Why the sales person as a trusted adviser is a fairy tale

Steve Hall

Mary and Frederik

(This article was originally published in BRW and is now available on the Australian Financial Adviser web site here. It also appeared on LinkedIn here.)

It's common wisdom nowadays that if you want to succeed in business-to-business sales you need to become a trusted adviser, not just a salesperson.

And similarly that if you want to marry a prince you should hang out at the Slipp Inn in Sydney, where Crown Princess Mary of Denmark met Prince Frederik. Or you can kiss a lot of frogs, of course.

Why sales person

Back in the real world, it's true that a few rare salespeople who have extensive business experience and appropriate gravitas can position themselves as trusted advisers, just as it's true that a lucky Tasmanian can meet a prince in a pub. But it's not something you want to hang your hat on.

Why? Imagine, for a moment, that you're a senior executive (perhaps you are) and that salespeople want to sell you stuff. In fact, lots and lots of salespeople want to sell you lots and lots of stuff. And they all want to be your trusted adviser.

Which of them - people you haven't even met yet - are you going to trust to advise you? Assuming you're even prepared to give at least some of them the opportunity to earn your trust, how long will it take and what do they have to do?

Do you automatically trust everyone you meet? (If you do, I have this lovely Opera House you might like). Even if you do, how much do you trust them to advise you on significant business issues?

Not only does it take a long time to gain most people's trust, there are different kinds of trust. You might absolutely trust that your spouse or your parents love you but you may not trust them to advise you on your business strategy.

So if you're a salesperson trying to position yourself as a trusted adviser, ask yourself why your prospects should instantly trust you, rather than their colleagues, friends, existing suppliers, directors or in-house experts. And why should they choose you, rather than all the other sales people who also want to be their trusted advisers?

Of course, with time, it's possible to establish credibility and build trust. If you consistently do what you say you'll do, if you show you understand your prospect's business issues from their perspective, if you provide relevant and useful information, if you show you know what you're talking about and behave with respect like a true professional, then you can develop a trusted relationship. In time.

Trust needs to be earned and you need to have a strategy to gain access before you even get the opportunity to earn it. You can eventually become a trusted adviser but you need to put in the hard yards to have your advice taken into consideration - alongside all the other people the prospect trusts, of course.

This is and always has been the essence of a good salesperson - understanding the customer and doing your best to help them achieve their objectives - so it's a worthy goal. But it's nothing new and it's no panacea.

So if your strategy is to say you're a trusted adviser but you don't do what's necessary to earn the title, you're probably better off kissing frogs.

At least that would differentiate you from all your competitors who are also busy telling people they are trusted advisers.


Please read the next five paragraphs very carefully - it may help both of us.

The way articles like this get an audience is when the people who read them "like" them, comment on them and/or share them. #LinkedIn measures the impact of an article by engagement - i.e. the number of readers who take the time to like, comment and/or share.

And the more people who do it, the higher LinkedIn rates it, the more they feature it and the more people who see it, with (hopefully) a snowball effect.

So, if you enjoyed this article and/or found it useful or entertaining, please, please, please - I'm begging you, please - take the time to click the little "like" button (that's the thumbs up) at the top and if you have time please comment on it and/or share the article with your LinkedIn connections.

What's in it for me? More readers, hopefully a bit more credibility and the illusion I can write stuff that people enjoy and/or find useful. And who knows, maybe even another client for my Executive Sales Coaching.

What's in it for you? The warm inner glow of helping an aging Englishman struggling with the trauma of Brexit and of losing to Iceland - and kudos from your LinkedIn connections for letting them know about such a riveting and amusing article (I might be pushing that last one).


If you sell to senior executives, if you are a senior executive or if you help people who sell to senior executives please join my LinkedIn group, Executive Sales Coaching


Steve Hall is an executive coach and an executive sales coach. He helps his senior executive clients to be more productive, more focused and to have more time for the things that really matter and he helps sales executives to sell more and to build relationships at a higher level. He is a member of Sales Masterminds Australasia and is based in Sydney, Australia.

He can be contacted on Twitter at @stevehallsydney, on LinkedIn at https://au.linkedin.com/in/stevehallsydney or by phone on +612 410 481 960.

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