It is essential that sales professionals establish a culture of ‘Trust’ with clients. Trust is a core value at my current company because without trust we lost customer relationships and brand power in the marketplace.
A company can have the highest level of brand trust in the market but one slip up can taint that reputation – especially when the mistake is not corrected through corrective methods.
A lot of companies throw around ‘building trust’ as a sales methodology but they fall short in that building trust is a sales positioning versus a true foundational effort to build a dynamic relationship with the customer.
I use the word dynamic – because trust goes both ways and establishing trust in sales demands that the sales professional take time to listen – not just from the perspective of how I can manipulate the conversation to position and sell my product – but active listening and empathy to understand what are the real issues affecting the business and how can you provide a meaningful resolution.
You are still a sales person, but as a counselor salesperson your end goal isn’t peddling the transaction like a mall cart selling hand lotion- you are truly invested in understanding their business. You have worked to acquire knowledge of the industry and how your product truly helps solve problems and the risks and advantages of changing the status quo.
The first step to building trust in the sales process is simply to actively listen with EMPATHY. You seek to understand their current state (before scenario), bottlenecks and what is working and how a change impacts their organization (pros and cons). You are willing to step into their shoes to see things from their perspective (Ben Duffy approach – read more here) but also an outsider that has the perspective and clarity to provide insight that business owners cannot perceive at ground zero.
Always be thoughtful in your assessment and honesty. Obviously you have the expertise to see how your product(s) can transform their business, but at the beginning stages you are building a relationship and establishing their needs (perceived and identifying new unrealized pain points) and working together on a solution.
As a counselor salesperson you need to identify yourself as a partner and an expert – the client’s success is your success. You need to be transparent about where you see issues in their current set-up (especially when they like the status quo – but it is leaving them open to cyper attacks and added costs) and also not being afraid to admit when your product doesn’t fully align with their needs.
There are many ways you can build a foundation of trust in sales but I think it always starts with authenticity and a genuine desire to understand your client’s business and do whatever it takes to help them succeed. When you care about the client and are invested in them – they are open to trusting your positive and negative feedback.
People sense sincercity and when you are holding them accountable to improving their business (asking difficult questions with respect) – they will respond because you are establishing trust that you care.
DON’T BE AFRAID TO ADMIT THAT YOU CANNOT SOLVE ALL THEIR PROBLEMS – I sold a file sharing solution for years and it was amazing, but sometimes we wouldn’t be able to make their workflow align exactly the way they envisioned. It’s easy to promise the world – but as sales professionals we also need to be transparent when something doesn’t fully align with their required capabilities. You can then explain alternatives and how your solution still brings value.
A lot of clients don’t trust sales professionals because they over promise and under deliver – be the one who can over deliver because you are transparent and open throughout the sales process. This is worth its weight in gold.
- Building trust means setting the proper expectations: If a client has a technical question – make sure to find the correct answer. If you don’t know – promise you’ll research and provide the follow-up in a timely manner. Many sales are lost simply because sales professionals forget to respond to client questions and/or avoid them because they don’t take time to follow-up and get an answer. If you don’t know better to be honest and promise to research than skirt the question.
- Be transparent about timelines
- Don’t be afraid to ask difficult questions – it is okay to ask for the business and to set that expectation, as long as it comes from a place of gracious transparency and proper expectations. This doesn’t mean you pressure the sale to move the needle, but you are also pointed to ask questions like: ‘do you have a budget in place,’ ‘so we can provide the best insight and get you on the best course towards your future state are you looking at other competitors?’ ‘What is your timeline’
- Discovery Agreements help solidify trust because it holds you and the client accountable and aligns the sales cycle as a partnership
You establish credibility through your actions – listening, providing expertise, partnership…however some customers want more becuase they have been burned. You are a new start up or perhaps a legacy product and they are concerned about compliance standards (whatever the issue)
That’s okay – you can build trust by providing ‘social proofs’ and case studies that provide the ‘proof’ in writing based on past successes (and even failures) of how your company provides the best solution for their need.
Don’t bash the competition – some sales professionals will drag the opponent in the mud – but that is a flagrant foul if you ask me. Instead explain the key differentiators and how you provide better value based on their needs.
Ex: That service is a good company, but many clients who worked with them moved to our solution because we specialize in the financial services industry and provide the added compliance with ease of use you need. An example is xyx company I can provide the case study for you to review.
You clearly establish your edge without cutting the competition to size.
- Building rapport is important, but rapport can easily be disguised as trust – trust goes deeper than rapport. Because you are not trying to please the customer’s whims – you are invested in making sure their business thrives.
- I had a computer sales person tell me that the computer I was purchasing included the video software I needed. They wanted to make me happy – but they failed to realize that the hardware wouldn’t support the type of software I needed. I ended up returning the computer. The next rep was open and honest that while it was a great computer that software was not designed for the type of projects I needed and I would have to go to a specialty shop.
- Don’t be afraid to hold your client accountable if you see their ideas for resolution don’t align to the good of their company business objectives. While some clients may walk away with honesty, you are doing your due diligence and most will respect your being willing to potentially take a pay cut to ensure they are on the right path for success (and sometimes it leads to higher ACV)
Be honest! Listen! Be a partner and build a relationship of genuine care for their business outcome.
Trust also ties into my Focus on How Methodology and particularly the ‘Closing the Loop – Implementation’ steps because customer first companies succeed by having a clear cut plan to success and implementation before the papers are even signed – be it onboarding, Customer Success, or simply a quick training.
Trust goes beyond simply persuading clients to sign the dotted line and helps widen the scope; the clients sign the dotted line because they trust the value and relationship you’ve built along with quality of product.
As sales professionals we can impact trust with clients in a focused and meaningful way – but for companies to truly be successful a culture of organizational trust and accountability is essential.
- companies must provide the services they promise and continue to improve and offer necessary support
- Trust from the Security side is important – we live in an age of ransomware and hacking – a company must show it cares about its clients by investing in the proper security methods and take every step necessary to keep client data and trust secure
- Relational Trust – ensuring team culture is built around employees working together for the good of the clients and providing the resources and actionable steps to ensure customer success.
How do you build trust? I’d love tips!