As a salesperson you would have heard the saying people buy from those they know, like and trust.
And of those I believe Trust is the most critical.
In the world of sales, trust is a critical component of success.
Without trust, it can be challenging to convince potential customers to buy from you.
Without trust, communication becomes ineffective, and relationships become fragile.
After all, as a sales professional, you are asking customers to make a significant investment in your product or service. To do so, they must trust that you have their best interests at heart and that you can deliver what you promise.
Stephen Covey the author of the best selling book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People," wrote “… Trust—or the lack of it—is at the root of success or failure … in the bottom-line results of business ...”
What psychologists know about decision-making is that when the rational (=belief in your competence/expertise) and emotional sides (rapport/belief in your character) work together, it's a powerful motivator for action. (e.g. Placing an order)
When the emotional and rational sides are at odds, however, the emotional side typically wins.
As a customer, how many times have you interacted with a salesperson and felt like they were just trying to sell you something instead of truly understanding your needs?
Like you, customers are looking for sales professionals who are honest, transparent, and reliable. They want to work with people who listen to their needs and concerns and offer solutions that are tailored to their specific situations.
In fact, when you and your buyers lack trust, more of your transactions will involve haggling, contract disputes, auditing, manoeuvring and endless verification.
“People greatly prefer to buy what they have to buy anyway from those they have come to trust.”
Charles H Green … "Trust-Based Selling"
In order for you to be trusted you need to be trustworthy.
Stephen Covey, also wrote in his books … there are… two components of trustworthiness.
These two components are:
Character: This refers to a person's integrity, intent, and motives. It includes qualities such as honesty, fairness, and ethics. When someone has a strong character, they are seen as reliable and trustworthy.
Competence: This refers to a person's abilities, skills, and knowledge. It includes qualities such as expertise, professionalism, and experience. When someone has strong competence, they are seen as capable and trustworthy in their area of expertise.
Stephen used a very striking example to demonstrate.
Say, you need brain surgery.
You go to see a surgeon and he has one previous surgery … would you use him?You see another surgeon and all he is interested in is money. The flash car he drives whether you can pay for the operation, would you use him?
Consider this: a CBS News / New York Times poll asked,
"What percent of people, in general, are trustworthy?"
The answer: 30%. We're all pretty skeptical right?
At the same time, the CBS News / New York Times poll asked a similar group the same question, but with a slight difference.
"What percent of people that you know are trustworthy?"
The answer: 70%.
This goes to show: when people get to know and like you, people begin to trust you.
How much do your customers trust you ?
How much will people trust you ?
The best example I ever witnessed of a customer trusting a client …
I used to work with a guy called Kevin ... and I actually spent some time with Kevin while he trained me to take over sales in an industry where he was somewhat of an expert. (Competence)
I'll never forget the first time it happened.
We were in a buyer's office and Kevin was asking how much X, Y & Z product they needed.
The purchasing manager said,
"You know where the production manager is and where the raw materials are stored. Here's the order book ... fill in what we need and I'll sign it"
And this happened quite a few times at different clients !
Another example was related to me about the retired salesman I took over from when I first started selling. His name was Vinny. I was told that customers used to phone in and place very large orders without even asking for a price. The sales desk asked whether Vinny had quoted them and they would often comment, “not yet but Vinny will do the right thing by me”
That level of trust doesn't just happen.
And once you have it you've got to be careful to retain it.
Do your customers trust you that much ?
“Most people can discern the difference between a salesperson who is out to make a dollar and one who is out to make a difference.”
from "High Trust Selling" by Todd Duncan
“When your only focus is to win, customers become objects, tools for achieving that goal. And customers don't care to be treated that way.”
from Charles H Green … "Trust-Based Selling"
Furthermore Green writes that … "In trust-based relationships, getting the sale is not the ultimate goal the goal is to improve things for the client."
Personally, my motivation was to help people.
There were a few quotes and phrases that I lived and sold by:
“You can have everything you want in life if you just help enough other people get what they want.” … Zig Ziglar
“They won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” … Teddy Roosevelt
ABC is NOT… “Always Be Closing” it’s “Always Be Caring”.
Selje is the word sales was derived from and it translates “to serve”.
Curiosity was an attitude I carried with me.
I was always curious to know how my prospects and customers manufactured their products and what their market conditions were like. Consequently, I tended to ask a lot of questions. Questions about them (their most favourite topic) and not about how their pains and how they’s use my products.
Congruence is when your actions match your words. When this happens you become very believable.
Todd Duncan who wrote “High Trust Selling” advises
“Determine your deeper purpose and align it with your actions and goals.”
I wrote about something similar in Sales and Life Purpose.
It's not about using tactics to get people to trust you.
It's creating the connection where trust is granted because the customer feels the why, the mission, the heart, and the soul behind the business and responds by thinking to themselves, "It's no wonder this is why you do what you do." Today, people buy into a business before they buy from a business. That's earned trust.
Operate your sales practice as though you were your own business.
I was taught early on my sales career to think of the sales I was making, the profits I was making, the funds I was spending the equipment I was using as though they were my own personal money and property.
I was also taught to think of myself as a shareholder in the business, funnily enough that’s what I ultimately ended up.
Thinking this way also changes how you think about a sale.
You think less about making a single sale and more about building a long-term business relationship.
The contrast is as different as living from paycheque to paycheque is from building an investment portfolio.
And you never know what can happen.
I treated all my prospects and customer as someone to help.
I read recently, “spending even a little time helping a prospect who might not buy from you immediately can be very profitable. Buyers you have helped could generate referrals, speak well about you or remember you when they are ready to buy.”
I remember helping Gwen, who was purchasing for a small ink company, sort out a supply problem she was having with a raw material she was buying in from the UK. Later I was helped out on a number of occasions by a lady who was the personal assistant to the purchasing manager of one of the largest paint manufacturers in Australia. Turns out she was Gwen’s sister-in-law.
All of these thing will show up in your character which, as quoted above, is part of Trustworthiness.
The Four Building Blocks of Trust - from Charles Green "Trust-Based Selling"
Listening builds trust more than anything else.
When you take the attention off yourself and really get interested in another, hear what they have to say, and ask great questions, trust increases dramatically.
The typical sales spiel highlights product benefits, downplays the competition, asks subjective questions, and subtly pushes the buyer toward the seller's product or service.
Contrast that with Asking Questions and Listening
“When you relinquish your control and stop focusing on selling, you actually will increase your sales, influence and profit." Charles Green, "Trust-Based Selling"
Dale Carnegie famously wrote: “You can make more friends in two months by becoming genuinely interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”
And frankly you can make a lot more sales too.
“We trust most those people who do not always put their interests ahead of our own.”
Charles H Green … "Trust-Based Selling"
Be On Time for Your First Meeting
First impressions last.
In fact, be on time for ALL meetings.
That doesn’t always mean wear a snappy suit and tie.
There were industries I called on where they had a disdain for “the suits” that came to visit them.
Know Your Products AND YOUR INDUSTRY
Keep learning about your products.
Not just from literature but ask loyal customers why they buy from you.
Create cheat sheets so you know the actual customer benefits your product offers.
It also pays to have a guru in the industries you call on. Someone who you can call and discuss things . Who can help you stay on top of industry trends.
You also need to know your opposition … in detail, their strengths and weaknesses.
Demonstrating Industry Knowledge and Expertise
One of the ways I used to do this was when I was launching a new product I would always talk the small customers first. That way by the time I got to the big players in the industry I knew the industry jargon, the manufacturing processes, the problems manufacturers faced and the market situation. It sounded like I knew what I was talking about.
I had Status Alignment and because of the Certainty I instilled in my prospects they felt like they could TRUST what I was saying (see Oren Klaff below)
If you do these things you may then be able to offer valuable insights and perspectives to prospects and clients.
Oren Klaff in his book “Flip the Script” writes about Status Alignment … Status alignment to get the other person to take you seriously.
So that they pay full attention.
Using a “Status Tip-Off” that you're on the same level as them.
And he writes about how to Instill Certainty in the Prospect (i.e. certainty in your competence) by using a “Flash Roll”.
It reminded me that I know a salesperson here in Australia who is the leading salesperson in her industry.
When she was young she worked in spare parts for that industry, learned about the assembly of the product, then did a CAD design course and learned how to design the products, worked designing the products, then she cornered a contact who knew ALL the Government regulations about where the product could be used and how and she even worked for a time with a company that provided complementary products.
Nobody in her industry knows the industry, the players in the industry, the regulations and the products as well as she does. Consequently, she is the most successful, highest-paid salesperson in this industry in Australia by a large margin and is constantly headhunted by overseas companies (well, pre-CoVid she was headhunted).
She has Status Alignment ...
She has the ability to instill Certainty in the mind of her prospects.
They know from what she says, her vast knowledge and the authority in her voice that she knows what she is talking about and therefore they TRUST her.
Keep Your Promises
If you say you are going to get some information and call them back DO IT.
Don’t be like the guy that took over my sales territory.
If you say a delivery will be made on a certain date make sure it happens. I often used to promise delivery on a day a couple of days after I thought we could actually make the delivery. That way they were happy and surprised rather than annoyed and frustrated. Under promise and over deliver.
It pays to rehearse before you go into a sales call, particularly a big one.
This will improve your confidence.
But be careful Confidence is no replacement for Competence. Becasue you’ll very soon get found out and then your credibility is gone.
Retain Your Clients
As mentioned earlier look to create long term relationships with clients in which trust can grow.
After all, studies suggest that depending on the industry you are in, acquiring a new customer can cost five to seven times more than retaining an old one.
“You must do more to keep a client than you did to get the client.”
from "High Trust Selling" by Todd Duncan
The largest customer I had when selling B2B started out buying 1 product for about $80,000 /year. 8 years later they were buying 16 products from me for about $2,200,000 / year (and that figure was back in the year 2000, it would be a lot more in today’s currency).
In fact, I was away at a business conference and some opposition sales reps wanted to know if I was “blackmailing the buyer” at this account. Asking "what dirt did I have on him ?"
They claimed they could never even get to quote !
Frankly, I did nothing special other than do my best to look after a good customer and over the years I had built up a large amount of trust.
Remember, buyers look for four things: a product, a solution, a worthy business partner and someone they can trust.
“The main difference between the mediocre salesperson and the high-trust sales professional is how they treat their clients after a sale.”
from "High Trust Selling" by Todd Duncan
Trust is the bedrock of successful sales.
Customers are drawn to sales professionals who are honest, transparent, and reliable. They want individuals who truly understand their needs and offer tailored solutions.
Even Stephen Covey emphasized the pivotal role of trust in business success.
Building trust starts with the right attitudes. The attitudes of serving others and demonstrating genuine interest.
Trust is also built through actions. Active listening, collaboration, and transparency form the foundation of trust-based relationships. By focusing on client needs, sharing information openly, and being honest about product limitations, trust flourishes.
By embodying trustworthiness, prioritizing customer needs, and consistently delivering on promises, sales professionals can harness the tremendous power of trust. Buyers seek more than just a product; they seek a trustworthy partner. Embrace the power of trust and elevate your sales to new heights.