Trust in Selling

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Several months ago, and for the first time in my nine years of being the Director of Sales and Marketing at Violand Management, I was asked to facilitate a session at our annual Executive Summit. The topic was Why Salespeople Fail and I did my best to articulate the eight most prevailing sales mistakes along with strategies to overcome them. The mistakes included focusing too much on presentations without finding out what’s most important to a prospect, not overcoming objections early enough, and insufficient training. When determining which mistake was the biggest culprit to lead off with, the choice was easy. 

Like vs. Trust

Too many sales professionals focus on getting the customer to like them when they should be giving the customer reasons to trust them. Envision stumbling off a cliff and, at the last second, grasping hold of a rock. You can’t pull yourself up; you need someone to provide you a helping hand. Then you spot it—a friend of yours, someone you joke with at work and have a beer with after. The one with the funniest stories, but most of them aren’t true and no matter how much you like being around the guy, you can’t rely on him. He is reaching out, but then another hand appears. This one is from someone you don’t have as much in common with or have as much fun, but any time you have needed him, he was always there to see the job through. You trust him. Which hand do you grab, the person you like or the person you trust?

If you are in sales, you are at a disadvantage for earning trust. Your prospect knows your job is to separate them from their money! They start with their walls up and why wouldn’t they? Our society has conditioned people not to trust sales professionals, and while some of that is very much earned, much of it is unfair. Think of any Hollywood movie involving a salesperson: Glengarry Glen Ross, The Wolf of Wall Street, Death of a Salesman, Boiler Room, Used Cars. In every case, the salesperson is either unethical or incompetent. Snake oil or a used car salesperson is often the first thing someone thinks about when you tell them you sell for a living. No wonder a recent survey by Gallup on what people consider to be the most honest and ethical professions had car salespeople tied with politicians for coming in dead last. Nurses were first with 89% of respondents ranking them highly, followed by doctors and teachers. Car salespeople and politicians were 8%! That means 92% of the public believes sales professionals should not be trusted (since we all get lumped together), but building trust is the single most-effective way to gain sales commitments.

People don’t buy from those they like; they buy from those they trust. In restoration sales it’s even more important because your clients can’t “test drive” your service like they can a car. Plus, they don’t want your service. I don’t care if you truly are the greatest restoration company in all the land, no one wants their basement to flood so you can show them your superior drying abilities! Worse yet, most of the time you are marketing your service to them when they don’t need it. You are telling them to call you the next time they have a flood. Your service is something they can’t touch, they don’t want, and they don’t need. And yet, salespeople are worried about whether the customer likes them …

Building trust fills the gap of suspicion. It allows the customer to feel confident in calling you during their time of need, because they know you have the right amount of capability and integrity, and you have their back. They know this because you have spent time demonstrating to them that you are trustworthy. To build trust effectively, here are several tips.

  1. Always be customer centered. Spend your time creating value for your customer proactively, not reactively. Stop by their office or send them a personalized note, something like, “Mrs. Johnson, I was thinking about what you said to me last week concerning the problem you’re having getting information out to your clients on time. I did some research into what’s working for others and here is what I found.” You didn’t tell them one thing about how great you are at mold removal. Instead, you demonstrated that you listened and have their needs at the top of your mind. You are their source for solutions.
  2. Be honest about what you can and cannot do. It is extremely hard for a salesperson to say no when a customer asks if you can help them with a need. But the first time you say yes to a question that demanded a no, you are done. Either the customer or your operations team will burn you and you need both. If you can’t do something, tell them why and follow up with other ways you can help indirectly, maybe through partnerships you have formed.
  3. Trust them first. I get it, your prospect will lie to you. Trust them anyway. Treat them like they are trustworthy and they are more likely to reciprocate. Treat them like they are not and watch what happens. Use the phrase “I trust your judgment” and mean it. It allows them to be the hero of their own story and shows your desire to partner with them because they are experts at what they do, just as you are with your service.
  4. Don’t focus on today’s sale but on the one after that. You can always cut corners to secure a sale today but that means they may never want to buy from you again. The sale you gain today is the one that will earn you tomorrow’s sale as long as you focus on their long-term needs.

Sure, it helps when the customer likes you and if you are friendly, courteous, and capable they generally will. But getting them to trust you matters more. We spend so much time focused on whether a sales role is B2B (business to business) or B2C (business to customer) when its neither; it’s always P2P (people to people). Your customer is a person who wants to be listened to and valued. Don’t focus on you or your service. Focus on finding their needs and challenges and how you can help, even if it doesn’t involve your service. When you repeatedly demonstrate that you have your prospects’ needs as your top priority, they will trust you. And then they will buy from you.

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Jeff Jones

Jeff JonesJeff Jones is the Director of Sales and Marketing for Violand Management Associates (VMA), a highly respected consulting company in the restoration and cleaning industries. Jeff has a wide range of experience in professional sales and marketing involving all levels of decision makers. Through VMA, Jeff works with companies to find the right mix of programs and services to help them develop their people and their profits. Jeff is a regular contributor to C&R, and winner of the 2022 Patricia L. Harman Golden Quill Award! To reach him, visit Violand.com or call (800) 360-3513.

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