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Becoming a Trusted Advisor to your Prospects and Customers

If you want to keep your customers for the long term, you've got to become invaluable by becoming a consultant they can trust.
November 11, 2002

The most successful businesspeople and corporate leaders are all about long-term commitment to positive change. They surround themselves with people they can trust, people they believe can help them make that long-term commitment a way of life for the organization. The question is, how do you become one of those people?

It's been my experience that the following simple two-step "management model" applies to any size company you're targeting to do business with. If you picture a two-step ladder, with the highest rung being the position of the CEO, then the next level down is the person or people who "direct" the workforce. (This group excludes, of course, the board of directors and the CEO's personal assistant, who can be very powerful players indeed.)

These "directors" may have titles such as president, divisional president, county manager, dean of schools or general manager, just to name a few. They are held responsible for the implementation of the vision, and for meeting (or, preferably, exceeding) the expectations of the CEO.

The job of the best "directors" in the organization is also to be a trusted advisor--a consultant of sorts--to the person at the top. People reporting directly to these individuals need to speak the truth as often as possible to the leader. If you apply this thought to your sales efforts and your interactions with corporate leaders, you'll see that you can become a director of sorts--a trusted consultant or confidant--to the person you're targeting. In fact, your mobility and autonomy as a salesperson gives you the freedom of inter-departmental movement that many real directors just don't have.

If you pattern your value after the most trusted directors in the CEO's organization, you'll be well on your way to becoming a true consultative salesperson. Here's how to make that happen:

The most important part of becoming a trusted advisor may well be your ability to establish, maintain and grow business relationships that have loyalty as their centerpiece. How do you win loyalty? By offering it, of course. Here are just a few closing comments on loyalty from the CEOs I interviewed for my newest book, Secrets of VITO: Think and Sell like a CEO:

"Always put more of yourself at risk than you're asking others to ante up with." -- Jay Rogers, CEO of Physician Staffing Resources Inc.

"People at the top hire coaches. Become one!" -- Bob Posten, CEO of Landis Strategy & Innovation.

"Don't try too hard. If you do, people will have a hard time trusting you." -- Jennifer Ash, CEO of Tomco Tool and Die

Anthony Parinello is the author of the bestselling book Selling to VITO, the Very Important Top Officer. For additional information on his speeches, Sales Success Kits and newest book, CEOs who Sell, call (800) 777-VITO or visit