There is no shortage of salespeople competing for their customers’ time and share of wallet. There is no shortage of noise and clutter in the system; everyone is vying for attention in a difficult economy. Some companies are succeeding; others are failing at an alarming rate.
Companies that are succeeding are doing so because they offer specialized products or services unique to the marketplace, or—and this is more likely—because of the kind of relationships they have with their most valuable customers. These companies meet a need for their customers. They do something no one else can do or they are perceived as being unique.
Trusted Advisors stand alone atop the Customer Relationship Hierarchy as shown here:(Click the image for a larger view. Copyright © 1992-2009 E.G. Insight. All Rights Reserved.)
Trusted Advisors are often involved in helping their customers solve problems. Their customers ask them for advice. When a Trusted Advisor helps find a solution, their customers usually reward them with a sale.
Product Vendors are usually contacted by customers once a solution is found. Product Vendors are often asked to provide a price—not advice, not a solution, just a price. We all know that customers often “window shop” by getting several prices before making a decision. If you are not the low-cost provider, and you did not help in forming the solution, you will probably lose the sale; it’s often as simple as that.
Here is the question: How do your most valuable customers perceive you? Where would they place you on the Customer Relationship Hierarchy today? Where do they want you to be on the hierarchy tomorrow? What will it take for you to get there?
Gary Gerds, Managing Partner