You’ll notice there’s a common thread that runs through many of my posts. It’s something that’ll seem obvious when I say it, but all too often I’ve seen sales people ignore its importance.
So what is this pearl of wisdom that’s guided me throughout my career?
(Cue drum roll…..)
Selling is all about the customer
Now, you might think this is a rather naive and simplistic statement. But, hand on heart, can you honestly say that you’ve always put the customer’s needs above your own enthusiasm to close the deal?
As I write this I’m reminded of an article written by our CEO, Donal Daly, on the four phases of customer evolution:
There’s a paragraph in the article which particularly resonates with me:
“If your customers leave you, it is because they don’t love you, and that is usually because they feel unloved.”
Like any relationship that develops and grows over time, whether personal or commercial, there are various stages where your actions determine if the relationship will progress to the next phase or stagnate and die.
The first phase in any relationship is where trust is established. So if you take a moment and think back to the customers you have the strongest bond with, you’ll probably remember them more as friends than as corporate associates. There’s a good reason for that. People buy from people they like and trust.
With today’s technology, potential customers are often just as educated about a product or service as the sales team. While in some cases that makes the sales process easier – the customer may already be sold on what you do – it can also make it more difficult. When they know the details, they base their decisions on how well they can trust you, not just what you provide.
That’s what we refer to as the Trust Equation. And it works like this:
Trustworthiness = (Credibility + Reliability + Intimacy) / Self-orientation
Your credibility is built around your reputation. It’s in the way you tell your story, the words you share with your audience, and the thought process you put into the message you deliver to your customer base. When you anticipate customers’ needs and provide them with accurate information long before they require it, they become more confident in getting to know you in a deeper way.
Reliability is simply the act of following through. Do you make promises and deliver what’s expected? It can start with something as simple as returning a phone call, or delivering a white paper through your lead generation system when it’s asked for. If you’re clear in what you deliver and provide what you promise, your customers will view you as a dependable resource.
Intimacy comes from showing your vulnerabilities in the process. It’s the process of standing up for a customer when you know it’s the right thing to do. If you don’t have an answer to a question, admit it with the promise of finding out and returning later. If you see something that would make the situation better, offer to do it. Some of today’s leading companies take this process very seriously, and give everyone from their customer service agents to top management the ability to make split decisions to improve customer service on the spot.
Self-orientation is critically important to building up your trustworthiness; get this wrong and it can destroy all other efforts you’ve attained. Self-orientation involves really listening to your customers and caring about what they have to say. It’s about building a dialog between you to prove that you have a genuine interest in providing what the customer truly needs, not just what you have the desire to sell them. If you’re only in it for the money, you will eventually be found out. And it will cost you the long-term commitment you can gain by putting their needs above yours, no matter what the cost.
Trustworthiness requires a mind shift from traditional or old school methods. Business is no longer about “business as usual.” Instead, we’re seeing companies shift and operate not just for the bottom line, but also for the chance to build a relationship that is mutually beneficial.
When you make the process a little less painful for your customer and accept that their needs are equally as important as your own, the results & rewards can be incredible.
I’d really like to know how important you think trust is in the sales process and what part it’s played in your sales career.