Being a Trusted Advisor is as much about mindset as it is about skills. And it’s as relevant to salespeople as it is to field service engineers.
The Trusted Advisor mindset is not only core to service technicians, it is also fundamental to those that sell services and integrated solutions. Many people perceive that the Trusted Advisor is a mindset for companies to leverage technician relationships to deliver “more” value to customers.
Typically, the types of behaviours these service leaders want to encourage are:
- Listening to customers about their challenges and desires
- Working together with their customers to co-develop new solutions and ways of working
- Creating trust by DOING what they SAY, and SAYING what they DO
- A solution focused approach which moves customers nearer to their goal(s) at every interaction
What many do not appreciate is that it is also an essential mindset for salespeople of product-service solutions to be more effective in the selling processes. Research by RAIN group studied 700 business-to-business purchases made across industries by buyers who represented a total of $3.1 billion in annual purchasing power. They identified a number of factors that separated the winners from those in second place. The most important was the salesperson’s ability to bring new ideas and perspectives to the table. What was really interesting is that if we look at the top 10 factors they listed, nine are covered by the Trusted Advisor mindset. And it is really a mindset and not skills we are talking about. How we THINK influences very much what we SAY and what we DO. The right mindset helps us make a habit of doing and saying the things that build this special thing we call trust. As René Brown, a well known researcher in the area of trust observes, “Trust is built in many moments”.
This probably explains why in the last 10 years we have seen technology companies re-organizing and re-inventing their sales teams as customer successes organisations. At a recent Service Community UK meeting at Oracle, we heard how Software-as-a-Service business models have transformed their market such that customers can switch products more easily. No longer is selling a product so critical to their business, but more important is retaining customer loyalty so that every month they renew their service contracts. Oracle’s focus has moved away from closing product deals, to Customer Success Managers ensuring their products and services are delivering more value for their customers. In the Industrial and B2B sectors, we now see the same philosophy being introduced. For example, Husky Injection Molding Systems talked about how they have transformed their service team into a Customer Success Organisation at the last Service Community Event held at Atlas Copco in October.
In businesses such as medical and high-end research instrumentation or complex capital equipment, the very high level of technical and application expertise is a key differentiator that makes these companies leaders. These are the companies that have already embedded the Trusted Advisor Mindset into their service engineering staff so that they can talk to customers and add more value. Increasingly we see these same companies taking the same concepts and embedding them into their own sales processes. They do this because they recognise that a sales process in itself does not develop trust with the customer. They see that these well qualified technical salespeople find it challenging to have engaging conversations with their customers such that they are able to collaborate to develop valuable solutions. They want these specialists to develop the customer communication skills that move the customer effortlessly towards making decisions and closing deals.
These companies put in place programs that develop a Trusted Advisor mindset, the language and the tools that complement the company’s sales process in order to make them more successful. Essentially this is improving on their active listening and using solution-focused language that fosters collaboration and working on personal authenticity that drives the THINK, SAY, DO cycle. These programs are not a one-off event but require sales leaders to act as role models and mentors. The companies that understand this process, often develop sales guides that provide useful tips and tangible examples of how to sell value. Regular refresh and practice are required and the whole process might take a period of one to two years. Embedding the Trusted Advisor mindset into your business is a change journey that will bring value in terms of sales and margin.
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