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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.

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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:

  • Pick a speciality. If you're selling accounting systems, become the street-smart equivalent of a MBA and know the ins and outs of the life of a CFO. The fastest way to do this, of course, is to know your own organization's CFO. And once you've picked a specialty, master the ability to speak about it concisely!
  • Voice your opinion. When a CEO or other corporate leader asks for your opinion, give it! Be ready to give your opinion when asked.
  • Show up. In my experience, 80 percent of the job of winning trust and becoming a consultant in the eyes of a CEO can be accomplished simply by being there when you're supposed to and doing exactly what you've promised. I'm talking about your physical and emotional presence. The CEO must feel your belief in and conviction for the work you're doing.
  • Bring a team of experts to the table. Successful directors have resources behind them to help them get the job done--people who are energized and directed toward getting the job done. Make sure you've got the right pack behind you to complete the assignment!
  • Never stop adding value. "I can't be successful without you!" That's the mantra that you want every corporate leader you do business with to embrace. The way to make sure that happens is to make yourself and your products, services and solutions absolutely irreplaceable. You can't do that if you don't know your own product or service inside out.

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 www.sellingtovito.com.

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Tony Parinello has become the nation's foremost expert on executive-level selling. He's also the author of the bestselling book bearing the name of his sales training program,Getting to VITO, the Very Important Top Officer, 10 Steps to VITO's Office,as well as the host of Club VITO, a weekly live internet broadcast.