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.

By Tony Parinello

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The most successful businesspeople and corporate leaders are allabout long-term commitment to positive change. They surroundthemselves with people they can trust, people they believe can helpthem make that long-term commitment a way of life for theorganization. The question is, how do you become one of thosepeople?

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

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

The job of the best "directors" in the organization isalso to be a trusted advisor--a consultant of sorts--to the personat the top. People reporting directly to these individuals need tospeak the truth as often as possible to the leader. If you applythis thought to your sales efforts and yourinteractions with corporate leaders, you'll see that you canbecome a director of sorts--a trusted consultant or confidant--tothe person you're targeting. In fact, your mobility andautonomy as a salesperson gives you the freedom ofinter-departmental movement that many real directors just don'thave.

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

  • Pick a speciality. If you're selling accountingsystems, become the street-smart equivalent of a MBA and know theins and outs of the life of a CFO. The fastest way to do this, ofcourse, is to know your own organization's CFO. And onceyou've picked a specialty, master the ability to speak about itconcisely!
  • Voice your opinion. When a CEO or other corporate leaderasks for your opinion, give it! Be ready to give your opinion whenasked.
  • Show up. In my experience, 80 percent of the job ofwinning trust and becoming a consultant in the eyes of a CEO can beaccomplished simply by being there when you're supposed to anddoing exactly what you've promised. I'm talking about yourphysical and emotional presence. The CEO must feel your belief inand conviction for the work you're doing.
  • Bring a team of experts to the table. Successfuldirectors have resources behind them to help them get the jobdone--people who are energized and directed toward getting the jobdone. Make sure you've got the right pack behind you tocomplete the assignment!
  • Never stop adding value. "I can't be successfulwithout you!" That's the mantra that you want everycorporate leader you do business with to embrace. The way to makesure that happens is to make yourself and your products, servicesand solutions absolutely irreplaceable. You can't do that ifyou don't know your own product or service inside out.

The most important part of becoming a trusted advisor may wellbe your ability to establish, maintain and grow businessrelationships that have loyalty as their centerpiece. How do youwin loyalty? By offering it, of course. Here are just a few closingcomments 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 askingothers to ante up with." -- Jay Rogers, CEO of PhysicianStaffing Resources Inc.

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

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

Anthony Parinello is the author of the bestselling book Selling to VITO, the Very Important TopOfficer. For additional information on his speeches, SalesSuccess Kits and newest book, CEOs who Sell, call (800) 777-VITO orvisit

Tony Parinello

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.

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