Customers Profile Sellers as TRADERS, SAVERS, or INVESTORS

April 22, 2016 0 Comments Best Practices by Jack Dean

Customers Profile SellersLike it or not, you are being profiled by your customers.  Every interaction refines your seller profile, thereby improving its value to your customers.   As a buy-side executive, I can confirm that many customer CXOs deploy an informal classifying system to profile sales and account professionals assigned to their company.  Personally, I did it to avoid low-value interactions with low-value sellers and I know that many of my executive colleagues used the same classifying system as I did.

Customer executives make snap judgments of your latent value as a Business Advisor in order to maximize their personal ROI from investing in a business relationship with you.  So it shouldn’t be surprising to know that your personal seller profile can negatively impact the quality of your customer relationship.

How Does It Work?

How does this seller profiling system work?  Your customer executives will mentally classify you as one of three seller profile archetypes based on a small sample of personal interactions.  Critically, the first few interactions (and especially the first 5 minutes of each interaction) will weigh heavily in this classifying system.  Subsequent interactions simply tend to validate a CXO’s initial impressions.  Unfortunately, as you might expect, poor first impressions will have negative lingering consequences for your relationship.

Why should you want to learn more about this seller classifying system?  Because you may be able to change your seller profile and improve your customer relationships.  Only one profile archetype lays the groundwork for becoming a Business Advisor, while the other two archetypes seal your fate as a non-influential seller.  Said another way, you have only a 33% chance of gaining relevance and being trusted by your customer!

Customer CXOs Don’t Follow CEB or Forrester Consulting

Customer CXOs don’t read the sales books and blog posts that you read.  They don’t subscribe to (or even know about) the seller profile classifying systems marketed by the B2B sales consultant community, companies like the Corporate Executive Board (CEB) or Forrester Consulting.  Customer executives would get very confused by the complexity of seller profiles promoted by these leading sales consultants.

CEB promotes 5 seller profiles (i.e. Challenger, Lone Wolf, Hard Worker, Reactive Problem Solver, and Relationship Builder).  Taken at face value, CEB’s classification is unnecessarily complex and not intuitive.  For example, what is the difference between a Hard Worker and a Relationship Builder?  Wouldn’t a customer CXO want a “hard working, relationship builder” assigned to the account?  And why would a CXO look forward to working with a conflict-seeking Challenger (the preferred profile of CEB)? As you would expect, CXOs aren’t comfortable with challenger personas, especially when provocative comments are coming from an outsider who doesn’t have company-specific insights to offer.

Forrester Consulting, on the other hand, promotes 4 seller profiles (i.e. Consultants, Navigators, Explainers, and Order Takers).  Forrester’s seller profile taxonomy is less complex than CEB’s and more intuitive, but customer CXOs won’t intuitively comprehend a Navigator or Explainer profile.  So rather than subscribe to a seller classification system marketed by a sell-side consultant, buy-side executives prefer to use familiar labels found in the business and investment world.

Customers Classify Sellers the Same Way Money Managers Classify Clients

Buy-side executives manage money, among other responsibilities, and its allocation to investments.  On the one hand, the investment decision-making process is a thoughtful, analytical exercise based on the development of a business case and financial projection.  On the other hand, the decision-making process is a political fight between competing internal forces for OPEX and CAPEX allocation.  Money is a scarce commodity in every organization and CXOs prefer to interact with sales professionals who treat their customer’s money (and the investment decisions involving it) as if it were their own.

Since your customer’s buying journey ultimately leads to the allocation of money, CXOs naturally profile individual sellers the same way as money managers profile their prospective clients.  B2B sellers are labeled as TRADERS, SAVERS, or INVESTORS.  Each of these seller classifications has distinct attributes, attitudes, and behaviors that are easy for CXOs to observe from the customer-side of the desk.

TRADERS

Traders are the natural business enemies of customer executives.  They are the antithesis of “strategic” sellers.  Customer advocacy and loyalty is not in their vocabulary.  Traders love transactions and the frenetic activity associated with pursuing and closing them.  Gut instincts, rather than listening skills, are highly valued.  Quick to make decisions, Traders are more focused on gaining efficiency (i.e. CRM, automation, leads) than improving effectiveness (i.e. credibility, relevance, trust) interacting with customer executives.  The Trader’s planning horizon is measured in hours, not weeks or months.  In the Trader’s mind, being thoughtful and analytical slows things down.  Speed is paramount to a Trader.  Traders don’t possess extensive customer business acumen because they view customer research a waste of time.  Their view of the customer relationship is black and white, a win-lose zero-sum game.  When a customer opportunity is entered into the saleforce CRM, Traders morph into heat-seeking missiles.  They are competitive to a fault and often like to boast about their “wins”.  Traders regularly disparage their competitors, even in the presence of customer CXOs who loathe this unprofessional behavior.  From the customer’s perspective, a Trader taints the reputation of the company he/she represents.

SAVERS

Savers are risk-averse conflict-avoiders.  Comfortable with the status quo, Savers are not perceived by customer executives as forceful agents of change.  They lack a distinctive point of view, which CXOs seek.  Savers aren’t viewed by customers as strong advocates inside their own company.  CXOs find that the Account Manager role is often dominated by sellers who exhibit the Saver profile.  Although they can be thoughtful and analytical, Savers tend to operate with a short-term (weeks and months) planning horizon.  Savers loathe Traders, but they lack the confidence (and business skills) to be an Investor.  A Saver’s fundamental aversion to risk and change prevents them from achieving the coveted Investor profile.  Customer CXOs respect Savers but are rarely influenced or persuaded by them.

INVESTORS

Investors are the trusted Business Advisors of customer executives.  They are more loyal to their customer than they are to their own company.  Investors manage their customer’s money like it is their own.  They proactively advocate for the customer inside their own company and fight for the best resources to be assigned.  Full of unique customer-specific insights, they are the most persuasive and valuable seller profile to CXOs.  Customer executives actively seek the counsel and distinct point of view of Investors.  Investors are open-minded, thoughtful and highly analytical.  They have very high-levels of business and financial acumen.  In fact, Investors aren’t viewed as sales people, but rather as smart business people.  They set clear attainable goals and seek collaborative account planning interactions.  Account planning is a process, not an event.  While willing to accept a certain degree of risk, Investors believe strongly in deploying risk management techniques to mitigate risk above acceptable levels.  They always bring viable options to the table.  Investors demonstrate high-levels of business curiosity in every customer interaction.  Their communication secret is their ability to listen and clarify.  They embed customer knowledge into open-ended questions in order to earn respect and credibility.  Customer CXOs consider Investors as members of their internal team.

Take Control of Your Personal Brand and Customer Profile

For the last 15 years I have helped over 12,000 B2B sellers acquire the business skills, mindset, and confidence to become Investors (i.e. Business Advisors) to their customer executives.  Most of the participants in my client-sponsored business advisor training start the learning journey as Traders and Savers, so the transition to Investor represents a major behavior change in the field.  The good news is that with the right mindset and front-line sales manager coaching during the implementation period, many Traders and Savers successfully make the transition to Investor status with their customers.  You have ultimate control over your personal seller profile and how customer executives perceive you.  Take control of your personal brand and start thinking (and acting) like an Investor with your customers.

Questions

1. How can a TRADER make the transition to an INVESTOR?

2. How can a SAVER make the transition to an INVESTOR?

About Jack Dean and FASTpartners LLC: Jack brings BUY-side experience as a Fortune500 Chief Financial Officer to the B2B Sales Training Industry, which has been long dominated by training curriculum designed and delivered by SELL-side marketers and educators.  For the last 15 years Jack has trained 12,000+ B2B sales executives and account managers at 100+ companies in the technology, financial services, information services and manufacturing industries. Jack is an expert in helping sales professionals elevate their business/financial acumen and deepen their customer business insights, particularly around the drivers of financial performance improvement. In turn, this helps B2B sales professionals earn BUSINESS ADVISOR credibility with BUY-side executives, which leads to more sales. In 2009 Jack designed the popular FASTcred™ Framework for becoming a BUSINESS ADVISOR to BUY-side executives.  In connection he co-founded a training firm called FASTpartners LLC where a highly-regarded team of 21st century BUY-side CXOs leverage the FASTcred™ Framework to train B2B sales professionals on how to become BUSINESS ADVISORS. For more information on FASTpartners LLC training solutions, go to www.fastpartners.com or contact Jack at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .