Ask a salesperson to describe the problem they solve. You may get a puzzled look, a client focused solution, or something in between. The stereotypical sales person, or worse “order taker” doesn’t know or care about the problems clients are facing. They are interested in generating transactions and hitting quota.

Nobody is going to buy from you because you need the money,” bestselling author and speaker Bob Burg says. “They’re not even going to buy from you because you’re a really nice person who believes in your product and thinks they should have it.”

The current trend in sales is to develop subject matter experts (SME’s). This new version of a sales professional uses expertise and influence to “coach” decisions based on understanding client needs. Establishing trust and credibility at the outset of a relationship is paramount to having success. SME’s don’t have quick fixes.

Your clients want to be better off because they have a relationship with you. What are the rewards your client will experience if you help them solve their problem? You can’t answer that question. Let them tell you. Ask this question:

“If you were able to solve business problem X, how would that impact you favorably?

Listen and take notes. You might hear things like, I will get a promotion, or I will be able to get funding for a new project, or I can hire 10 people to tackle a larger project. SME’s uncover the rewards and consequences of addressing, or not addressing the problem. On the other hand, your client’s lives won’t be better because you have a lower rate, shinier version or something that is new and improved.

Here are some behaviors you will see in a Subject Matter Expert:

  • Qualification. Is there a problem to solve, can you solve it, and do you want to solve it based on your profile of an ideal client?
  • Determine their definition of success. If you have proposed a solution directly related to their problem and they have agreed to work with you, list the objectives that will be met as your plan is implemented. The list is what your client told you must be achieved during the course of your qualification process.
  • Become a sustaining resource. When you focus on results you will develop a long term relationship and quite possibly a client for life. A sustaining resource is not seen as someone trying to make a buck. Instead you are seen as someone sitting on the same side of the table working collaboratively to solve problems.

What training model do you have in place that creates SME’s?

Let’s schedule a meeting to discuss your overall training and development strategy. Creating a team of Subject Matter Experts is one of many things covered in a comprehensive training and development strategy.



Two things in my DNA lead to a career in sales. My curiosity and my love of building relationships with quality people.

I believe the best sales organizations invest in the development of their people. You improve the sales process when you improve the people involved. I have seen firsthand sales organizations that did not believe in the professional and personal growth of their people. The result? Friction, confusion and underperformance.

Consistent sales growth is one of many challenges a business faces. In my role as a consultant I have the opportunity to dig deeper to uncover issues related to strategy, communication, and professional development.

To quote Daniel Pink; "we are all in sales now." My promise to you is to develop the people in your organization who serve your customers. It's no longer just the Sales Department. Your sales strategy must be crystal clear, and communicated respectfully throughout your entire organization.

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