the customer information, they quickly become perceived as just the person the client goes to for quotes. The customer has to go to someone else in your organization for real answers about what is going on in their account.
How Does Your Sales Team Provide Up-to-Date Real Answers to Clients to Become Their Trusted Advisor?
So, what’s a sales person to do? Accounting would rather stick needles in their eyes than give a sales person live access to the accounting system data. Project managers think it will take less time to just explain what is going on in a project to the sales person rather than give them access to their project management software; since the sales person may not completely understand the project plans anyway. The support department is too busy solving your customers’ problems to talk to the sales team at all. That leaves the sales person out in the cold, hunting around in a bunch of different systems for the information they need for the client. And your sales team doesn’t have time for that. You want your sales team to be efficient and spend their time closing sales, not on a treasure hunt for customer information.
What sales people really need, in order to become trusted advisors, is access to all of the operational information about their customer accounts, gathered in one easy-to-access place. The information needs to be delivered in a way that the sales team can quickly get a view of all of the activity and understand everything that is going on with that client so that he/she can communicate effectively with the client on any topic affecting their account. That means all of the opportunity, quoting, sales order, P.O., shipping, invoicing, project management, service contract, service call information needs to be at their fingertips at all times, wherever they are.
And, generally where are your sales people? In their car, on the road, visiting customers… so, it is even more critical that they can access all of the customer information from their smartphone or tablet in the field. That way, if anything has changed since they last checked, they can answer their customers’ questions with the latest information in real-time.
Consider giving your sales team real-time customer visibility with enterprise mobile-enabled PSA software. There are business software solutions for professional services companies available that provide a 360 degree view of the customer and access to all customer information from any mobile device.
Obviously, not every manager wants the sales reps to see everything; so, these software solutions have built-in privacy settings so managers can control what information the sales rep can access via role-based security.This allows the business to put some controls in place, while providing the sales rep with access to the information they need in order to earn trusted advisor status with their customers.
Unless you want your sales team to be thought of as the person the customer goes to for quotes, you should consider how arming your sales team with the information they need, wherever they are, whenever they need it, would help them build a trusted advisor status with your customers. The truth is that there is a long list of your competitors’ sales reps that your customers can go to for quotes, but far fewer that they consider “trusted advisors”. For more information on what tools you can provide your sales team with to help them become and stay trusted advisors, visit www.promys.com.