I don’t remember the day but I remember the moment I read that
trust is the first prerequisite to earning a new client,
even before demonstrated competency.
I value Gallup polls and their insights on data gathered. But this one surprised me.
They need to know they can trust me
even before they know I can do what they need done? Hmmm –
I pushed back in my favorite chair and thought that one through. IF trust comes first, and it apparently does, how would I go about building it with someone I just met, a potential client?
I remembered a few unsuccessful conversations over coffee, and a handful of “Thanks for stopping by; we’ll call you – “
I could almost hear the end of the sentence under their breath
“–if we can’t find anyone else.”
Trust. Really? I pondered that.
The best way I know to build trust is to pay attention. Listen. Really hear.
Wait my turn and respond appropriately. Affirm. Build up. Empathize. Then deliver what I promise.
Would that even work with a potential client? I concluded that derivatives of those things would. Or at least could.
The Gallup findings said that most sales interactions begin with high tension and low levels of trust
Ya’ think?! and that it’s critical to move the prospective client toward a high-trust, low-tension state.
When you reach a level of high trust and low tension, your customers stop resisting and objecting.
Even better, they start accepting and confirming your offerings. Maintain that trust and they may become buyers for life. Now we’re talking!
I determined to quietly earn a potential client’s trust with understanding and work-with-you problem solving. It’s what they need, but it isn’t free – not at all. I tried it.
Result: a handshake and assignment. Nice!
I refined it in my thinking. Replayed mental tapes of that and ensuing conversations, adjusting how I related to leaders so they viewed me as a leader come alongside, not as having a product to sell.
I learned this has a name: consultative approach.
I discovered in the weeks following that it matters who introduces me to the decision maker I need to talk to. Recommendations and introductions from people that foster that initial trust go better than others.
Once in conversation with a business leader or owner, I ask good questions, the answers to which give me valuable information I’ll need so I can serve them well. Very well. My dad was good that way, and while he was not a salesman, he was rather persuasive in his quiet way.
I’ve made his approach my own. asking questions, leading C-level executive as they describe their firm’s setting, and the desire to overcome whatever it is that’s standing in the way of their greater success.
When it’s my turn I frequently say something like “With your permission, I could help you with that. How does this sound to you? Instead of pitching an idea, I hope they’ll buy, I introduce them to what I’m thinking about their dilemma, hoping our thought processes will merge.
My teaching & speaking experience frequently helps me at this point. I’ve found that it never hurts for my audience to see me thinking. Not for 10 minutes of awkward silence, of course, but it’s beneficial for them to watch me work on their dilemma.
I take a breath and present something useful. Valuable.
It builds —are you ready?— trust.
Trust crystallizes when they realize “He’s not trying to sell me something, he’s helping me solve this. And I’m willing to pay him to help us do it.”
When there’s something I don’t know yet, it’s easy to say “I’ll need to learn –x– so I do this well, but I will.” They know they’ll be working with a human being. A motivated, always-learning human, but someone they’ve come to trust.
Only after trust is in place are they ready to think about buying one of the solutions on the table. And I always present more than one. But that’s another post.