"You need to trust me on this..."
I think that every time I hear this phrase, just maybe, I should have been listening more intently or more openly to everything that you had been talking about up to the point that you then said, “trust me on this…”. Just maybe all that other stuff that I had been listening to prior to “trust me on this…” was either not that important, or maybe I shouldn’t have trusted the accuracy of what you had been talking about. I don't know, and maybe it's just me, but the phrase is like chalk grating on the chalkboard (and yes, I still use chalk & chalkboards at MIT and Tufts.)
As a sales guy, I put in around 50,000 miles a year of windshield time, which means a new car every year. As a result, when I’m in bad cell areas (most of Vermont & NH, by the way), I listen to NPR a lot, and love “Click & Clack, The Car Guys”. Last Saturday, they reported on the “the top least trusted professions”. #1 was not lawyers, by the way; it was car salespeople, followed by car mechanics and then, with apologies to all of my lawyer friends, by the lawyers.
And why do car salespeople head the list year after year? Everything is about the price. They lead with price. They try to equalize price with value. They advertise and market price. They negotiate price by showing us their invoiced cost because, as their friend, they want us to “trust them on this”. And, all of that selling on price happens in the first 30 minutes after walking in the door. Creating trust? I don’t think so. It’s why for the past 10 years, I’ve never gone to a dealership and have bought all my cars online including it being delivered to my house.
Selling on price merely earns you the title of “vendor” as in vending machine, or as in street corner vendor. “Vendor” is the lowest rung on the selling ladder, and being an “approved supplier”, which is the next rung up, isn’t really that much better. Those of us who sell relatively complex products and services, need to think through the selling process as climbing a ladder rung by rung over time such that we reach those higher rungs of “strategic business advisor” and ultimately earning the title of “trusted partner”.
At the trusted partner level, you’re selling product and service effectiveness and the long term financial value that you bring your customer. At that level, “price” is replaced with “total cost of ownership”, “ROI”, and “cost-effective business use cases”, and although the price is always a consideration, it’s wrapped in discussions which take place as an integral peer level member of the team which has one business manager discussing business solutions with other business managers.
A personal example for me is our relationship with A.I.M. I have had the pleasure of being a strategic advisor for more than a decade to the Associated Industries of Massachusetts where we provide strategic planning services to the senior team. I'm honored to be a member of their board. I rely on their economic indicator data for many aspects of our business. I look to their management guidance for pro-business activities in the state, and they frequently contact me or my guys looking for one-on-one advice where we become confidential sounding boards. As a result, over the years, an open and robust partnership has resulted, both of our businesses have steadily grown, and in 2011, we launched a joint program for a semi-annual Sales Management Boot Camp, which has had superb results and great reviews.
As always, I’d be interested to hear your own examples and views on how you go about creating trusted partner relationships. In the next blog or two, I’m also going to open the question of how do you take this concept of trust, define it specifically and work to create trust among your management and sales teams.
Good Selling! From our perspective, it's shaping up to be a great quarter for our customers.