What Customers Expect From Your Salespeople and More


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Harvard Business Review recently published an article about What B2B Customers Really Expect. Customers ranked Subject Matter and Solution Expertise first. However, in order for salespeople to demonstrate those attributes, they must possess exceptional Consultative Selling skills in order to ask the questions that identify issues, challenges, consequences and ultimately, the real problems, and not merely the symptoms. Only then can a proper solution be recommended.

On the other side of the coin, the article points out that vendors rank Consultative Selling skills dead last on the list of what they recruit for. Confusing the issue even further are these statistics from Objective Management Group. On average, salespeople have only 22% of the attributes required to be effective at selling consultatively.

People get confused about Consultative Selling so to clarify, it’s the ability to actively listen and ask good, tough, timely questions, to identify the problems that must be solved. When salespeople are selling consultatively, they can move up the ladder from vendor, to partner, to trusted advisor. When they master it and consistently achieve trusted advisor status, they can also sell higher up in the organization.

While I am pointing to other articles, Dave Stein, CEO of ES Research, wrote a fantastic article about what to beware of when choosing a sales training company. I agree with every word he wrote!

Republished with author's permission from original post.


  1. Honesty and love. Revome these and you lose plenty of sales. I thank you Firozali A.Mulla DBA

  2. Dave: The HBR article was from ’06, and it’s hard to get broader brush than referring to B2B Customers (except maybe to say ‘all customers’), but I think the greatest insight from the article was in its identifying the gap between what prospects and customers want from salespeople, and what vendors think that same group wants.

    The issue isn’t lost on vendors, but the headaches crop up differently, such as when a vendor’s revenue underperforms plan. Still, skills friction creates risk. When I surveyed sales executives and managers in 2010 about sales risk, nearly 25 percent of respondents agreed with the statement, "our salespeople lack the basic skills required to compete in our markets.” Yikes!

    A mega-bad indictment of the sales profession, but a great opportunity for those who have the will, resources, and competency to fix the problem.

    The ladder you described–vendor to partner to trusted advisor–bothers me because there are no standards or certifications. Agreed that some salespeople are better than others at the critical skills of trust and relationship building. But I’m not sure that using vague terms brings salespeople closer to what customers want. I’ve been in sales for over 20 years, and I can’t tell you with clarity exactly what a ‘trusted advisor’ is–and I still question whether Trusted Advisor is even possible when a salesperson can make a healthy commission or bonus on a sale.

    I wrote about this in a recent blog, Trust, Shmust! We Need is a Sales Mensch.

  3. Honesty and Love are important – but you need more than that!

    Andy, you’re right – older article than I originally thought – apologize for the inaccuracy.

    And I completely understand what the gist of their article and research was. I simply chose to focus on the disconnect as it relates to Consultative Selling skills.

    While there are no standards or certifications to differentiate vendor from partner to trusted advisor, we should be able to agree, at least in concept, about the basics:

    Vendor – seen as essentially the same as the others they can buy this product or service from. No added value, comes down to price, availability or timing.

    Partner – working together to solve customer problems. Seen as different from a vendor, may be able to sell at higher margin because of the value and expertise they bring to the table.

    Trusted Advisor – customer/client calls the trusted advisor for advice before doing anything with anybody. No competition. Trusted Advisor is firmly entrenched with mutual loyalty, trust, love, respect and appreciation.

    And if we can agree on the basics, then we should be able to agree that Partner is preferable to vendor and trusted advisor is preferable to partner. Can we at least get the salespeople who work for our clients to stop referring to themselves as vendors? How far does that get them when attempting to differentiate?

  4. Dave I agree to certain point but there are hitches in some states. Take Tanzania for example. We have two sets of books. One for the tax , one for the owner. Why ? The owner will employ only those who can reconcile the books the way the employer wants and not as per stutute . The false prevails and the truth hides. CRM has failed and here in sub Sahara states no one wants to know what truth is. I thank you Firozali A.Mulla o Invite all referral sources to join or follow you on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.
    o That goes for your blogs and e-news too. Reciprocate by subscribing to theirs.
    o Post regular updates with links to your articles, blog posts, media coverage and niche involvement. Also post links to articles, blog posts and other pertinent tips from members of your referral network.
    o Stay current with your referrals' activities. LinkedIn and Facebook simplify this task by sending regular updates of network members' recent activity.
    o As your referrals add new connections, visit their profiles. Determine if they could be a good fit for you. If so, reach out to the common connection to make the introduction.
    Isn't it time to revisit one of the most-tried-and-true business development sources — the referral
    Many are stubborn in pursuit of the path they have chosen, few in pursuit of the goal.
    — Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche
    I thank you Firozali A.Mulla DBA


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