July 08, 2009

Repositioning yourself as: ‘Consultant’, ‘Advisor’ & ‘Specialist’?

In recent years most sales
professionals underwent a re-branding when it became unfashionable to be a sales person, or sales rep.

As a result we were re-packaged as a 'consultant', 'advisor', 'specialist', or some other more more impressive sounding title.

In many cases it was only optics however, little changed as regards the level of knowledge, or skill, or approach from the perspective of the customer. It was salesperson under a different guise.

What is in a name?

From 'sales person' to 'advisor' is a small change in words, but potentially a major change in attitude and approach. Our softer job titles are designed to put customers at ease, but if the titles do not match reality the buyer will not be fooled.

Nobody wants to be sold to. Yes, people need to buy things and making the right choice is getting more and more difficult. But, few want to be sold to. That's because most sales people make the buyer's decision, more, rather than less difficult. Being an expert rather than a salesperson should open new doors and new conversations. That is why being an expert, advisor, or specialist is so important.

There is a psychological advantage of being a expert too. That is because salespeople begin to
walk taller when they see themselves as an expert, or consultant. They also begin to act a little different.

What does it mean to be an expert?

It means you are able to ask the right questions and answer questions
confidently in turn. I t means you are in a position to expertly advise potential customers, from a position of knowledge not only of your products and services, but of their business and industry.

That is very important for two reasons. First, the buyer has lots of ways of getting the information that he, or she needs on our products and those of your competitors. Ways, such as analysts and the web, that are often more credible that what a salesperson has to say.

The second is that your products, or services are not really what they customer needs. They are a means of solving a problem or exploiting an opportunity in their business. So, rather than focusing on product features and benefits, the message that the buyer needs to hear is the impact on their business and the results that they can achieve.

With all this talk of expert and specialist, take care. It does not mean you must be a know it all, indeed seeming to be one is to be avoided at all costs. After all, the real role of an expert is to facilitate, offer insights and help people arrive at the answer, rather than to tell people what they should do.

Making it easy for the customer to buy.

The best sales person I ever knew, embodied the notion that helping rather than selling was the name of the game. 'I am a bad sales person' he was fond of saying, add that he 'needed to make it very easy for his customer to buy'.

Along the same lines, Brian once asked me more than six times in succession what he had sold during his career. Knowing he had been the pioneering sales manager for a dairy group in the Middle East I confidently responded 'milk', then 'dairy products', then 'long life dairy products' and so on. Every time he simply replied no. Eventually, he said that he sold what every successful sales person sells - 'confidence'. That is confidence on the part of the buyer, not the seller, of course.

Anyhow, enjoy your new title, but lets be careful to ensure that you live up to it.

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