When someone visits your website for the first time, she's not likely to buy from you on that first visit, regardless of how good your product or service is.

She's already visited other sites. The argument they presented didn't convince her. They offered her no benefits and didn't solve her problems.

All the sites she's seen are saying the same thing. All making similarly exaggerated claims. With the same unnatural tone—using business jargon—that's left her distrustful.

So where does that leave you?

Laying the Groundwork for Trust

Is what you're selling clearly defined? Is it relevant to her needs? And, most important, does she trust you?

You must lay the foundation for earning your clients' trust. As we know, people like to feel they are buying, not being sold to. And they buy from people they like and trust.

Building rapport means linking your message to your prospective client's own experience. Show them you've had similar experience—that you're like them and you understand their situation.

You demonstrate that you understand how they feel because you've had a similar experience. Doing so helps you validate their experience and empathize with it.

The best way to build rapport is to empathize with your audience's pain. If you could, you'd sit down with the person for a one-on-one and gain personal knowledge of her situation: Why does she feel that way?

You'd learn her plight and understand her situation.

But how do we as marketers build the kind of credibility that tells prospects we are trustworthy—that we give them high value for their hard-earned dollar?

Great question. Let me illustrate with a story from Dale Carnegie.

In his book How to Win Friends and Influence People, Carnegie tells the story of a Philadelphia man who for years tried unsuccessfully to sell oil to a chain-store organization.

Here's Dale Carnegie: "Mr. Knaphle made a speech one night before one of my classes, pouring out his hot wrath upon chain stores, branding them as a curse to the nation."


So let me ask you a question: Would you buy from a man with this kind of negative attitude toward you or your business? Probably not. And do you think maybe his negative attitude was leaking into his sales presentations and corrupting the relationship before it even got started?

So, Carnegie put together a strategy for Knaphle to help him build a relationship of understanding with his prospects.

What Carnegie Did

Carnegie formed two debate teams to argue whether chain stores were doing more harm than good. And here's the genius of what did: He had Knaphle argue on behalf of chain stores—the industry he despised.

And to Knaphle's credit, to help prepare for the debate, he went to one of the chain store executives and asked for information that would help him win the debate.

Seeing the man's genuine interest, the executive gave Knaphle as much information he could. And spoke passionately about how the chain story was benefiting communities.

And what did Knaphle get at the end of the session?

He got not only information but also an invitation to come back to the chain store company so the executive could place an order with him for his product.

How about that for building trust?

The Takeaway for Earning a Client's Trust

The moral of the story is that when you show genuine interest in and understanding of your prospect's situation, you earn their trust and build a lasting relationship. Which ultimately ends up being profitable.

To build trust you must go beyond showing sympathy. You must let them see that you not only understand their struggle but also feel their pain. You need to show that you empathize with their situation and feelings.

Fortunately, you have a powerful tool at your disposal to help you empathize with your customer: storytelling.

You may think finding inspiration or a source for a story is difficult. But your own life can be a source of emotional content. As are you friends' lives.

I'm talking about an incident or moment in your life that mirrors that of your target audience's situation.

A Scenario

Let's imagine you have a program that helps people get out of debt. You're first step is to choose a moment in your life or in someone's life that mirrors your prospect's situation, and then you tell a story that demonstrates that you empathize with their feelings:

Dissatisfied or embarrassed with your financial situation? You're not alone... I've been there.

Five years ago, I was standing in front of a judge explaining how I was making every effort to pay the bank the $7,000 I owed on a credit card.

Things were so bad I was taking money from one credit card to make payment on another credit card.

Then I reached the credit limit. I couldn't take any more money from the second credit card.

And I had already depleted my saving account. In fact, it had a negative balance.

As if that wasn't embarrassing enough, the collection agency put a freeze on my empty savings account.

But that's not all: They froze all accounts that had my name on it.

That included my mother's account. Because of me, she couldn't access her own money.

She was angry and disappointed, and you can imagine how ashamed and frustrated I was.

But I found a way to pull through. I found a way of getting out of debt. And how to avoid getting in debt. In fact, it even helped me take my empty savings account to six figures.

And, yes, it's all legal.

I can show you how to get out of debt and make good money—lots of it.

I've been there. I've had my share of struggles and not only survived, but thrived. I'll show you how to do the same.

Note that the story ends with the storyteller promise of showing you how to get out of debt and make money.

By talking about a similar experience, you show your prospects you're one of them. You show you understand their pain, their problems.

In return, they feel understood and valued.

In his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Dr. Covey says seeking first to understand, then to be understood, is one of the habits of highly effective people: "If you want to interact effectively with me, to influence me—your spouse, your child, your neighbor, your boss, your coworkers, your friend—you first need to understand me."

* * *

Using a simple story to validate your prospective customer's experience is an effective way of creating credibility and earning their trust. When telling the story, be candid. Don't hold back.

In the earlier example, notice the friendly, frank tone the narrator used to talk about how bad his financial situation was. How his own mother's account was frozen. How embarrassed he was. That rawness shows he, too, is human, and that he, too, was just as financially embarrassed as his prospects are.

In other words, aim for a tone that's simple and friendly—conversational—and conveys a mood that's appropriate to the situation. That's what building trust and understanding is truly about.

More Resources on Earning Your Clients' Trust

Consumer Trust and Privacy: The Marketer's Challenge in 2020

The Role of Customer Empathy in the Future of Marketing

Earn Your Customers' Trust: How to Use Personalization and Authenticity to Reach Audiences

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image of Terrence Blair

Terrence Blair is a freelance copywriter and consultant who publishes a free course: 14 Elements of Seductive Sales Page.

Twitter: @TerrenceBlair

LinkedIn: Terrence Blair