If you’re involved in sales you don’t need me to tell you that salespeople have taken a bad rap over the years.
They’ve been branded with all manner of monikers; shysters, charlatans, hucksters, snake-oil peddlers, swindlers, con-men, phoneys, crooks, scoundrels, robbers, sharks, tricksters, and a hell of a lot more. Hardly flattering to an entire profession and extremely difficult to get rid of.
So, how did that happen?
The answer is, probably pretty easy. Someone somewhere had their trust in another human being completely destroyed.
Trust is the cornerstone of all great sales relationships
It’s no secret, trust is the cornerstone on which all lasting sales relationships are built. Ask yourself, would you buy anything from a person you don’t trust? That’s what I thought.
Literally speaking, trust is defined as; ‘To believe that someone is good and honest and will not harm you, or that something is safe and reliable’.
Trust is the radar which our brain beams out to bounce off the world around us, just to make sure that it’s not about to do something it might later regret. Like when a stranger asks you to wear a suit made from raw meat and take a walk through a pride of lions while imploring you to believe him that the lions are not only tame, but they’re also vegetarians.
In essence, trust is vital for our well-being, and for our survival, especially in sales.
From the moment we are born, trust comes in to play. Every child depends entirely on those around them to answer all of their needs; food, warmth, security, love. If these needs are not met, the seeds of distrust are planted early.
As we grow we gather more and more information about the world around us, every interaction we have with the world adds, or subtracts, to our understanding of the notion of trust.
Can we trust our trustworthiness?
But there’s a problem with these interactions, and it’s this. People are fallible; we are capable of making mistakes and errors of judgment, we can even misinterpret the signals which we receive from our inbuilt trust radar. Our trust instinct can become blurred and confused.
In order to get us back on track, we look for other clues to guide our judgment. We ask questions, search for visual pointers, seek references and source similar scenarios from our own past, and from the pasts of others.
But regardless of who we are, every one of us arrives at adulthood with a notion of trust which has been kissed, kicked, battered and coddled, molded and sculpted, until all we are left with is the bare bones with which to form our opinions. Hardly an ideal situation for doing business, but as mere humans, it’s all we have.
In response, the majority of us have come to realize that we need to form strong relationships – in all sectors of our lives, including sales – in order to nurture success.
Has the value of trust changed?
Customers won’t buy from people they don’t trust. If your goal is to sell more, you’ve got to be trusted more.
But, times have changed, and sales patterns have changed.
Customers are far more informed. They know what they want, the problems that need to be solved, and they know where to look for those solutions.
It’s highly likely that whatever it is that you happen to be selling, so are a thousand of your competitors. So what makes you stand out from the noise?
The answer should be, as it always has been, trust.
Employing the tools of trust
From the very first moment a prospective customer lands on your company’s website, the message has to be, ‘It’s cool, I know what I’m talking about, plus, you can trust me’.
In the same way that a jilted lover needs a shoulder to cry on, a customer with a pain-point needs someone they can really trust to relieve that pain.
Never forget for an instant that humans evolved by being social animals, by needing, and receiving the support of other members of the group, by being aware of the social responsibility, and by the preeminent need for social trust. This need hasn’t changed.
By way of emphasizing that idea, a study of chimpanzees by J.M. Englemann & E. Herrmann – Chimpanzees trust their friends’ – says, ‘Trust is… inherently uncertain as it involves the risk of exploitation by cheaters who fail to prove trustworthy. One solution to this problem is the formation and maintenance of close and long-term social relationships…’ Trust goes back a long way.
What sales professionals need is a trust mantra. A series of definitive principles regarding the notion of trust and how it should be enshrined and grounded throughout the complete sales process.
7 steps on the righteous road to trustworthiness
Speak no evil – You’ve got two ears and one mouth for a very good reason – to listen twice as much as you speak. Show your customers that you really care by listening to what they have to say. If they have a problem that needs to be resolved, ask in-depth questions on how they would like the problem resolved, then listen very carefully. If you spent the time nurturing the customer through effective listening, they’re far more likely to build a trusting relationship – regardless of whether you close a deal or not.
And it’s not just business talk you need to be listening to. You might not want to hear about your customer’s bellyache, but sometimes, for the sake of trust, you just have to take one for the team.
Liar liar your pants are on fire – Whatever else you might be in life, build a reputation for being honest. There’s no surer way of losing your customer’s trust, and their business, than by telling lies. Remember, a little white lie might get you across the sales finishing line, but it may also come back to haunt you forever. In the long-term clients are more likely to respect your willingness to tell the truth, regardless of the outcome.
It’s good to talk – Stay on top of the game with your customer. If they have a query make sure you reply within the promised timeframe. Even if you can’t find an answer, get back and let them know that you’re working on a solution. Be in contact and stay in contact during all stages of the sales process, and even after the deal’s been done. There’s nothing says more about your trustworthiness than a customer-care call long after a deal has been closed, and the product has been delivered
It’s not you, it’s me – Think of your customer in the same way as you would like others to think about you. Really try to imagine the questions they might have and do your best to answer them, even before they’ve been asked. This ability will see your trust rankings soar through the roof. If you think they may be a little upset about some aspect of the deal, ask them straight up. Analyze your own performance and ask for your customer’s feedback, maybe there’s something extra you could be doing. Is there some way you can offer extra value to the customer? Try to think as they might think, you’ll be surprised by the dividends it can pay.
Rome wasn’t built in a day – Give your customers the time they deserve. Remember, people aren’t just waiting to offer you their trust, you have to earn it, and that takes time. Be attentive to their needs, their calls, the scheduled meetings, delivery dates, national or local issues, and anything you can think of. The more you know about your customer – that’s where ‘it’s good to talk’ comes in – the bigger the overall picture of their life you can build, and the easier it becomes to anticipate their needs. If you can reach out in the right way, at just the right time, you’re on their Christmas card list for life.
Walk the walk – Be confident in yourself and your product. Never overinflate your abilities but if you’re genuinely proud of your yourself and what your company can do, fill your lungs and say it proud. Customers will recognize this for what it is and not bravado. And what’s more, they’ll like it and trust you for it too.
Now that you’re going steady – Let a satisfied customer know that you’ve really enjoyed building your relationship. Don’t be afraid to ask their advice on how you might approach a similar customer in a similar situation. Request feedback, and feature their recommendations on your website. Invite them to seminars or meetings that might be of interest to them. It doesn’t even have to cost, sending them some of the latest industry information may be enough to show how much you value the relationship. And, when the time comes for upselling, let them know, personally, about how new products, advances in technology, or improvements might benefit their particular needs.
The technology to boost your trust factor
Hey, you might say, look at my sales records, look at my company rankings, my customers love me and trust me. And it might be true. But is there nothing you can do to keep that trust and grow it even further?
In fact, there is. With the advancement of the digital age, a host of new sales technologies have come to the fore. One, in particular, is the ever-evolving sales CRM software sector. Intelligent CRM software lets salespeople work smarter and with less effort by automating the processes. This gives you more time for your customers.
From automatically sourcing the right leads, to scheduling calls, meetings, and follow-ons, CRM sales software has done more for creating an aura of trust than when the inventor of the guillotine offered to demonstrate the device on himself in order to prove its worth.
Thankfully, there’s no need for you to go that far. Modern CRM technology gives salespeople a full range of automated tools, features, and ARIs with which to build a long-lasting, and profitable relationship, steeped in the principles of mutual trust.