Anyone who has done face-to-face selling before will tell you that if you lose the prospective customer’s trust, whether intentionally or not, the sale is Game Over. Trust is essential from the onset of the sales process all the way through to the close. If the prospect has any reason to doubt what you are saying or what you claim to deliver, they will not take you up on your offer.
Fortunately, there are some best-practices to follow that will help you create a solid business relationship built on trust. Some trust-building methods are common sense practices that we’ve all heard all of our lives, while other rules are less immediate. The maintenance of trust is actually an on-going effort that starts with the initial sales call. Trust is nourished and fostered by the day-to-day interactions with your customer from the first sale onward. If you lose their trust, you will lose the customer – much like any other type of relationship.
Let’s take a look at our top five rules for building trust in sales.
Rule #1: Honesty really is the best policy
These days, “honesty” is also known as “transparency” or “openness” in the business world. Even though it might be cliché to call it “honesty,” that’s really what it comes down to, and what customers expect from the businesses they choose to deal with.
Remember how I said some of these trust-building policies would be familiar to you? The fundamental basis of any relationship is honesty. You may not be a silver-tongued snake-in-the-grass by any means, but that’s not to say you can’t still find yourself swimming in half-truths, which are what get businesses in trouble anyway. A big problem in business relationships is over-commitment. If you know you cannot deliver something, do not say that you will.
Here are some phrases that can come back to haunt you:
We can handle that
We can meet that deadline
We can do all that
We can do everything for that (lowball) price
I’m sure you can imagine the scenarios that result from overstatements like the ones above. While the words may be uttered with the utmost of good intentions, all the prospect will feel is distrust if they so much as suspect that you cannot deliver on something that you commit to. Remember, it is better to lose a customer in honesty than it is to gain a customer in dishonesty.
Just like you shouldn’t over-promise or under-manage your clients’ expectations, don’t make things up either. Customers appreciate when you admit you don’t know an answer, but you will research it and get back to them.
Rule #2: Follow-through reliably
Building trust in sales requires being extremely reliable.
If you set a meeting with a prospect, make sure you keep that meeting and arrive on-time. Nothing says “unreliable” like missed meetings or late arrivals. If you say “I’ll get back to you,” make sure you do, in a timely fashion. The need for reliability remains throughout the duration of the relationship. If you fall through on a commitment, you incur a strike against your trustworthiness, and you can tarnish the relationship.
For your existing customers, maintaining the trust you have worked hard to develop means always delivering what you have promised. If you outline goals and milestones, always strive to meet them, because that is where Rule #1 and this one meet head-on. Promise only what you can deliver; and deliver what you have promised. But, as sometimes things happen, you are going to occasionally miss a deadline, make sure to apologize and warn them in advance that you will do whatever you can to make it right.
By consistently being reliable (and, again, honest,) you’ll maintain your customers’ respect and retain their business for years to come.
Rule #3: Put yourself in their shoes
You might think of it as empathy.
Putting yourself in your prospect’s shoes (figuratively, of course) is essential to building trust in sales. The ability to do so comes through carefully listening to their concerns while bearing in mind that they are, chiefly, looking out for their own business interests. If you try convincing the customer to do something that will be fundamentally bad for their business (like awarding a project at a price their budget will not permit), you will lose their trust. They will perceive you as being focused solely on whatever it is you are after.
Researching your customer in advance, asking open-ended questions, and carefully listening to their concerns will help you gain an insight into your prospects’ needs and allow you to tailor your approach to them accordingly. Trust depends on relating and agreeing on common goals, and only through understanding your customer will you be able to do so.
Rule #4: Exercise a little patience
One other way to break a customer’s trust is to seem like you’re in a hurry. If you come off as pushy or pressing, they will be put off and you may lose the sale. If you rush things, you run the risk of appearing to be exclusively self-interested. It’s easy to get impatient in sales, especially if your next paycheck depends on winning the business in question; however, you’ll never get ahead by showing your customer that you are desperate to make a sale.
If you make a customer feel pressured, they are likely to bolt. Keep cool, calm, and collected, and remember that good things come to those who wait. (Just don’t put off asking for the sale for tooooo long!)
Rule #5: Continual service
Another great way to build trust is to make sure you provide consistent and continual service to your customers. This is particularly helpful once you already have a customer and would like to retain their business. You’ll get repeat business from them if you frame every action around adding value for them.
This all comes down to dialogue. Ask the customer if you are meeting all of their needs. Even if they don’t need anything special, they will appreciate your asking. Sometimes, simply staying in contact is enough to show that you want to continue to serve your customers in the long run. They will trust you to be there when they do need your services, and they will not call a competitor because you have been cultivating the relationship all along.
It’s all about trust
Building trust in sales starts with being honest in the statements you make, being careful to avoid over-promising, and being attentive to the customer. Trust affirms a commitment between you and your customers. You can never afford to break that trust because, once you do, you will lose the relationship. Who knew building trust in sales was so much like dating? Most of the best advice for building trust in sales is based on common sense, everyday practices that we are taught in childhood. Sometimes, it really is just that simple!
What tricks do you use to build trust with your customers?
Photo: Flickr Creative Commons