Becoming the trusted advisor is the most revered and influential position that a sales professional can earn from their buyers. With the trusted advisor, there is an atmosphere of mutual respect, collaboration and openness. These sales professionals foster a groundwork of professionalism, integrity and therefore believability. It is a process of building rapport while proving we are a reliable source of information based on our actions, attitudes and knowledge.

Once we become elevated to the position of trusted advisor, our customers become more open to the ideas, suggestions, and solutions we present. The atmosphere becomes friendlier, more relaxed, and the prospect is more inclined to answer our questions and to share information freely. This is very important as we gather information to develop the right solution. The problem is that the status of “trusted advisor” cannot be claimed; it must be deserved, and that is not easy.

Becoming the trusted advisor is an ongoing process of communication that overlaps all segments of the selling process. Here are some tips to help you develop into the role of a trusted advisor:

Start with a friendly greeting. The art of becoming the trusted advisor begins when you greet your customer. How you make first contact with the customer sets the tone for everything that follows. It is the initial process of warming up and making a friend. A friendly beginning builds rapport and breaks down defenses. Begin by talking about everything to the exclusion of flooring products. Often it is the small chit-chat at the beginning of the conversation that opens the door to rapport. Please do not underestimate or trivialize this step. 

Act like a normal person. When you are trying to sell something, the worst thing you can do is sound or act like you are trying to sell something. Unfortunately, some salespeople try to emulate a presumed sales personality that they believe will impress their customer to buy. Lose the overly peppy, salesy personality. While it is important to adjust to different personality styles, be yourself, but be pleasant and realize that you are speaking with them for their benefit, not just yours. 

Become curious. Always learn to become curious with your customers because it stops you from focusing on yourself. Make empathy for the customer paramount by showing a responsiveness to needs rather than just coveting a commission. With curiosity comes a sense of fun. Get curious and you will never be bored again.

Sell from the customer’s viewpoint. Tell your story from the customer’s point of view. Stop thinking only from the standpoint of selling and educating your customers; think more about educating yourself about customers. Think in terms of learning with your prospect. Remember, the question you must keep asking yourself is not just, “What can I sell?” but rather, “How can I help?” As a customer, which would you prefer?

Ask great questions. Ask purposeful questions. By questioning, you are in essence telling the customer that you are genuinely interested. Find out what product is a good fit for your prospect. Learn about the prospect’s previous buying experiences. What experiences, good or bad, have they had? Ask dream questions, like, “What do you want your room to look like when we are finished?”

In most cases, ask open-ended questions that allow the conversation to keep flowing. Use conversational questions such as, “Tell me more about that…” or “What I really hear you saying is that…” and “Correct me if I am wrong, but…”  These “door openers” keep the communication open. They are not leading ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions, but inquiries that ask for an individual response that lead the conversation away from the seller’s needs to the buyer’s needs. 

Avoid over-talking as well. One reason that there is such a negative stigma to salespeople is that some of us talk way too much. We try to hog the conversation, thinking that as professionals we know what is best. 

Listen attentively. Selling is more than talking! Selling requires an information exchange and that exchange should not be a one-way itinerary by the salesperson. Selling is in fact listening and learning. When you decide to learn something valuable in every sales encounter, selling becomes far more interesting.

Know your stuff. If you are to aspire to the title of trusted advisor—and to those earnings—know your products and your services. To help others, there is a technical basis of selling that is important to deliver the information and the product performance your customer needs to complete the buying decision. If the prospective customer needs no further information to buy, then she doesn’t need a salesperson—any order-taker will do. 

But don’t be a know-it-all. If expert knowledge were the only important ingredient in selling, then engineers, technicians and research and development people would always be sent to sell products. If there is an expert in a selling situation, let it be the customer. With the Internet, your customers are a lot more knowledgeable. If she thinks she knows everything, compliment her on her knowledge and let her know how her expertise and experience accommodates your job. Who knows, you may even learn something. 

Do not talk over their head. Nobody likes feeling lost or confused, especially when you are trying to buy something. Big words and technical jargon will confuse the customer. Use a straightforward, simple vocabulary that everyone will understand.

Admit a downside. A big part of becoming the trusted advisor is knowing your industry and being able to discern the strengths and limitations of your products. Customers dislike salespeople who refuse to admit any downside to their product. These salespeople lack credibility. 

Overusing closing techniques. Another trait that puts off customers is to persistently use closing techniques when all you need to do is simply ask for a purchase. For example, the worst sales advice in the world is also one still advocated by many sales trainers: it’s called the A.B.C.’s of selling – “Always Be Closing.” The truth is that customers do not trust sellers who continually pound away at them, and they know when it is happening.  

Never Lie. This should be obvious, but customers really hate being lied to. It is by far the most cited complaint by consumers. Anytime a salesperson misrepresents, stretches the truth, presents deceitful information, or intentionally overstates the capabilities of a product, they are lying. It is brazenly disrespectful to the customer and strongly resented, as it should be. This type of dishonesty is stealing from the customer. When you outright lie to a customer about features you know they will not receive, you are robbing them of benefits that you sold. 

Promising more than you can deliver. Nothing turns off a customer faster than broken sales promises. Do not try to wow your customers with promises you cannot or may not be able to fulfill. Never make a promise based on your gut or faith either. The best policy is to under-promise and over-deliver. Doing otherwise destroys trust and referrals.

Defensiveness. One thing that will get in your way of becoming the trusted advisor is defensiveness. Defensiveness creates confrontation, and it stems from low self-esteem—or perhaps more accurately admitted, insecurity. People with a high self-esteem have no doubt that they are often in error and appreciate the opportunity to have it pointed out to them. For insecure people, it is a far easier standard to blame others and other things, thus creating a stagnant situation instead of taking any responsibility.  

Follow-up. Many salespeople do not do what they say they are going to do. This ranges from promising to get information, to taking care of a problem or concern. Return phone calls promptly. Many customers utilize pre-sale promises as a barometer to predict the future services they will receive when making a final buying decision. No one wants to be disappointed later.

Becoming the trusted advisor is about effectively dealing with people in a way that allows a customer to bestow confidence in the salesperson. It involves a dialog of equal exchange that the customer helps to direct. I call it “Humanistic Selling.” With likeability, trust, and the feeling they know you, you will create the successful combination for increased sales, more repeat business, greater profits, and a windfall of referrals. 

Good selling to you!