Most prospects and customers would like to believe salespeople. But they’ve been burned so often, they refuse to let themselves trust salespeople.
And that’s why salespeople make the mistake of trying to overcome distrust by “playing the part,” offering phony friendliness or making exaggerated claims.
On the other hand, there are salespeople who refuse to be tainted with the questionable practices of their less than reliable peers. They know the value of being viewed as trustworthy.
Here are seven ways to go about creating credibility and establishing trust:
1. Never let prospects’ doubts taint you.
It’s a fact: Prospect or client distrust creates a long tail. It doesn’t go away. If that sounds like an overreaction or exaggeration, it isn’t.
It becomes a part of your résumé and no matter how you try to paint a different picture or how often you jump from one “opportunity” to the next, it’s still there. Anything that causes customers to question a salesperson’s integrity does damage. It’s the stuff that builds negative reputations, and in an increasingly transparent world, it stays as close as a dark shadow on a moonlit night. There’s no place to hide today.
2. Nothing is perfect.
The biggest hurdle salespeople face is failing to think like a prospect or customer. So preoccupied with how to get a sale, they ignore what prospects are thinking. Never forget that prospects often know the downside to whatever they buy — whether it’s a home, a car, a vacation package or a breakfast cereal.
Prospects know nothing is ideal nor flawless. It’s a mistake to paint what you sell as perfection.
Being open and objective are big steps in building trust. This is true, whether the product or services are low-cost or high-priced. There is always a downside to what you are selling. Even if it’s minor, don’t try covering it up or pretend it doesn’t exist. Address it and turn it into an advantage by pointing it out. It shows prospects that you’re honest and fair.
3. Create a collaborative climate.
Every salesperson runs into prospects with unrealistic expectations who are always angling to get more, and who often choose confrontation rather than collaboration. They push as hard as they can to win a concession.
But even with all that pressure, sales pros don’t give up. When they run into a barrier, they’re ready with a plan. They might say something like: “I appreciate your concern. If we can find a way to overcome that issue, would that be ok with you?” By creating an atmosphere of negotiation, the prospect becomes part of the solution while the salesperson gets the sale or lands the client.
4. Focus on what matters to prospects.
Consider the prospect who’s in the market for a new car. She made it clear to the salesperson what she’s looking for in a vehicle. But trouble develops when that salesperson’s first response is: “That’s going to cost you a lot more!” Sales are lost when salespeople think they know what a customer wants or can afford.
Salespeople are often trained how to “read prospects.” However, listening to your prospects and paying attention to what they’re saying is a more helpful path to success.
5. Signal your willingness to work with prospects.
Prospects and customers are not only cautious. Some may actually be afraid: They don’t want to go too far into buying something until they “get a read” on the salesperson. No prospect wants to discover they’re faced with working with the wrong person. That’s a bummer and a good reason for caution.
When savvy salespeople recognize a prospect’s discomfort, they might respond by saying, “I understand that this buying decision can be difficult, and I want you to know that I will work with you so you get what you want at a price that’s good for you,” or “It seems as if you may be wondering how you can pay for this. I assure you that we will find a program that works for you.” That’s a good way to send the message that you’re willing to work with them.
6. Be thoughtful, not just informed.
Being a sponge that soaks up information is not nearly as valuable as understanding how the information applies to prospects. A car salesman, for example, might say to a prospective customer, “Ours is the best-selling SUV in the nation!” Even though the salesman knows all of the selling points for the vehicle, nothing he said was meaningful to the prospect. So, the prospect walked out. No sale.
7. Send the right message.
“All salesmen are actors: Their priority is persuasion, not sincerity,” notes Peter Thiel, PayPal’s co-founder and author of Zero to One. He’s also right when he points out that the best actors aren’t seen as acting. They’re effective because they’re authentic; they’re good at what they do.
It’s the same with salespeople. Prospective clients’ responses are positive when they sense a harmony in salespeople between who they are and what they do. They’re real; they don’t put on an act. That sends a powerful, persuasive message, which dispels doubt and attracts customers. It’s called trust.
Prospects trust people who come across as genuine. When a genuine person is in sales, customers may not see them as exceptional, but they like working with them and give them repeat business as well as referrals.
All of this points to one conclusion: Salespeople, like everyone else, are far more transparent than they may want to think. That’s why making sure customers say, “This is the right person to do business with,” is the key to success.
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