Two great minds in the building materials industry are Mark Mitchell, the principal of Whizard Strategy, and Devon Tilly, creator of The Art of Construction podcast. They drive the same theme when it comes to the selling expertise and behavior needed today. Both write or podcast on the value of the “Trusted Advisor” as opposed to a “sales rep.” You can check out their ideas about this at Whizard Strategy Blog or Art of Construction Show 73. In fact, Devon’s other company, Mountain View Window & Door in Denver has a full team of Trusted Advisors.
Early in my selling career, I thought I was the walking model of a consultative seller. I had been trained while at Andersen Windows on how to avoid “feature dumping” and start with asking questions to establish needs. I asked questions like “What types of projects is your company most known for?” “What do you find difficult obtaining from other suppliers?” And “If you could define your perfect window supplier, what would it be and do?” And I taught others how do sell this way too.
It all worked at that time because many sales people just walked into a prospect’s office and threw up all over the desk with everything they wanted “tell,” but failed to learn what the customer wanted to “know.” I was different because I asked questions.
And so I totally applaud the “Trusted Advisor” approach and more importantly, genuine goal of learning enough about your product, your trade, your competitors, and construction practices to in fact “advise” your customer on what they should do.
I sat across the desk once with Jeff Banker, the owner of Banker Insulation with over a dozen locations throughout the West and spoke with him on this topic. He told me “if I had a nickel for every time a sales rep has sat in that same chair and asked, ‘What’s the major problem that I could help you address,’ I couldn’t count them all.” He said to me “If I knew, I’d already have fixed it.”
Of course, that’s the true essence of The Challenger Sale. Challenger Sales companies develop solutions and train their sales people to KNOW what the best companies in that space do, what the best practices are, the best products, methods etc., and they identify where customers could plug in that new information to make their own business better.
Trusted Advisers and Challenger Sales reps share this trait. They don’t ask customers what keeps them up at night. They tell customers what SHOULD be keeping them up at night and how to fix or avoid it.