Have you ever heard the saying “Name it, then claim it”? It’s a popular self improvement quote, and it applies perfectly to B2B salespeople who want to establish themselves as trusted and valued advisors with their prospects and clients. You have to first “talk the talk” and “walk the walk” of a credible and trustworthy advisor if you want to be perceived that way. The good news is that if you're knowledgeable about your products and services and understand your clients' needs then you are already on the road to being a legitimate resource that your clients and prospects want to do business with.
Below are six steps to establish yourself as a trusted and valued advisor to your prospects and clients. Implementing these strategies will create healthier and longer-lasting relationships with your clients who will value your opinion much more and will even seek out your advice.
To be trusted and valued, you must demonstrate these 3 key traits: empathy, expertise and problem solving, and you must make a connection with your prospects. Most of this will involve the professional version of soul searching, and you're going to need to brainstorm some things and ask yourself a lot of questions. Here’s a tip: get out a notepad and take notes on your thoughts and answers as you go through these—you're going to want to remember what you come up with.
1. Demonstrate Empathy.
This is the ability to understand the needs of others and see things from their point of view. Show your clients and prospects that you care by proving that you can be trusted to not waste their time, to address their needs, and to see things from their perspective. What about you and your experience help you understand what your client is going through? It could be that you have experience working in certain business categories, maybe you've been on the other side of their business, or like me, maybe you come from a family of business owners. There is something in your history that allows you to have empathy for your prospects and clients, and you just need to figure out what it is so you can get comfortable with sharing it and expressing it to your clients.
2. Demonstrate Expertise.
Why should your prospects pay attention to you and what you say? What experience do you have in your field or in your client’s field? Your expertise could come from years in the industry, formal education, training, specific skills you have, or maybe experience related to the needs in a particular business area. Consider recognition you've received, awards you’ve won, clients' successes that you've had, and even specifics on how your clients can get their money's worth from working with you. Test all of your ideas with this question, “Why should they care?” Not many prospects will care that you are the reigning hot dog eating champ in your fraternity or that you’ve met your sales goals for the last six months, but they WILL care that you have the highest customer satisfaction rating at your company or that you helped a client reduce their overhead by 24%.
3. Be a Problem Solver.
I’m from Texas, and we have a great saying about this topic: “He’s about as useful as a steering wheel on a mule.” This is usually followed up with, “Bless his heart.” If you’re in B2B sales then you’re undoubtedly in the business of solving problems. You can be charming and intelligent, but If you can’t prove that you have the ability to solve your clients' problems then what reason do they have to meet with you? You demonstrate problem-solving ability by giving them examples of problems you’ve solved in the past and by offering helpful solutions and ideas. Showcase successes and accomplishments you've had or share case studies from other customers with similar problems. If you're not experienced, don't worry, you can still accomplish this by highlighting talents you have that make you effective at solving problems—or you could actually develop a bright idea to solve common problems that your customers face.
4. Prove that you're human.
We've all heard that we need to “build rapport” but we need to take it a step further. Sometimes our prospects get so busy putting up an “I’m not interested” wall that they can forget that there is another person on the other side of it. If you don’t have a real connection with your prospect then you will never get to establish trust and value. You break down their walls and make a connection by establishing common ground. Research your prospects to learn about what they’re involved in and where you may share a common bond. It may be having kids the same age, being involved in similar causes, or even as simple as sharing an alma mater. Once you find common ground, mention it as soon as you can in the conversation and watch the walls come crumbling down. You can also “humanize” your online brand by including important causes and volunteer experience on your LinkedIn and by showing some of your real life on social media—just keep it clean and above board.
5. Define your personal brand story.
Now that you’ve done all the hard work in the first four steps, you can start to define your personal brand story. Look through all the things that you just brainstormed about: having empathy, expertise, problem-solving ability, and common ground. Look through the stories that you wrote down, look through the skills and the talent and the experience that you have identified, and start to look for a common theme. Your personal brand is not a bullet point, not a few words, not a list of credentials. It's a story—a big, beautiful picture that explains who you are and why people should want to do business with you.
I’ll use myself as the example here. I could show you my resume and you would know my education, what titles I’ve held, and maybe some of my skills, but you wouldn’t know who I am or what drives me. You wouldn’t know why I do what I do, why others care to listen to me, or why I genuinely care so much about my clients. My story is this: I was raised by business owners and entrepreneurs, so I understand what it takes to run a business, and that’s why I empathize with my clients. I’ve been in B2B sales for much of my career and made tons of cold calls and gone on plenty of wasted appointments before I found what works. That’s why my expertise is in helping sales organizations find better leads and give their sellers more tools to close better deals. I’ve built hundreds of successful marketing strategies for businesses in many categories, that’s how I prove my problem solving ability. I have four boys, 6-year-old triplets and a 7-year-old, who I want to grow up to be happy and successful. That’s what drives me to succeed and what reminds my clients that I’m a human. You wouldn't know any of these things from simply reading a resume or an email signature but they are the things that will resonate with prospects and that you need to be sharing with the world. This is what makes people want to know you.
6. Share your personal brand story.
Now you have a great story that will make people want to do business with you, so it’s time to start telling that story. Think about how you can update your social profiles or web pages to better communicate your personal brand story. Brainstorm posts and/or articles you want to write that will reinforce your expertise, empathy, and problem solving. Even if you don’t write, you could record podcasts or videos or live stream videos via Periscope, Twitter, Facebook, or Google Hangouts. Find groups on LinkedIn where you can engage in conversations and answer questions. Be active and engaged on social media but don’t feel like you have to be on everything. Pick one or two channels that you can be consistent with. Outside of social media, start talking about your personal brand story when you are at networking events, the coffee shop, gym, etc. The more you talk about it, the more natural it will become to tell your brand story. Before long this won’t be something you even think about any more because it will be so ingrained into your daily life, and the people around you will start knowing and believing it too.
If you're ready to put these new skills to the test with new prospects, then find the Lead Generation Toolbox below and sign up to get access to a treasure trove of resources, tools, and insight to help your sales team generate more quality leads, shorten your sales cycle, and increase your closing ratios.