Customers aren’t getting what they want from most salespeople. And what they want is pretty simple: They want experts who help them achieve their personal, professional and organizational results faster. In rapidly changing and increasingly volatile markets, those goals are being redefined.

A complex world

Constant change and uncertainty have exhausted buyers; the global economy has made every major purchasing decision seem like life or death. Customers today need salespeople to help reduce complexity and guide them through the chaos on their path from their current to future state. Customers want help narrowing down the options, help managing stakeholders, operational insights and pre-sale implementation support.

A changing role

It’s time to move beyond the concept of becoming the customer’s trusted advisor. The idea of becoming a trusted advisor is about building the right customer relationship defined by credibility, reliability, and intimacy, all with a focus on the customer rather than the salesperson. While still true today, that concept lacks a critical component that customers now expect from salespeople.

Much has been written in recent years about the need for salespeople to provoke or challenge their customers with insights. There’s a lot of truth to that concept — particularly when it’s done with genuine humility and curiosity rather than arrogance and condescension — but our research suggests that’s only a piece of the pie.

“What customers today want is a salesperson with navigation skills. They have a destination in mind.”

A trusted guide

What customers today want is a salesperson with navigation skills. They have a destination in mind. Typically, that destination is defined by the business goals they want to achieve and the targets they need to hit, as well as the dynamics of their industry. They may or may not know the best path to take, but they will engage with someone they believe will guide them toward that destination.

They seek salespeople who understand their industry terrain, can chart new trails based on their individual priorities, and know when to take a shortcut and when it is best to take the long way around. Top performing salespeople today are helping their customers navigate ever-shifting terrain by helping them manage internal and external change. A good salesperson needs to be more than an advisor — they need to be a guide.