How to Build Trust With Potential Customers
Whether you handle sales yourself or have a sales team in place, prospects will only buy your product if they trust you. As Allan Himmelstein, president of Sales Coach AZ, notes: “I think most sales are lost because the rapport and trust were not well-established, not because of price or other excuses for not buying.”
Each time you or a sales rep talks with a potential customer, you have an opportunity to build the kind of trust that can lead to a successful transaction and a healthy, long-standing relationship.
So, how do you establish trust with a skeptical prospect? Try these seven strategies.
1. Know what you’re offering. Before calling on customers, be sure you know your product or service inside-out. Be ready to describe in detail how it will help solve the customer’s problem. You must be able to back up your claims with hard data and/or examples of where it’s helped others with a similar need.
2. Know who you’re talking to. Many salespeople call people they know nothing about. Before making contact, know who you’re calling and why. Anticipate the types of questions you’ll be asked. When potential customers understand that you’ve gone to the trouble to research their needs and their industry, they’ll likely respond more favorably.
3. Ask questions and listen to the answers. Customers are looking for someone to address their specific issues. You can only uncover those issues by asking questions like, “What’s the biggest challenge facing you and your business today?” Rather than steering the conversation in the direction you want it to go, ask questions that provoke thoughtful responses from your prospective customer. The prospect may not really know what he needs, so listen closely to what he tells you and learn to “hear between the lines.”
4. Don’t bad-mouth the competition. Taking time to criticize your competitors lessens your credibility and damages the trust growing between you and the prospect. Once you understand what the customer needs, your job is to convince her that your product or service is so good, there’s no need to consider any other solution.
5. Nix the hard sell. No one trusts a “one size fits all” sales pitch. Focus on assisting prospects with their particular needs.
6. Act appropriately. If things are going well, sooner or later a prospect will want a face-to-face meeting with you or your sales rep. Here’s where trust can grow between you or get dashed. Keep these “in-person tips” in mind:
- Speak in language that fits the situation. Use specialized jargon only if the prospect understands it; otherwise, use layman’s terms.
- What you wear says something about you before you even open your mouth. Match your clothing to your prospect’s expectations.
- Stay positive. People trust others who are upbeat, dedicated problem-solvers.
- Avoid controversy. You may unintentionally express opinions that others find offensive. Stick to the business at hand.
- Be aware of body language — both your own and your potential customer’s. Facial expressions, tone of voice, and tense or relaxed posture all contribute to the conversation.
7. Be honest and helpful. If you realize that what you’re selling doesn’t match the buyer’s needs, be honest about it. Whatever the situation, offer some takeaway that assists with his or her problem (an article, a white paper, a link to industry website). Assume the role of business consultant and share insights from your own experience. Helping for the sake of helping lays a foundation of trust for future interactions.
Lee Polevoi is an award-winning business writer specializing in the challenges and opportunities facing small business. He is former Senior Writer at Vistage International, a global membership organization of CEOs.