Sales White Paper: Moving From Vendor To Trusted Advisor


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While it’s important to win new business, it’s also critical that you penetrate your existing customer base. If you serve your customers well you open doors not only for repeat business, but new growth potential which can often times be more lucrative.

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Sales White Paper: Moving From Vendor To Trusted Advisor

  1. 1. Moving FromVendor toTrusted AdvisorWHITE PAPER
  2. 2. Sell Smarter. Manage Better.Moving From Vendor to Trusted Advisor INTRODUCTION This White Paper addresses Account Management, and one, it’s just one piece of the Account Management puzzle. specifically the roles you play as an individual in working Second, we explore what it means to be a Trusted Advisor, with your account(s) individually, or as part of a team. An and contrast it with the other roles you could be fulfilling, important message we want to clearly communicate is from ‘vendor status’ and up. Third, we outline how you that you should consciously choose the role you wish to can become a Trusted Advisor, the path of enlightenment play with your customer, and align this with the goals of you take towards the Nirvana of total customer fulfilment. your business and theirs. Fourth and lastly, we touch on some of the tools you can use to get you to where you need to be. So what is Account Management? First, it’s about penetrating our key accounts, getting into every Service So what does successful or Business Unit that we desire to have a relationship Account Management with. This, of course, works on 2 axes. On the one axis it’s look like? Is it all about about serving all of the account. On the other, it’s about being a Vendor, or getting as many of our products and solutions into all of Trusted Advisor, a bit the account. If we’re doing this well, and have the right of both, or neither? Level of Relationship with our customers, then we fulfil The TAS Group feels the second role of Account Management, which is to pretty qualified to create the kind of relationship that effectively locks out answer this, from the BU1 S1 S2 BU2 the competition. Third, Account Management has a very hundreds of customers important role in targeting and creating new business we have worked with, within the account base or accounts portfolio. This could and the thousands be in the form of brand new accounts, new products, or of programs we’ve delivered since 1988. To give you finding new routes to market. some context on roles, let’s first review the steps you take towards Account Management excellence. We see a 5-step Among the readership of this White Paper there will process to successful Account Management. These steps inevitably be different levels of knowledge and experience are: profile, segment, create, select and execute, and they in Account Management. Some readers will perhaps just are illustrated here in a cycle that moves in a clock-wise be starting out on their Account Management career. direction. Others may be sophisticated practitioners, looking to validate their own insights into the market. In fact, the Profile – this is signified by the magnifying glass icon. complete spectrum from Vendors to Trusted Advisors Before you develop your ‘go to market’ strategy, you will be reading this paper. This White Paper is aimed first need to do the market research. Only then can you at the middle ground, to cater to the widest range of begin to understand the profile of the market and your requirements. If you feel that your needs are not met, we customer, the issues your customers think about and their urge you to get in touch with us individually. You can do organizational structure. this via email to: Segment – the jigsaw icon. Certain slices of an account are This White Paper will cover 4 main topics. First, we talk more attractive than others. So you need to segment the about the spectrum of roles from Vendor to Trusted account, establishing which particular destinations in the Advisor, all of which you can and will play in the context of account are of high value to both you and your customer. Account Management as a whole. While the role you fulfil in a company’s decision-making process is an importantShare this White Paper! Copyright © The TAS Group. All rights reserved. 1
  3. 3. Sell Smarter. Manage Better. Create – the opportunity map icon. Once you’ve So successful Account Management means adopting and prioritized the segments in your account, then you can using a structured account planning methodology to get look to create new opportunities. These solutions must to where you want to be. Now, let’s laser in on the Create address the business needs of the customer, based on stage of the process for the purposes of this White Paper your ability to understand those needs. - it’s the middle of the five stages we just reviewed. This is where we’re looking to create new opportunities within Select – the chess piece icon. With lots of new your accounts. We cannot overemphasize how important opportunities created, you need to select the appropriate it is to understand your customer in order for you to do strategy to approach the account and focus on those areas this. Account Management is a partnership with your that will provide maximum return on your efforts. customer and this partnership can be thought of in three broad areas: Execute – the handshake icon. We like the saying that • The Level of Relationship you enjoy with them when a ship misses a harbor, it’s rarely the harbor’s fault. • Their business drivers, business initiatives and how With the right strategy, you need to focus on great they measure success execution, building a business development plan for the • The mutual value of potential opportunities account while leveraging marketing, partners and other resources to help you succeed.THE ROLES YOU PLAY IN YOURACCOUNTSIt is the Level of Relationship that concerns us in our White The four roles or Levels of Relationship we define are Vendor,Paper today. Vendor and Trusted Advisor are at opposite ends Credible Source, Problem Solver and Trusted Advisor. As youof the Level of Relationship spectrum. Vendor has the lowest move up the pyramid, (illustrated below) you increase theLevel of Relationship, and Trusted Advisor enjoys the highest. depth of relationship with the customer. Now let’s take each one of these levels in turn, because in many ways each one is We identify four possible roles to mark the Level of as important as the others to understand.Relationship you enjoy with the Business and Service Unitsin your account or the accounts in your portfolio. These maybe terms you’re already used to, or you may intuitively thinkabout them in a similar way but use different words, butin any event they describe four progressive points on the Trusted Advisorpyramid towards the pinnacle of customer intimacy. Think of Problem Solverthese roles and the descriptions of then in the context of yourown account portfolio. Credible Source VendorShare this White Paper! Copyright © The TAS Group. All rights reserved. 2
  4. 4. Sell Smarter. Manage Better.VENDOR PROBLEM SOLVERYou will have heard the term before, and it can be quite a The penultimate stage in our model, the Problem Solverculturally sensitive word. In some quarters it can be quite is more part of the account’s fabric than the Credibledemeaning, an anonymous, impersonal term used to describe Source. This Level of Relationship takes on a more strategicthe ‘lowest of the low’, rather like the Deltas and Epsilons in dimension; is deeper and more rewarding. You’re getting toAldous Huxley’s Brave New World. be pretty knowledgeable of the customer’s industry and what makes it tick. Being more proactive at higher managementThey are quotation makers and order takers. In some levels gives you visibility of existing business problems andindustries, however, vendor is a perfectly acceptable term you become their Problem Solver, perhaps helping to writeused to denote where someone falls in the supply chain. You the RFP and in so doing of course you can guide it in theare viewed as a Vendor where your products and company direction that best creates mutual value for you and yourreputation attract Requests for Proposals (‘RFP’s’) or Invitations Tender or similar terms. As such you are almost always inreactive mode, waiting by the phone, fax machine or email As a Problem Solver, your involvement expands further andinbox for the nod to get involved. You are usually tactical, your appearance in the decision process cycle lasts longer.rarely strategic. Often companies find themselves as Vendors Now you enter the process just before the customer haswhen they are considered to be commodity providers. A initiated a project and you’re involved in the evaluating,Vendor only gets involved when the customer is ready to proving, contracting and implementing stages. You exitevaluate products and exits soon after the deal is done. the process after the measurement of the results. You are aBeing a Vendor isn’t always a bad thing – but we will touch on valuable asset to your customer and you’ve every reason tothat later in the White Paper. feel pleased with yourself.CREDIBLE SOURCE TRUSTED ADVISORThis is the term we use to describe the Level of Relationship This is the hallowed ground. As a Trusted Advisor you workwhere you have become a steady, reliable supplier of with the executives to explore emerging needs and directionproducts or services. You may have developed a few contacts on a confidential basis, similar to the role of a consultant. Atapart from the purchasing or procurement manager in this level, in the context of the decision making process, youyour account. You may be considered a Credible Source by really don’t enter or exit. You’re part of the circle and when thelower management level contacts if you consistently meet customer and you - with your objective external perspectiveor exceed their expectations. You can be counted on to give - identify an issue together, you both assess the problem andthem what they want. create a solution.In contrast to a vendor, as a Credible Source, you enter To Illustrate what a Trusted Advisor looks like in the real world,the process just before the customer is ready to evaluate we’ll reference CEO of The TAS Groupproducts, probably because you are on an approved supplier Donal Daly’s Select Selling Saleslist already, which has the added bonus for you of providing Fieldbook, about a man called Matt.a barrier to new vendors looking for a slice of the pie. You It talks about the personification ofexit just after the product or solution has been implemented. the Trusted Advisor role.Maybe you get a pretty fair share of the deals, along with theother suppliers. You’re not dominant, but you do have some “The most successful salesperson wetraction. Being a Credible Source requires more interaction on ever met lives and works in a smallyour part, and it’s rewarded – relatively more so than a Vendor. city in upstate New York. Matt has four very large customers whoseShare this White Paper! Copyright © The TAS Group. All rights reserved. 3
  5. 5. Sell Smarter. Manage Better.headquarters are based nearby. Over the 15 or so years we’ve Now that we have described the various Levels ofknown Matt, he has had three different employers, but he Relationship we see in Account Management we can seehas always retained the same four major customers. The how these map into involvement in the customer’s decision-companies are in similar sectors, and Matt is considered locally making be an expert in that industry. Every year, Matt worked withhis customers to develop their vision for the coming year and Clearly being a Trusted Advisor carries some majorthey looked to him for guidance and advice. For the few years implications for the sales person, and what we find is that athat we had direct business contact with Matt, he consistently lot of sales professionals feel that they are already at Trustedachieved more than twice his annual quota and was always Advisor stage, until they realize a number of crucial things:one of the top three performing sales people in whichever • Exactly how much work it involvescompany he worked.” • That not all their customers want this level of attention from them“Matt’s laser-like focus on the business he knows helps • That they are as the selling company wasting theirhim identify target opportunities that he can win. Because effort with companies that do not want this Level ofof that level of focus and restraint, he avoids the chaos of Relationship or who will not give them the return orthe numbers game and he can take the time to become a the ROI that the effort needs.‘thought leader’ in the issues that his customers worry about.He makes connections with customers rather than contacts. This is when they tend to revise down their opinion. SoIn our experience, his sales hit rate was outstanding. His having made those important caveats, if you’re not oneforecasts were impeccably accurate. His customers viewed already, how do you become a Trusted Advisor?him as their ‘go-to’ guy to help them deliver on their businessinitiatives. He successfully transcended the relationship barrier Perhaps obviously, you need to understand your customers’to become a partner, rather than being perceived just as a industry. When you develop an account plan – it’s all aboutvendor.” knowledge. Knowing your customer’s mind comes from understanding it. Understanding it comes from doing theWouldn’t it be refreshing if we were all viewed and valued that homework, the research. Before you even start planning,way? ‘Matt’ seems to be reaping all the benefits of Trusted you need to know a lot of things about the customer.Advisor status, and there are some additional benefits that These include: goals, markets, industry trends, competitors,you can infer from this situation. First, you are insulating relative market position, financial performance, merger andyourself from the competition because no-one is engaged acquisitions activity, and the structure of the account the degree that you are. Second, you have establishedlongevity of relationship with your customer, which will helpyou overcome the little bumps in the road that inevitablyoccur from time to time. Third, you also get improvedpredictability in your business, because you have much betterintelligence on the likelihood of opportunities coming tofruition.Share this White Paper! Copyright © The TAS Group. All rights reserved. 4
  6. 6. Sell Smarter. Manage Better.THE VALUE OF CREATING‘MUTUAL VALUE’Today, the role of the professional Account Manager – them, then you need to ask questions about the Businessindeed that of the entire Account team – is to create value, Units that you know the Service Unit can’t answer, and thatnot just communicate it. You need to understand what the should open doors for you.customer values before you know how to position your value.Understanding the landscape your customer is living on is Trusted Advisors form a true partnership with their customerscritical and this puts us in the realm of what we call ‘mutual and develop significant mutual value – and that’s whatvalue’. Account Management is all about. But, as outlined earlier, while most people don’t want to be just a vendor, it is notMutual value is the desired destination you want to reach always good to be the Trusted Advisor either. There is nowhen building a business relationship with your customer right and wrong here, the Level of Relationship needs toand it’s where the investment levels of you and your customer be appropriate to the business opportunity and reflect theare truly aligned. If you don’t get that alignment, then either customer’s commitment and it’s quite possible that theyou or your customer is not getting the return on effort. appropriate Level of Relationship in your Business Units mayUndoubtedly, you know where you get the value for your well vary. This is important enough to re-iterate as it’s oneown products or services. And this is where the homework of the most important pieces of information we can passcomes in, because you can’t find the areas of mutual value along - the Level of Relationship needs to be appropriateuntil you know what is valuable to your customer. to the business opportunity and reflect the customer’s commitment and it’s quite possible that the appropriate LevelThere are also some specific sales skills you need to acquire of Relationship may be Vendor, Credible Source, or Problemto become a Trusted Advisor. You need to get in front of Solver.your customer earlier in the process, so that you can be ina position to collaborate with them. You also need to call It’s clear that there are also important implications for saleshigher in the business, so that you can have more meaningful leaders and sales companies as well. Leadership needs toconversations about business drivers, initiatives and critical invest wisely to support and coach the sales person so thatsuccess factors, rather than specific or tactical projects. they can form the right relationships with the right companiesYou also need to have executive credibility, so that senior with the right opportunities. As is often the case with selling,executives value your consultative input into their business it boils down to value, and value propositions needs to bedeliberations. These sales skills don’t come easy, and there are business based, not technically based, addressing the criticalorganizations like The TAS Group that provide tailored training success factors for key business help acquire them. Leadership also needs to make sure to equip its sales forceLet’s also not forget, if we’re talking about large accounts, to with the knowledge, skills and methodology it needs toaddress Business Units as well as Service Units, and by Service take the higher road, the consultative approach. How thisUnits we mean areas like purchasing, Human Resources is delivered is crucial, and we will come onto this shortly.or IT. Business Units manage the primary customer-facing Companies also need to make sure that they are doing theactivity of the company. Strategic decisions are made here. research as well themselves, doing the macro segmentationService Units work internally to serve the Business. There is to select the right industries and target customers, as well asa tendency for account managers to focus their attention providing important industry insight to the sales force.on Service Units as the easy-to-spot budget holders, at theexpense of the opportunities lurking in the Business Units. With all of the above in place, it’s important to also make itAnd if the Service Units are not giving you access to the easy for our salespeople to work, which is where technologyBusiness Units, insisting you channel everything through tools come in, namely systems and applications whichShare this White Paper! Copyright © The TAS Group. All rights reserved. 5
  7. 7. Sell Smarter. Manage Better.make it easy for the right behaviors to be adopted, used and HOW TO BECOME Areinforced for sustained use. Again, organizations like The TASGroup provide software applications that help Trusted Advisor TRUSTED ADVISOR‘wannabes’ to create opportunities that feed all the way up to We know what a Trusted Advisor is at this point, and whythe business drivers that pressure and shape their customers, it’s a good thing. Now let’s determine how to become well as online learning or knowledge mechanisms that help Improvement in sales acumen is really a combination ofkeep them repeating best practices. methodology, the ‘how’ to do Account Management, process, the ‘what’ to do and in what order, and technology, theThe Holy Grail is selecting the customers with the greatest leveraging mechanism that improves personal productivityareas of mutual value, the greatest potential opportunities. and reinforces repeatable best practice. It’s no different forWhen you identify that rich opportunity source, your specific parts of Account Management, including becoming aunderstanding of the drivers that move and shape the Trusted will, where appropriate, help you raise your Level ofRelationship. Sales leaders should work with their teams to We see this as a cycle, a constant iteration. First you haveselect the customers where the opportunity merits that level some kind of Account Management event, where theof investment, and therefore the investment in the creation principles of the methodology are instilled in you or refreshedof the Trusted Advisor relationship. Managing an account to you by applying them to real life business situations,is all about balance and it would be too time consuming to accounts and opportunities. This can be in a formal workshopaspire to be a Trusted Advisor to all customers. It can also setting, or else using blended learning approaches whichbe expensive to operate as a Trusted Advisor and, if your combine e-learning, web sessions and workshops.customer is not willing to invest with you, then you arewasting resources. This unpleasant area can be thought of as The next step is to assimilate this acquired methodology, a lot‘the unrequited love of sales’. We all need some love back, and of which has been covered already in this White Paper, andsales is no different. The trick is to recognize when you’re not use it in your Account Management approach, learning aboutgetting it and to move on. your customers, strategizing on them and finding the happy places where value meets value for you and them. Then youThere’s no doubt that membership of the Trusted Advisor need to apply this new found knowledge and skills to yourclub has its privileges, to paraphrase a well known advertising sales situation and start the process of gaining trust with yourslogan. You are trusted by your customers and you get to target audience. Of course you then need to be able to reportinfluence them, and help frame any work that they need to back on your progress, review how you did, and adjust yourget done. Have you ever been in a situation where you’re approach where necessary.reading an RFP and it has clearly been written to favor thecompetitive advantages of another player? This is another Finally, you repeat this process, using the tools at your disposalunpleasant area. to continue to refine your knowledge, your application and your position on the Vendor-to-Trusted-Advisor spectrum. This sounds pretty simple, and if it was, then everyone would be a great account manager. We know however that sales is an extremely demanding and challenging profession. This is because it is always changing. The Internet has made customers more informed and empowered, so they can often complete stages in the decision-making process without our involvement.Share this White Paper! Copyright © The TAS Group. All rights reserved. 6
  8. 8. Sell Smarter. Manage Better.At the heart of it though, this means we need to be even How do you overcome this? Well, organizations need to take,better as professionals who create value for our customers. in our opinion, an integrated approach to improving salesToday the goal posts are constantly moving and the job of performance, the appropriate blend of the methodology,aligning yourselves to your buyers is getting even harder. process and technology elements we’ve discussed. Buyers are using technology, and Account Managers can embrace its enabling powers too, in the form of software built around their needs to create and win business, and coaching tools to sustain their knowledge and improvement. SUMMARY This White Paper addresses what roles an individual We also covered why you can’t always be a Trusted can assume in Account Management, the options Advisor to everyone. After that we addressed the available to you, and the benefits and anticipated ‘how’ you should go about doing this, and described results of being a Trusted Advisor. a repeatable learning, applying and reviewing loop to engrain best practice and make success an operation We looked at Level of Relationship as a part of the of routine. overall Account Management picture. Though small, it is nevertheless a crucial element in how you We hope this has given you some depth and action- successfully create mutual value between you and oriented content on how, when and where to gain your customer. Then we explored what it means to be Trusted Advisor status, both from what we at The TAS a Trusted Advisor in relation to the three other roles Group have seen and our customers’ perspectives too. you could occupy within your customers’ decision making processes. Next we explored the steps you as If you wish to find out more about The TAS Group’s both sales professionals and sales leaders need to take Account Management approach, please contact us at to achieve a culture of ‘Trusted Advisorship’, within your organization and within your accounts.Share this White Paper! Copyright © The TAS Group. All rights reserved. 7
  9. 9. ABOUT THE TAS GROUP The TAS Group helps sales professionals sell smarter and manage better. Through a unique combination of deep salesmethodologies and intelligent software applications, customers achieve measureable results including increases in winrates, deal sizes and qualified opportunities, as well as decreases in sales cycle length. According to the Aberdeen Group,customers of The TAS Group realize 21 percent greater attainment of sales quotas.Dealmaker® intelligent software is the engine driving revenue growth and sustained adoption of improved salespractices.The TAS Group has helped more than 850,000 sales professionals in more than 65 countries, from small privatecompanies to market leaders. For more information visit and read the dealmaker365 blogat DEALMAKERDealmaker software from The TAS Group delivers real-time opportunity and account management, intelligentdeal coaching, accurate sales forecasts, smart playbooks, self-paced learning, and predictive analytics, resulting inmeasurable sales growth.Dealmaker can be delivered as a standalone application or can be integrated with Salesforce CRM, Microsoft DynamicsCRM, Oracle CRM On Demand, Oracle’s Siebel CRM and SAP CRM, or with any third party software application throughthe Dealmaker API. For more information visit © The TAS Group. All rights reserved. This briefing is for customer use only and no usage rights are conveyed. Nothing herein may be reproduced in any form without written permission of The TAS Group.