I’ll have an address book, make it fancy . . .

It’s well known in the intangibles business (including executive searchstaff augmentationadvisorymanagement consulting, etc) that a sales person with an address book is a valuable commodity.  No rocket science about it.  But why? The reasoning is inherent to understanding intangibles as commodities. Intangibles have no material value; rather, these commodities often (but not always) take on value from recommendations, referrals, and, generally, opinions about them voiced by a trusted colleague, or other confidant to a prospect or customer. No “trust,” no value and no sale.

Of course, there can be other factors that influence a customer to purchase an intangible (for example, to repay a favor, or to act on some other obligation), but for our purposes let’s just consider the value of trust as a component of a purchase decision by larger businesses in the market for organizational solutions that require change. The task of realigning organizations within larger businesses can be difficult, time consuming, revenue threatening and expensive. The sum of these factors add up to big ticket sales, almost always hundreds of thousands of dollars and, quite often, millions of dollars in cost. Advisory firms focus on selling organizational solutions that bring together several different stakeholders within a larger business precisely for the revenue that will be produced by these sales. Colleagues trusted by a circle of well placed prospects make excellent candidates for sales roles within these advisory firms, precisely for the authority that they can leverage to lead members of their circle to a purchase.

Salespeople with address books are often referred to as farmers. Referring to a sales person as a farmer is an apt title. After all, successful sales farming, or relationship selling emerges naturally from a substantial amount of time (often many years) spent nurturing contacts into a palpable level of confidence in the views of the sales person. These farmers are great candidates for complex sales. John Thull, in his book Mastering the Complex Sale notes that “[i]n the complex sale, the most successful sales professionals are seen by customers as valued business advisors and key contributors to their businesses.” (p.123, 2nd Edition, Wiley) Our sales farmers have established this value with their contacts through years of trusted collaboration. Furthermore, they have earned a position of authority which helps them immensely to “align their questions with the critical perspective of their customers” (p.127, ibid).

Look to published authors, industry spokespersons, academics, and other notable members of targeted communities for sales candidates. Each of these types of individuals will have a circle of contacts and an authoritative reputation. But can he sell? Now that is another question.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2011 All Rights Reserved

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