Is Moving From Vendor Up the Ladder Scary to Sales Executives?

This is actually the third article on this subject.  Last week I posted this article which contains a link to the original article.

Last week, a reader left this comment:

“Is is true that a Partner is preferable to a Vendor and Trusted Advisor is preferable to a Partner?

That implies that all salespeople aspire to climb that ladder, but I’m not so sure that clients want that.

What a client wants depends. Sometimes they want a straight vendor relationships, which I would characterize by efficiency and cost, sometimes they want a partner relationship, which I would characterize by effectiveness and value, and sometimes a trusted advisor which I would characterize by transformation and change.

All three have an ongoing and legitimate role, don’t they?”

Thanks reader. I like your three word descriptions of the three labels!  But let’s cut to the chase…

I’m sure that some large companies would very much prefer that the salespeople calling on them never rise to a level beyond vendor. Of course, the people we are talking about in those large companies probably own a procurement title…

Buyers want to control and neutralize salespeople in order to get the very lowest price. They usually succeed at doing that with salespeople who are unable to sell effectively enough to ever be viewed as anything other than transactional salespeople or vendors.

Most companies want their salespeople to call higher, differentiating themselves, and getting beyond vendor in order to have more influence on the outcomes.  Of course, there is an enormous gap between directing them to do so and their ability to execute.  That gap includes credibility, expertise, relationships, their ability to speak the language of the executive they are calling on, a better financial understanding of business, the ability to carefully listen and ask questions, sell consultatively and solve problems.

The question is, will our salespeople simply do as the buyers say – be subservient – and make presentations, provide quotes, chase the business down and win only when they have the lowest price? Or will they learn how to sell higher in the company, impress a top executive with their questions and push-back and challenge the executive’s thinking, differentiate themselves from their competitors, and become a partner or trusted advisor, not subject to the constant quoting and low margin business that vendors constantly deal with?

So why does this concept scare people?  It means they have to change their thinking, coaching, training, direction, positioning and more.  But the scariest part is that some companies will never be anything but vendors because they don’t have any value to add, they don’t have products or services that are any different from their competition, they don’t have salespeople that are capable of doing anything other than presenting, quoting and chasing, and that does not bode well for the future of their companies.  THAT is scary!

There is a place for vendors – from the buyers’ persepctive.  But from our perspective, there should also be a place for partners and trusted advisors.