Ask most people to describe a salesperson, and "trustworthy" probably won't be their first choice of adjective.
In fact, if you type "salespeople are" into certain search engines, "salespeople are liars" is often among the top suggested searches—not exactly an ideal image for a professional whose success depends on establishing trusted relationships.
But trust is essential: If you want to stand any chance of making a sale, you absolutely must establish credibility with your buyers. Trust is a core element of every successful sale.
The Statistical Significance of Good Faith
The sales profession is often maligned—and sometimes with good reason. But there are professionals who have the discipline and integrity to earn their customers' confidence.
According to a new Edelman study that surveyed over 30,000 members of the general public, trust matters, even on a strictly business level. Actually, it matters a lot. Some of the more striking statistics from the study:
- 80% of respondents bought certain products or services because they trusted the companies behind them.
- 63% refused to buy products or services because they distrusted those companies.
- 68% would recommend the products of a company they trusted to a friend or coworker.
- 53% would criticize the products of a distrusted company and share that criticism with a friend or coworker.
- 48% would share positive opinions of companies they trusted online.
- 38% would share online criticisms of companies they didn't trust.
In other words, reputations matter. Trust matters. Failing to earn the confidence of your customers means you're significantly less likely to close the deal or win good press, and it might mean that you're doing your company an active disservice.
Four Steps to Credibility
1. Connect your solution with your customer's business
You need to understand your customers—not just know them, but actually understand them. Typically, that means figuring out what challenges your customer might be facing, then applying your industry insights so that when you reach out to them you can offer a solution tailored to fit their specific problem.
Nothing establishes good credit better than knowing what you're talking about and showing you care about sharing your knowledge in a way it can do some good.
2. Assume your customers are smart
Nothing is more deadly for a new customer relationship than trying to distort or hide information about your product or competitors. Obviously, you're not obligated to draw attention to your product's shortcomings, but you absolutely must be prepared to address them.
If the information exists on the Internet (and most of it probably does), then you have to assume your prospective customer has already seen it—or will at some point. Throughout the sales process, focus on keeping your facts accurate, and be ready to acknowledge anything they might have read or might be curious about.
3. Start bigger
One mistake salespeople consistently make is jumping straight into a list of product features the second they get a potential customer on the phone. But, frankly, the prospect probably doesn't care—at least not at the beginning.
Before you launch into the virtues of your product, show that the prospect you understand the bigger picture. Talking about your product is selfish; it says, "This is what I have and I want you to buy it." Instead, talk about industry and market trends to position yourself as an expert. Doing so says, "I understand what's wrong. I understand what you're dealing with, and I think I know how to help you." That way, when you do come to the point in the conversation when it's appropriate to insert your product offering, the prospect respects your authority to suggest it.
It's always better to have a prospective customer ask for more information than drowning them with it at the outset.
4. Play well with others
If you're selling to a business, you're not just selling to one person, you're probably selling to five or six. Most buying decisions aren't made by one person anymore. That means you'll have to be ready to cater to varying interests, personalities, and priorities.
To maintain your credibility with everyone involved, try to address each person's needs and then help them reach a consensus.
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Customer confidence can be a hard win. By being thoughtful and applying these best practices, you can earn the trust that's invaluable for making the sale. Be a salesperson, but be trustworthy. They're not mutually exclusive.