Selling Trust To Your Prospective Clients: 4 Tips To Build Trusting Relationships With Your Prospects
My entire sales career I’ve heard the oft repeated (but misguided) idea that people buy from people they like. If you’re anything like me then you’ve had the all too painful experience of sitting across from a prospect after a seemingly smooth and enjoyable sales conversation only to leave the meeting empty handed. You do your due diligence and follow up with them properly only to be told they’ve “gone in a different direction”. How could this happen? You had a great product, your price was fair, and you had a great relationship with the prospect. Don’t people buy from people they like? The simple answer is NO. If they did then Comcast wouldn’t be in business! The truth, when you take a step back and examine the psychology of all sales, is that while we don’t necessarily buy from those we like, we always buy from those we trust. When this concept is understood it can help completely eliminate many of the common objections you come across in the field. But as my father – a much better salesman than I – once told me, trust is earned and not sold. Here are a few tips to help you earn the trust and the budget of your prospects:
- It’s Not About You – For the past 3 months I’ve received calls and emails from a young sales rep from a company that sells “integrated hydration stations” – a fancy name for a tankless water cooler. Every call he enthusiastically recites the benefits of his product (his units have built in water purification systems, lifetime warranties and free repairs, several temperature settings etc). He’s even gone as far as to calculate the amount of money I’d save using his system over the Culligan water cooler he assumes I have – which I don’t. Honestly, he has a great product and if I were his customer I’d definitely buy. But see, the problem is I am not his customer and never will be. Since his units are tankless they require you have access to a water line in your office – which I do not. The lesson in this story? No matter how great your product, your benefits, and your price the sale is never about you. The negative perception of the greedy and inconsiderate sales person is one of the single biggest obstacles most of us have to overcome daily. The first step in earning a prospect’s trust and their budget is simply taking the focus off you and your product long enough to listen and learn about them and their needs. Learn your prospect as best you can through research and asking the right questions (which we will get to in point #2) and you will stand out from the pack.
- Ask Valuable Questions – The young sales rep in my earlier example could have saved himself 3 long months of prospecting my company had he simply asked a few key questions to qualify me as a true prospect. Many sales reps fall into the trap of asking questions just for the sake of speaking and not for the sake of the sale. When questioning a prospect try to make sure a good portion of your inquiries fall into one of these categories:- Will the answer to this question give me insight on why a purchase decision needs to be made?: As simple as it may sound, an astounding amount of sales reps can conduct an entire meeting without ever knowing why a prospect would or should buy from them at that time. Your questions should uncover this and give both you and the prospect insight on the nature of your future relationship.Example: An advertising sales rep at a direct mail company can ask a business owner the usual question, “What types of advertising are you doing now?” or they can uncover much more detail and insight into the mindset of the decision maker by asking, “What is the strategy behind your current advertising and why/how do you feel a direct mail campaign fits within it?” With the first generic question you will get a generic answer that truly provides no value to the conversation. With the second you will get insight into the company’s overall advertising philosophy and get to learn their objectives and how they plan on positioning your product. One of these questions wastes time while the other raises more valuable questions, makes you look more like a subject matter expert, and helps your client build trust in your ability to handle their needs.- Will the answer to this question give me insight on how a purchase is made?: Even the smallest of businesses can be intricate systems when it comes to how decisions are made. Understanding how a company makes decisions will help you uncover how to best sell to them and once again make you look like the pro who’s thought of everything and has everything under control.– Will asking this question engage my prospect?: I’ve sat through my share of sales presentations in which mentally I was on a boat with my wife in Costa Rica. Most decision makers have seen the same “presentation” and answered the same needs analysis questions so often they can easily check out and use your meeting as their second lunch break. Be prepared to ask questions that really make your prospect reflect on their needs, their pains, and their future with and without solving those issues.
- Clearly Define Success And Set Expectations – With all professional relationships trust is built upon a strong foundation of results. If you are reading this as a sales rep then you know your ability to deliver upon your sales goals dictates the trust your sales manager has in you. If you are reading this as a sales manager you know you reputation is forged in your ability to turn sales forecasts into sales reality. This same foundation of trust must be present with a prospect in order for any of us to ever make a sale. However, this is often overlooked as an afterthought or obstacle as we make a mad dash toward asking for the sale. But in order for a prospect to make that final leap from interested to invested they must be able to understand and visualize what success with your product truly looks like. Getting on the same page with your prospect on the expectations and what is considered successful is vitally important in creating a healthy sales partnership and retaining the business for the long-term. If yours and your prospect’s ideas of success are a match then they will have little issue entrusting their budget with your company.
- Marry Your Benefits To Their Idea of Success – You’ve earned your prospect’s trust by asking engaging and insightful questions. You’ve earned their respect by going out of your way to set the expectations of what your product can do for their company and defined and agreed upon what success with using your product looks like. Now you have enough ammunition to earn their budget by marrying the benefits of your product to their ideas of success. The young water cooler sales rep has spent 3 months trying to get to step 4 without going through any of the other steps and sadly, if he doesn’t read this post, he may not be a water cooler sales rep in month 4.
Trust is a hard thing to earn if you don’t actively seek it out in every step of your sales process. Before each and every interaction with a prospect remind yourself what it is you are asking them to do when you ask for a sale – take hard earned revenue from the business and spend it on something new and unproven. Ask yourself, based off my actions to this point would I pay me? If the honest answer is yes then you’ve more than likely done the work for your prospect to trust you and invest in you and your product. If the answer is no, its never too late to restart the relationship and build a better foundation.