When you hear the words “trust me,” does it make you feel suspicious?
These words have been uttered more times than often and usually are spoken when very little trust is present.
In selling, trust is a powerful tool, but it must be earned and must be felt. For those select few professionals that have mastered the art of building trust, everything looks easy. And you don’t often know why. Today, we are going to look at exactly what trust can do for you, how you can build trust, and just how awesome things could be if you made this a commitment area this year. Trust me on this one…
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What is Trust?
Nothing feels more awful than the feeling of breaking someone’s trust. When they had put their faith in you and you let them down. I have had many of those gut-wrenching experiences and do my best to prevent them any way I can. When I was a kid, my mom and I were at the store and I really wanted this cool Transformer toy. She said I could only have it if I promised to clean my room when I got home. So I asked for her trust and we made a deal. When we got home, I was so excited, that I opened my toy and played with it instead. My mom was not happy! But instead of being mad, she just simply said, “You really disappointed me, Joey. I thought I could trust you. I guess I can’t.”
Oh man, that killed me inside! I worked so hard to try and get her trust back, but what do you think happened when I asked for toys and tried to make deals in the future? Yah, you know the story. Trust is like a mirror. Once broken, the image is never the same.
This story is actually not too far off from our business relationships today.Trust is the foundation of all relationships and is, in reality, the measure of the bond between two people.
Why Build Trust in Selling?
In selling, trust is the magic formula that helps you reframe how your buyer thinks. It is what helps you challenge them, break them out of their comfort zone, and get them to take the plunge into riskier waters with you. That doesn’t come from walking in the place and proclaiming, “Hey, I’m trustworthy! Let’s do this!”
We all would like to think we’re trustworthy, but let’s face it…every single one of us can do a much better job of building trust. When I talked about using insights in selling, a key component to being effective is how well you incorporate trust. It is the magic multiplier. Think about how you’re currently doing business and have a look at these next points. Ask yourself where you could possibly work on improving.
1) Trust helps you access people
One of the top areas of sales training is how to get to decision makers. We learn how to get past gatekeepers, get our calls returned, and cold call more effectively. This is backwards thinking. Picture yourself as an executive for a second. You get a phone call from someone that you don’t know, telling you that they can save you a bunch of money, cut your costs, or improve your efficiencies – stuff like that. You may or may not pay them any attention, right? Now imagine that someone you have been cultivating a relationship with for decades calls. You know, the one you have been solving problems with for a long time. They tell you that they have an idea you will love and want to run it by you. Would you jump? Of course you would. And the same goes if they want to access other people. Connections you have, key stakeholders in your organization, or even warm referrals. The trust you have built over time makes these decisions seem like a no-brainer, right? So trust gets you both direct and indirect access to people with power.
2) Trust gets you taken seriously
How much weight do your ideas have? Do your customers jump at everything you put out there? Can you pick up the phone and get heard by decision makers? When you have trust, you become a person of influence and are actually thought of early on in the decision making process. Your insights help your customers frame decisions, look at strategic options, and your solution is often thought of first. And when there are competitive deals on the table, you will most likely be the chosen one. If you spend time building trust with your clients, you can then say things like, “This idea will work. I think you should do it.” and then when it works, that further increases your trust factor.
3) Trust allows you to dig deeper
Have you ever sat through an awkward presentation where the salesperson tried to ask some tough questions only to be met by the sounds of crickets chirping? Perhaps they had a whole questioning gameplan and they were going to uncover your deep issues. That’s the difference trust makes. Often, buyers are reluctant to disclose information to those they don’t trust. And why would they? But when you have built trust, you are now able to open up dialogues for finding insights. These conversations often lead to increasing the average dollar per sale and finding non-competitive deals that may have not been previously on the table.
4) Trust opens a gateway for the best solutions
One of the big challenges in selling is convincing the buyer to take the offer that is most suited to their needs. Even when you KNOW it is perfect for them! And especially one which pushes them out of their comfort zone and asks them to change. A big reason is the perceived risk around the solution. But another, less talked about reason, is the lack of believability in the results you claim. Salespeople fall into this trap all the time. They open with big claims and quickly knock themselves off the fence because the customer doesn’t believe what they are saying. It is a fine dance where you have to weigh the impact of your solution with the level of comfort of the customer and the depth of your trust with them. These three factors are what allow you to find the most comprehensive service or product to meet their needs. Without trust, buyers will typically choose a path with less resistance.
5) Trust eliminates the pitch
Okay, not completely, but it does stop you from having to hard-sell people. You still need to create compelling offers, uniquely solve their problems, and facilitate collaborative discussions. But with trust as the foundation, your audience starts from a place of being all-ears. You can call up your potential customer and simply tell them, “I have an idea I want to run by you that I came across this week. Do you have some time to chat? And bring your VP of Marketing. They will love it too.” Imagine how much more fun that audience would be.
6) Trust turns challenges and difficult conversations into opportunities
Not everything is sunshine and roses. Stuff happens! And sometimes you are faced with problems and challenges you need to address. Maybe you screwed up. Maybe your customer is mad. Maybe you need to address a concern you have that your customer might not want to hear. When you have trust and need to have these conversations, you can actually begin from a place that has less jockeying for power, more room for listening, and a chance to turn it into a win. Even if it is something they don’t want to hear, at least when you have trust, they will lend you an ear. Imagine having to tell someone, “I heard you are looking at investing in the ABC product for your business. You may not like what I have to say here, but I think that may not be the best solution for your business. It’s actually not a very good idea at all.” With a solid amount of trust, this would be heard. And be sure that if there is no trust, these options aren’t on the table. If you just met…you’ll probably get the same treatment as Jazz did by Uncle Phil on the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air…
Post that list in front of you every day and test yourself to see how quickly your ideas are getting in front of the right people. If you are struggling, it is most likely because of trust.
3 Ways to Build Trust
You may be telling yourself that’s it’s almost impossible to build that level of trust and deep relationship with your customers. People just don’t have the time and are not open to connecting with you in that way, am I right? Perhaps you think that the list above are just a bunch of high level ideas that only the inner circle can get access to? Maybe you have to be in the right place at the right time, know the right people, or just run in the right crowd? Well, this lesson in trust can be used by EVERYONE, no matter your skill level, experience, industry, or even if you know zero people. the only thing is that it takes time, commitment, and for you to take action. Trust is really built on the following three principles of ICE:
Do you do what you say you will do? Just like I said with my story about the toy, when you make commitments, do you honor them consistently? Or maybe you only keep your word 75% of the time. How often do you end up backtracking on something you have promised? To have integrity, you must be genuine and authentic with a strong set of morals. It is as simple as getting back to your customers when you say you will and delivering on what you told them. A number one complaint that I hear from people trying to buy is that salespeople just don’t follow through. Now, as a salesperson, you get busy and you may be a day late. On your schedule, that only represents one out of a hundred things you may have missed that day. But in the buyer’s world, that could be the last piece of a puzzle for them. When you are not on time or do something other than you promised, your customer will remember that. And if you are dishonest or try to cover things up, you are just asking for trouble.
One mistake I see many professionals make is that they shy away from trying to build relationships – they try and keep everything super professional. Remember that trust takes time to build. And, believe it or not, people DO have time to spend with you to build that trust. No matter how busy you may think your customers are, if you are good at bringing value to the table consistently, providing them with insights, and being a resource for them, they will want to spend increasingly more time with you. The busiest, most successful people I know spend the majority of their time in extended meetings with those they trust. They discuss new opportunities, make introductions, and help each other open up possibilities. To create that dynamic, you must be seen as an equal and you must understand that you are dealing with people. Be normal with your business contacts, don’t act like a weirdo. I can write another five pages on connecting, but let’s just keep it at “don’t be a weirdo.” Just make sure you are someone others want to be around. Learn about conversation skills, be interesting, and get over any hang-ups you have.
Before you proclaim your expertise, let’s first start with being competent. If people trust that you know what you are doing, they are more likely to believe you. Keep it simple, just know your stuff. Customers have to sort through a ton of information out there and need to determine where your stuff fits in. Everyone selling to them has an opinion and more information, so how do you stand out?
- Depth of knowledge: Make sure you have dedicated time to study your industry, your customer’s industry, their organizations, and people. Learn more than what is required way before you need it and be interesting (read my post on bragging about your library of books). If you can go into a customer situation and clearly articulate not just your solution, but how it uniquely solves the specific challenge for your customer’s business model, you are ahead of the curve. Take the time to ensure you have thought your ideas through completely if you want to build trust in your expertise.
- Unique perspective: Don’t be a chicken. Have a point of view and stand by it convincingly. Your ability to influence decisions will not come from how safe you play your conversations. To truly stand out, you must be willing to challenge thinking and ask disruptive questions. Can you tell a great story and get others to see things your way? If you aren’t comfortable drawing a line in the sand, how will you get your customers to trust you and take action? People want to follow and believe ideas that are backed with confidence.
- Quantifying your impact: This is the next step in knowledge that most salespeople forget to make. Too often, buyers are introduced to vague ideas that don’t get to true ROI. Have you taken the time to truly understand the implications of your proposed solutions? Do you know how the money flows in what you are proposing? Most people actually have a very tough time discussing money, salespeople included. Take the time to truly understand your offer, it’s impact on your customer’s business, and the money associated with it. That will build confidence on both sides of the table, and of course, increase trust.
- Powerful personal brand: As you know, I am a big fan of building your personal brand (download my free ebook). If you want to get access to the right people and be in front of decision makers, get KNOWN for something. Craft a personal brand for yourself that positions you as a knowledge leader in your industry and puts you at the top of the list for your potential customers. What are you doing to stand out? Are you speaking at conferences your customers attend? Have you published anything they would read? Do you have a website they use as a resource? Are you the go-to person in your specific field? If you want to bypass all the sales steps of getting appointments, a personal brand will skyrocket you up the food chain. This has dramatically helped me with my own business.
Wow, lately my posts have been getting carried away in their length! I thought today would be a short one. I hope you TRUSTED me enough to make it to the end! Use these concepts and start applying them today. Remember that trust takes time, but the more you work through these principles, the easier selling becomes. Building relationships is a key to success, but you also have to position yourself as a person of influence. Trust is hard to earn and easy to lose, so be sure you don’t skip steps.