A real talent for effective selling is not the exclusive preserve of a few “dog and pony show specialists” or used car salespersons: it is a skill we can all develop without having to change our perso.. Thierry Montfort
(Former) President and CEO – Heel USA
 

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Got Trust?

“Trust is the foundation of the sale. No trust, no sale.” —Mike Schultz and John E. Doerr, Rainmaking Conversations [1]

In Chapter 10 of my book, Win More Clients, I share some research about the role trust plays in business. Today, I’ve decided to share that valuable information with you here! Read on and comment below to share your own experiences with how trust—or lack of it!—impacts your sales success.

Encouraging your prospects to trust you


What causes a person to trust another person in a business context?
David Maister, who has written a number of excellent books, and two classmates of mine from Harvard Business School, Charles Green and Robert Galford, published The Trusted Advisor[2], which looks at just this issue. They studied what causes people to trust others in business, and identified four elements of trust.
What causes you to trust another person in business? Is it some combination of the person’s background, track record, experience, education, or technical competence? Maister, Green, and Galford say all of that is one component of trust, which they label “credibility.”[3] But three other elements exist (read the book for details):

1. Reliability - the repeated experience of expectations met.[4] Think about that: in order to trust, we have to have more than one experience with a person in which our expectations were met (or exceeded). So, by definition, no one trusts anyone on first blush. And this can work to our advantage in selling: if you make a good first impression upon meeting a prospect, and then you can identify some additional information he would like to have – even if, right now, he’s not willing to move forward with you -- you can set a deadline for yourself to provide that information to your prospect, and then meet it, which contributes to the reliability component of trust. 

Here’s an example: 

“Fred, that study I mentioned seems to have caught your interest. I have a summary of it – I think I’ll e-mail it to you later on this afternoon, and it’ll be in your e-mail queue when you come in tomorrow morning, shall I?”

Or you might say, 

“Fred, why don’t I look up that article I mentioned and get a link to it over to you later on today? I think you’ll find it interesting.” 

The idea is that you set a time (if your prospect isn’t doing so) and then you meet that deadline. So your prospect has two experiences of you – the meeting itself, and then the e-mail or other follow-up that shows him that you do what you say you’ll do.

2. Intimacy - Your willingness to let conversations go beyond traditional bounds, and your willingness to be self-revealing.[5] Studies of what people dislike about salespeople have pointed out that many salespeople who are smart enough not to make presentations instead engage in interrogations – question after question, usually about problem areas in the prospect’s company or organization. It’s oppressive and exhausting. And while prospects are being asked to reveal all their problems, they know almost nothing about the salesperson. This works against trust.

Similarly, salespeople who are so “goal oriented” that everything they say is focused on their objective, and nothing they say is responsive to anything else about their prospect -- except her perceived need for what is being sold – are in trouble here.

3. Self-Orientation -- Prospects may feel that they have been treated respectfully, that a salesperson was a good listener, and that a service or product does have merit. But if they think the salesperson is fundamentally self-oriented, that is, that all the good things that happened occurred just because the salesperson did those things in order to get the sale, that’s a major turnoff.[6] This goes back to the discussion of a Clean Heart Position (in Chapter 5): if your goal in selling is to see the prospect get what he or she wants, whether or NOT you or your company are involved, the issue of Self-Orientation shouldn't be a problem.

The authors of The Trusted Advisor put these elements of trust into an equation[7]

Trust = Credibility + Reliability + Intimacy

Self Orientation


To understand how the authors of The Trusted Advisor assign numbers to these elements, and for more detail, read the book. For now, note that Self Orientation, as the denominator of the fraction, reduces all the positives in the numerator. Self Orientation is the opposite of a clean Heart Position – and it will ruin your ability to sell.
More recently, a co-author of The Trusted Advisor, Charles H. Green, wrote Trust Based Selling[8], in which he applied much of the research on the issue of trust from the earlier book to selling situations specifically. I found Trust Based Selling to be a major contribution to the literature about trust in selling services. In Chapter 17 of Trust Based Selling, Green demonstrates how to answer the “Six Toughest Sales Questions”, and his responses about how NOT to answer those questions are likely to be EXACTLY the answers you are now giving to your prospects. My best advice: read the book!

Bottom line, we need our prospects to trust us and the research says there are four elements, or influencers, of trust. Understand those elements, build that understanding into your interactions with prospects, and reap the rewards!
________________________________________
[1] Schultz, Mike, Doerr, John E., “Rainmaking Conversations,” Hoboken, New Jersey, John Wiley & Sons, 2011, p. 123. [2] Maister, David, Green, Charles, Galford, Robert, “The Trusted Advisor,” New York: The Free Press, 2000. 
[3] Maister, David, Green, Charles, Galford, Robert, p. 71. 
[4] Maister, David, Green, Charles, Galford, Robert, p. 75. 
[5] Maister, David, Green, Charles, Galford, Robert, p. 78. 
[6] Maister, David, Green, Charles, Galford, Robert, p. 80. 
[7] Maister, David, Green, Charles, Galford, Robert, p. 69. 
[8] Green, Charles H., “Trust-Based Selling,” New York: McGraw-Hill, 2006.
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