Exceptional sales professionals recognize that the traditional strategies of differentiation through product and price are not nearly as effective as building a solid base of customers who look upon the seller, their solution provider, as contributors to their business.

Customers deal with many salespeople and are demanding a higher level of expertise from the individuals they choose to work more closely with. They are giving greater loyalty to those professionals who most adequately support their business objectives, those that become a source of business advantage. We refer to that unique group of professionals as P.R.I.M.E. Resources®.

What does it mean to become a P.R.I.M.E. resource?

P.R.I.M.E. is an acronym we use to describe achieving a level of relationship where your customers see you as a key resource and a contributor to their customers' businesses.

P is for Primary. According to Webster's dictionary, primary means, "First in time, rank or importance." It suggests:

1. You become pre-eminent in your customer's mind. You are the first person who comes to the customer's mind when a problem or question in your area of expertise arises.

2. You outrank all your competitors -- you become the competition everyone else tries to displace.

3. You are vital to the success of your customers' operations.

R is for Resource, a source of help or supply. You become an extension of your customer's organization. You enhance their capabilities to understand, anticipate and solve problems, and build their business. You and your team bring the ability to critically diagnose the situation, as well as gather the knowledge and ideas to help them create solutions that they wouldn't have thought of on their own.

I is for Involved. It means you will carry out a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship based on trust and respect. When you are involved, you have your customers' best interests at heart. That means:

1. You sincerely care about their concerns.

2. You know that what is best for your customer is ultimately best for you and your company.

3. Quality business is not a hit-and-run proposition. You look for every opportunity to strengthen the relationship, keeping it at a level of satisfaction that neither you nor your customer will be looking for ways to get out of it.

M is for Managing. It means, "To succeed in accomplishing; to have charge of or responsibility for."

Accomplishing implies the successful completion of a plan.

A P.R.I.M.E. resource helps people understand their situation, their risks and their opportunities, then collaborates with them to determine how to achieve the required results. They do it in such a professional, credible and non-threatening way that the customers require them to execute the solution.

E is for Expectations. Customers will look upon you as a P.R.I.M.E. resource when you consistently manage their expectations based on the issue that has been diagnosed. It is critical to expand the customer's understanding of the problem, the consequences and costs associated with it, and the financial impact. Co-create the expectations of the solution, what it will be like when the problem is resolved and finally help determine the decision criteria that will enable the customer to select the best solution.

How to Become a P.R.I.M.E. Resource

This involves building strong relationships with your customers. Here are a few pointers on how to do it:

1. Build a reputation for excellence based on trust and dedication.

2. Be a scholar. Keep up with market conditions, new products or services, technical standards, industry trends, advertisements and personnel changes.

3. Use a conscientious, professional approach to your customer's critical issues.

4. Polish your professional sales and problem-solving skills continually.

5. Know your customer's world -- their associations, their industry, their marketplace, their customers.

6. Be the customer's advocate. Work to smooth all problems your internal systems may create for your customers.

7. Know what the competition is doing. Report back to your company any information you gain.

8. Remember that you are just as important as the product or service your company offers.

As you become a P.R.I.M.E. resource, you will find that you are a critical contributor to your customer's growth and financial health. Being a P.R.I.M.E. resource is a reciprocal relationship. Both you and your customer will prosper.