For most of us selling a solution (whether a product or service), we have come to expect a long, often drawn-out, sales cycle before the yes or no verdict. We also know that there are a lot of factors that go into the decision to buy/not to buy from us including the product/service in question, their needs, your salesmanship, etc… But one of the most underrated, yet extremely powerful, aspects of the sale is building trust and credibility with your audience.
Now I know this concept is not a new one – you would be hard pressed to find a sales course or trainer that does not tell you that you need to build trust and credibility – but in this article, we are going one step further to talk about the “how”.
Before we begin, I want to explain to you why I have decided to write this article. Very simply, over the past decade I have talked to volumes of sales people who all tell me that the key to selling is in the “relationship”, yet when I ask them what they do to build that relationship I am truly surprised by their answers. In fact, most of them do very little, quite frankly.
Sure, all sales people out there will tell you all the great things they do on the trust and credibility front when they are eye-to-eye with a customer or active prospect, but that’s the easy part. The question that I want to know is what they do to those prospects that aren’t quite there yet and even those whom they barely know. That’s where the ideas tend to stop and so that’s where I am going to pick up.
Building trust and credibility with your audience requires 4 ingredients:
No different to when you are face-to-face at a 1st appointment, building trust and relationship requires you to think of them as the key driver for your actions. What do they want/need to know? What motivates them? What style of salesmanship will they prefer/respond to?
As an example….If you see an article or some news that you believe, from your discussions with them, they would value or be interested in, send it to them (even if it may have nothing to do with what you sell). The receiver will view you as being interested in their success not just your sale.
Another example is trying to understanding what hurdles stand in their way of solving their problems. While this information will certainly help you in your strategy, it will be viewed as being empathetic to the fact that they probably have a full plate with lots of other pressing things, in addition to talking with you.
Sometimes it’s just as, if not more important, how you behave then it is what you say. Think of friends you have that you view as highly trust-worthy and dependable. What do they all have in common? Regardless of whether or not they are the most fun, best athlete or whatever, you know that no matter what the situation, you can count on them to follow through with whatever it is they have promised. That’s how you want your audience to think of you.
It’s amazing to watch a sales person be a charismatic, energetic ball of enthusiasm, giving the customer whatever he wants when the sales rep knows there is an opportunity and then be disinterested, forgetful or late when there is nothing “on the table”.
As sales people, just like in any personal or professional situation, we need to be consistent in all that we do. We need to set precedents we know we can maintain. We need our audience to be able to entrust us to do something and know we will always deliver.
In summary, please call when you say you will; write what you say you’ll write; deliver what you promise; be honest about pricing: be on time; be prepared; show respect and keep your temperament even. They are such easy things to do but they can make a huge difference.
Less but more frequent
It drives me crazy when I ask someone for information and they send me a package with 30 pages or a huge brochure. Who has time to fumble through ’31 Flavors’ at Baskin Robbins in the hopes of finding the pralines and cream?
It’s even worse when I get unsolicited email or mail and the author is trying to tell me everything all at once.
You need to recognize that even extremely interested people have busy lives and short attention spans. They are being bombarded with information all day. So pick what genre you want to focus on – about you, about your company or about your products/services – and keep it to a page (two maximum). For unsolicited mail/email/faxes this becomes even more critical.
When faced with a prospect that just says “send me some information”, try asking them what information they would like to see. Do they want to know the company history? products? expertise? customer list?
Finally, if you have, for example, 5 pieces of information you feel your prospect should learn about you, break it up and send one at a time over several weeks or months. It will be far easier for them to digest not to mention that fact that you now have had the chance to “touch” them and get your name out there 5 times instead of once. In addition, you always have the ‘next’ piece of information to offer them each time you talk as opposed to giving it all away at the first opportunity.
So break your information down and hold on to it. Touch your prospect slowly, consistently and frequently.
Heard that variety is “a spice of life”? Believe that it’s true? You should! Like anything in life, variety is key. In the world of educating your prospective customers variety can be the difference between your message successfully getting across or not. Here’s why!
First, not everyone likes to be communicated to the same way. Some prefer email, some enjoy hard copy and others really just want to see your pretty face (as an aside, I like hardcopy – what do you like?). So make sure your company offers information in a variety of formats and inquire from your prospect what they prefer.
Second, people buy from you for different reasons. That will effect what information they need to know and what is just overkill. I, for example, am more interested in a company’s “credibility” than I am in their “process”. I want to know has this company done what they preach for others and can they prove that. I want to see things like client lists, case studies, references not color brochures and presentation. But that’s just me. What do you like to know when buying?
Amazingly, when I’m prospected, I am very rarely asked what kind of information would interest me. Make sure youR company covers all the spectrums – from curiosity (do you think that could work for me?); credibility (they’ve done this before!) to confidence (I know this will help me!).
Third. Be different. It’s not always necessary to give critical information every time you “touch” your audience. Simple thank you cards or “thinking-of-you” emails can make a lasting impression and they are so easy to do. Even meeting reminders prior to your phone or face-to-face appointment, outlining the agenda or objectives of the call will help show them that you are a professional and credible business person.
In conclusion, people trust people that put them first, are unconditionally consistent, do the “little things”, take time to learn what their ‘buttons’ are and through perseverance and patience, take time to engage them frequently without coming across as self-serving or inundating them with information all at once.