Customers don’t buy from people they like, but rather those they trust.

Customers buy from people they love. Although we won’t buy from people we don’t like, there is an additional dimension to this old saying.

Customers purchase from people they can trust

Let’s take a look at the typical reactions of potential customers to sales reps making their first contact (also known as cold-calling).

1. They use every excuse to get rid of the phone.
2. They are very busy when they meet with salespeople.
3. They are as quiet as they can when salespeople ask for questions.
4. They won’t refer the salespeople to a higher authority, even if such a need is obvious
5. To appease salespeople, they often resort to delay tactics like “If there’s a need, then we will call you”.

These are just some examples of customer behavior when they have doubts about a sales representative. You must win their trust before you can get them excited about your products.

A Question of Lust

Customers don’t trust salespeople because they believe that their only concern is getting their money. This “lust for money” is unfortunately a common theme among salespeople, and customers can smell them miles away.

What customers really want for their money when they buy products or services is substantiated worth. The question is: Can the products or services they purchase improve productivity, reduce wastages, or simply enhance their quality of living?

Trust is built by being perceived as being on the side of customers and helping them solve their problems.

Here’s an example. Salespeople often say, “Hello, I’m xyz. I work for abc company.” How are your day? I would like to show you a demo of our latest productivity-enhancing gadget. I will be in your area Tuesday afternoon. Could I please come by and see you around noon or four o’clock?

This approach has a problem because they don’t know how to respond to their customers. They’ll either say “not interested” or tell you that their boss has an urgent meeting. Then, they will get their secretaries and say, “The boss has an emergency meeting. Please leave your materials at the front desk and we will contact you when we have a requirement.”

Customers aren’t sure what you say, which is why they respond in this way. They probably have seen just too many “productivity-enhancing gadgets”, and hear too many “I happen to be just in your neighbourhood” stories and certainly will be too busy to meet just another peddler of gadgets. If your product is solving their problems in productivity, they won’t trust them enough to tell you.

Sales people and their managers need to work together in order to overcome these trust issues.

Miller Heiman refers to a Valid Business Reason. She will need to present the customer with a valid business reason in her first call. “Hi, my names xyz. I know that many companies within your industry are facing severe challenges because of sharp increases in raw materials costs. I would like to discuss with you how we can improve productivity and reduce costs.

The sales managers must build trust beyond the initial cold call. If customers have seen past success stories and testimonies, they are more likely to trust them.

Not benefits, but credibility

Many companies have focused on only the “Features, Advantages, and Benefits” of their products. This is not a good strategy. Customers will never trust your company enough. Salespeople must build credibility throughout the sales process.

* Listen
* Do your homework and ask intelligent questions
* Provide Assurance to your customers

Salespeople often place too much emphasis on the company and their products that they don’t listen to their customers.

Sales people should ask intelligent questions to ensure customers spend more time talking. Customers expect sales representatives to have done basic research on customers’ web sites. This can be improved upon by salespeople looking at customer annual reports (if listed companies), or sourcing news reports about these customers. You can learn more about a potential customer by contacting the former. Web 2.0 social networking sites can also be a great source for information.

Sales managers may argue that spending too many hours on the Internet can eat into sales time, which could be detrimental to their sales. But if you don’t know the right questions to ask, customers will feel unprofessional and incompetent. Sales managers will need to balance research and selling by making sure they have enough time.

Customers may have questions about buying from your company. You should not avoid these concerns in fear of losing sales. If your customers have any questions or concerns regarding your products or services, they will:

* Less likely to buy
* Buy less
* Drive a hard bargain on your price

When you get to the final stages of your sale, be aware that customers may feel anxious or nervous. These concerns should be addressed and the necessary assurances given.

The Policy of Truth

Trust is most often destroyed by “over-promises and under-delivers”. Two causes of this destruction exist:

* Sales people make promises to customers on things that they cannot (or unsure if they can) deliver
* Companies who deliver less-than-expected levels of product qualities to their customers

The former would require sales managers to make sure that their sales people don’t promise too much to their customers to win the sale. It will damage trust between seller and buyer and make it very difficult to sell in the future.

Sales people are less motivated if they have to answer questions customers don’t know the answers to. Without quality investment, no sales efforts will be successful. Customers won’t get the value they expect. If companies provide poor quality products, it will result in decreased sales and an increase in turnover of sales staff. It’s not a matter of “if” it’s just about time. Who wants to sell to a company they don’t trust?

We are a team of professionals with each having two decades of experience in start-ups, sales, marketing, finance, HR, large scale project and profit centre management and running mature cross functional operations. At we are big believers that knowledge transfer is critical to our industry’s evolution. We love to share our experiences and learnings through our online resources.

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