They say you buy from people you know, like, and trust. I think they must have founded a networking organization. insisting on so much interaction for a single transaction. It certainly dovetails nicely into having to go and meet the same people at the same breakfast spot every week. And after you get to know these people, you are supposed to like them as well? Hmm, seems a little excessive, just to buy a potato.
This is not to say people you know and like can’t make great customers. Actually, if they are a customer for any time, you would hope they know and like you. But customers are now used to a greater level of interaction brought by the web. Many will research you extensively to get to know you, decide whether they like what they see, and then check your references and reviews to see if they can trust you – all before ever talking to you.
However, this is about taking the opportunity to short circuit this process and quickly build a sales relationship. To do so, there is only one of these traits that is critical to the success of the relationship.
Having sold in open air markets, trade shows, and even back in the day, door-to-door, I can say I’ve sold to thousands of people who have never gotten to know me. And maybe really didn’t like me – or at least liked my competitor more. But they trusted me and my product. In the end, trust is the only critical factor for the customers’ decision. If they trust you, they will buy your product. Conversely, if they don’t trust you, they will never risk doing business with you regardless of how well they know you (might be a bad thing…) or even if like you. They will just smile when they say no.
The need to trust a vendor is an established component of business today. You can see this in the Better Business Bureau, to Angie’s List to the prevalence of reviews and ratings on the digital Main Street. Now if you have a lot of time for your engagement to develop, you may be able to use these vehicles to your advantage. But if you have want to engage quickly, you need to understand how to establish trust. There are four E’s to establishing trust.
The most important of the four E’s this is the one that connects you to the customer. The customer needs to know you “feel them”. While empathy is something you can’t fake, you can learn it. Even on the fly. The easiest way to determine where your prospect is coming from, is to ask them. Come up with open questions that get your prospect to freely discuss what you are offering. You are looking for emotional hooks – desires or fears – that directly relate to what you are offering. Repeating what they say back to them (reflective listening), confirms you got it right and also let’s them know that you hear what they are saying and “get it”. Put your product in perspective on how it relates directly to their needs and they will see you as a solution.
And if you aren’t a fit, tell them. Nothing builds trust more then turning down the deal. If the best way to show empathy is illustrating how you can solve their problem, then the second best is knowing you don’t have their solution. This might not result in a sale, but could create referrals and leads.
If you truly know your product, then there is a cornucopia facts and data you know surrounding your product and your industry. This is where you can finally use that wealth of minutia. Taking the points your prospect has indicated are important to them, provide them with factual data about how your product (or industry) addresses their needs. Your expertise should be something you readily give away – in talks, presentations, and even in blog posts – as there is little your prospects can do with this data, other then reinforcing they have a problem or that you have the solution.
This is actually what you are selling: your track record having achieved the prospects desired results. Even having received all the expertise for free, there is little your prospect can do with it to achieve success without the know-how to apply the knowledge. Delineating your experience addressing the fears/desires you’ve identified, assures the prospect you have done it before and can do it again. You can do this boldly with lists of clients and reviews or subtly with example descriptions of similar clients you have served previously when describing how your product addresses their need.
You have identified their need, shown your expertise on the topic, and assured your prospect that you have done this before, but what really pushes them over the top is your enthusiasm about the engagement throughout your interaction with them. Enthusiasm is contagious and you want to make sure they catch it!
Guy Kawasaki created an evangelistic marketing methodology for Apple where it wasn’t just a product, but a lifestyle choice. The role of an evangelist is to believe. You don’t just talk about it, you are excited about talking about it. To this day, Apple customers are some of the most rabidly devoted customers in the market – frequently lining up for the opportunity to pay a premium for outdated technology. You can’t expect your prospect or client to get excited if you are not. And if you can not generate this enthusiasm for your products, it is time to move on.
When creating pitches, writing content, or just talking to customers, remember it is the four E’s that will quickly establish a bond of trust with your customer. Take every opportunity to pepper your material with references to their needs, factual data, and examples from previous successes.
And most important of all: Smile.