Nobody Wants to Buy from a "Trusted Adviser"

Last Updated Oct 28, 2011 5:04 PM EDT

Every time I hear somebody say that B2B selling means "being a trusted adviser," I feel like laughing. Or puking, depending on my mood at the time. There is no concept floating around the sales world that is more silly and useless than that of the "trusted adviser."

Your customers don't want an an "adviser." They also don't want a "consultant", which is much the same things. Savvy businesspeople know that the terms "adviser" and "consultant" are simply shorthand for "parasites with opinions."

In fact, your customers actually expect much, much more of you. They want you to manage a key element of their business better than they can to it themselves! In other words, the customer wants you to be a manager -- of a part of their business.

For example: suppose your firm supplies glue to car manufacturers. They are perfectly capable of buying raw materials from chemical companies and making their own glue.

The reason that they're buying glue from you is because they've concluded that it's easier to have somebody else worry about all that aspect of their business. So they're not buying glue...not really.

What they're really doing is outsourcing the "glue manufacturing" part of their business to your firm. And they want YOU to manage it. That's a heck of a lot more important than providing "advice" or "consultation."

In other words, B2B selling is a MANAGEMENT job. You're there to manage that part of their business.

How do you do that? Simple. Here's a five step process:

  • STEP #1: Understand the function that your firm is supplies. Obviously, you need to know what your company offers in products and services, but what's important is to understand the role those offerings play in the customer's business. For example, if your company provides software that helps companies manage their supply chain, it's far more important that you understand how supply chains work than exactly how your software works.
  • STEP #2. Know how that function fits into the customer's business. What's important here isn't the basic knowledge, but the deep knowledge that a manager in the customer's industry would understand completely. How does does that function add to profitability? How is it currently accomplished? How do other companies in the industry accomplish it? How does the function impact other parts of the company?
  • STEP #3. Manage that function for the customer. The customers does not want you to sell them something so that they can "own" it. They want you to be personally committed, and your firm organizationally committed, to making sure that the function happens, for them, on-time and on-budget. BTW, this is the total crux of "customer satisfaction" -- are you delivering the function in a way that keep the customer from having to think and worry about it.
  • STEP #4. Know how to manage your internal team. If you're going to be a manager (for the customer) and deliver that function (to the customer), you';; need a team that can deliver. Therefore, you've got to understand how to work whatever systems and relationships are in place at your firm, so that your customer gets that function performed reliably and consistently. If you can't work your own firm, then you're useless to the customer.
  • STEP #5. Balance the competing interests. As a manager of a important function, you must be able to make sure that both the customer, and your firm, have a mutually profitable relationship. You are the representative of your firm in the customer's management chain, and you are simultaneously the representative of your customers' firms in your own management chain. It's up to you to consistently create the proverbial win-win scenarios.
Being successful in B2B sales today means more than sitting on your duff and providing "advice" and "consultation" while somebody else does the real work. If you're not willing to own the function that your company provides, you're just an "adviser" or "consultant" or (worse, and more likely) an order taker.

READERS: You'll find plenty of similar tips and techniques in my new book How to Say It: Business to Business Selling now available for pre-sale here:

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