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After working hard to reduce the size of my phone, I’ve taken a step back with the Blackberry.  My wife thinks it’s funny that my phone is as big as some laptops, but I just couldn’t pass up the apps.  So why am I telling you this…because there’s a great “trusted adviser” story behind this – one appropriate for anyone in sales.  Here’s what happened:

1. First, those who know me know I’ve been waiting for Verizon to support iPhone for the longest time.  Keep reading….

2. It all started when I called Verizon to get my sim chip enabled for my upcoming trip to Australia, India, and Singapore.  I keep this function disabled while working in the states as a prudent measure of cost containment.

3. Of course Verizon had to put me hold, so I was surfing around, minding my own business when an idea popped into my head.  I wonder if you can make overseas calls from Google phone for free, or some ridiculously low price.  Of course you can (and Skype works as well)…but it requires an app on a smart phone, which I did not have.

4. As the Verizon sales rep began unfolding the simple plan of 4.99/month plus just $2+ per minute, I was reading about $.02 charges using either Google or Skype on Blackberry or Droid phones.  The Droid seemed to be the obvious choice…I didn’t let on, but thanked them and hung up.

5. From there I was in the car on my way to buy a new phone.  If I spent just ten minutes per day, I was looking at a few hundred dollars in phone charges!  My contract at Verizon is up – so I knew I could probably have a smart phone for close to nothing.  The Droid 2 was a possible choice…lots of memory, lots of apps, and pretty good reviews.

6. At the store they  told me they didn’t have it in stock…bummer.  They started working on getting one to the store overnight when I asked, “Does this really sport global support?”  The said “Yes!” but I was asking the wrong question.  I should have asked, “Does this support GSM global communications?”  They didn’t know.  So I headed back home to find out.

7.  I was right.  It does not.  However, the Blackberry storm is one of the few that does; Droid is working on it.  So I headed back to the store, made the purchase, and here I am.

So here’s the Trusted Adviser issue, in case you missed it.

– Why did the sales person on the phone lead me down the $2+ / minute route?  Was this a money making deception or just plain ignorance?

– Why didn’t the rep in the store know about global networks?  What would have happened if I had bought the Droid with only 2 days to figure out I had the wrong phone?

Being a trusted adviser means knowing more than just the product.  It means having great advice and being an adviser.  It also requires integrity and trustworthiness.  One of the two was lacking with the first rep; I believe the second was just uninformed.

© 2010, David Stelzl

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When little gadgets like the iPad command greater attention than just about anything you sell, the technology business is in trouble.  That is, unless you have something greater than the product to vend.  It was bad enough that half the emails I was receiving said they were sent from the iphone (which we Verizon customers still don’t have), but now the other half are coming from the iPad!  Where are we headed?  I’m changing my signature to read, sent from my MacBook Pro, which supports more apps, has a bigger screen, and consumes more power! (Right about now I am loving the fact that I upgraded from Microsoft Windows earlier this year.)

The real issue of course, is that the product can’t be the center of attention.  If you you work for Apple, perhaps your real value is innovation.  If you are a reseller it must be intellectual capital.  If you work for just about any product company, you had better have some niche, or you’ll be what Geoffrey Moore once called the Chimps, always trying to steal market share from the Gorilla.  Or, perhaps you’ll learn the same lesson we all need to learn…that the message, the marketing, and the intellectual capital are more valuable than just about any product.  Certainly in the long run this is true.

© David Stelzl, 2010

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