We all know that trust is central to building a strong customer relationship. Don’t you find, though, that trust is much harder to earn these days? Many people approach the buying process from a position of cynicism. In fact, consumer cynicism is such a widely seen phenomenon that it is a common topic of analysis.
This article provides the following definition:
‘(C)onsumer cynicism is defined as a stable, learned attitude towards the marketplace characterized by the perception that pervasive opportunism among firms exists and that this opportunism creates a harmful consumer marketplace’
In order to convince your customer that you are offering them something of value that will not only improve their business but maybe also their day-to-day life, you have to overcome this cynicism and win their trust. So how do you do that?
1. Take it slow
It takes a lot to get a meeting with a customer. Usually you would start with emails and phone calls and work up to a meeting, or you might meet at an event or on a virtual platform like LinkedIn and begin the relationship there. In any case, if all of your contact with your prospect is very obviously geared towards pushing them through the sales funnel, your chances of success are limited. Soon the phone calls and emails will go unanswered and you will be left to start over with another prospect.
If you are willing to play the long game – and the evidence shows that today’s B2B sales cycles are a long game – you are more likely to be given the time to learn about your prospect’s needs, which puts you in a better position to sell to them.
I’m absolutely not saying don’t ask for their business – you don’t want to be put in the sales equivalent of the ‘friend zone’ – but focus on doing it right rather than getting it done.
2. Be consistent
In all your communications, whether virtual, on the phone, or face-to-face, try to maintain a consistent tone. It’s confusing if you’re really formal by email, but then informal to the point of being unprofessional in person. (Side note: it’s never good to be unprofessional.) Having a consistent demeanour lets people know what to expect from you, and what to give in return. This relates to the kind of language you use, as well as how much personal information it’s appropriate to disclose.
If you can, try to keep your personal brand within range of your company’s corporate brand identity – again, consistency is meaningful. It’s ok to break down corporate speak into layman’s terms when you’re talking business, but if your company’s image is young, funky and slightly out there, going to a meeting and being a stuffed shirt might put your customers off, since that image goes against their expectations.
3. Be reliable
Reliability is a huge factor in building trust. As a bare minimum, your customer expects you to deliver what you said you would, when you said you would. Obviously, if you can exceed expectations, even better. Under promise and over deliver. It’s corny but it goes a long way to helping your customers trust not only you as their salesperson but also your company and the product or service you’re offering. That also means you need to be realistic when you’re making promises to your customer. Don’t leave the After-Sales or Customer Success department to deal with the fallout of unmet expectations. Remember, a happy customer can be an important advocate in helping you achieve future sales.
4. Listen to understand
Nothing’s more off-putting than talking to someone who is clearly just waiting for their turn to speak and not actually listening to what you’re saying. Actively listening to your customer will help you understand their pain points and define their need. That’s the key to offering a solution they will want to buy. A customer who feels their needs are being understood will have a lot more faith in their salesperson and the product offering than one who feels ignored.
5. Be honest
It’s the most obvious one of all and yet I regularly come into contact with salespeople who lie routinely. They pretend to know things they couldn’t possibly know, or people who have never heard of them, or they claim to be able to deliver something that their company is unable to deliver. Some of them lie about big things; many of them lie about small things. The key takeaway is that I almost always know I’m being lied to – and then what do I do? I hang up the phone, or delete the email, or walk away from the conversation. I don’t want to do business with anyone who is deliberately trying to mislead me, and I know I’m not alone in that. This sentiment also applies to salespeople who badmouth their competitors. Why would I trust someone who is so obviously playing a game?
Most of the lies come down to one thing: laziness. They haven’t done their research and they’re trying to cover their backsides while hoping that I won’t know any better than they do. Of course, when they’re trying to tell me about my own company, or people I work with, that’s just foolish. Salespeople like this bear a lot of the responsibility for the phenomenon of consumer cynicism.
The answer is, of course, to take the time to find out the truth. Research your customer’s company and the industry, and become the thought leader your customers want you to be. And don’t lie. You’ll get caught and there really is no coming back from that.
Building trust and gaining authority
Doing the research and becoming that thought leader gives you a greater shot at being viewed as an authority on your chosen subject, which in turn makes you a more trustworthy (and therefore more attractive) business partner. Backing up that research with resources that you can share with your customer only heightens this impression. Salespeople should work together with marketing to create these resources and then store them somewhere accessible with the capacity to easily share them with customers. We recommend a Sales Enablement Platform with an app for your mobile device, to make sure you’re never without the resources you need, whenever and wherever you need them.