Picture this: There's someone you don't have a relationship with, however, you would like to build one. Maybe it's your boyfriend or girlfriend's parents you're about to meet for the first time. Maybe it's a potential investor, or someone who can help you get an incredible job.
However, something is telling you they don't quite trust you yet.
There they are. Now is your chance! There's no guarantee that anything is going to work, but you need a strategy. How will you begin the interaction?
- Walk up to them, starting talking about the weather, then ask them a bunch of personal questions?
- Bust out your phone, show them a picture of your trophy case, and then describe how awesome you are?
- Bring along a friend, and have them tell the person how awesome you are before you start the conversation?
- Align, be humble and be transparent?
Is the answer pretty obvious? (If you selected anything other than #4, I know of a good book you can read 😁)
Translate this conversation to a typical sales environment. You are beginning a relationship with a prospect. In sales, the question matters, because you can assume the person you're speaking with does NOT trust you - yet.
In other words, and I'm sorry to break the news to you, but this individual you are hoping to build a relationship does not trust you. Yet, I tend to see the first three options being the predominent strategy when engaging with new prospects.
We engage in small talk, then going into witness-stand level discovery. We have a list. We have to"find the pain".
We discuss the massive impacts we have on our customers.Our awards. Our position on an analyst's "magic quadrant".
Or, we ask customers for success stories we can use to communicate how great you are - we throw those quotes and "social proof" as a cloud in front of us before we begin to engage.
With every interaction, you are either building trust...or eroding it.
If the number 0 = neither trusted or untrusted, you can always assume that you are beginning the first interaction below the trust line...at -1, or worse. Dropping further is easy. Rising up is hard. The first impression speeds the rise or drop more aggresively than at any other time in the budding relationship.
The individual has their guard up. This guard is almost like a filter protecting their feelings and emotions, which trigger impressions, prioritizations, decisions and purchases. Every word leaving your lips is going through a filter, that's padding and minimizing your language. The further below zero the level of trust they have in you, the thicker the filter.
What's the fastest path to building lasting trust? Transparency.
When you're buying something online, do you trust a website and/or a product which lists nothing but perfect, 5-star reviews? Of course not! We trust a website when we're able to understand and predict - will this product or service work for me? What could go wrong? In context, what will my experience be versus anyone elses experience?
The same holds true for human beings. When someone comes strong at us, boastful and self-centered, our guard is up! When someone comes at us as humble, transparent and human, we engage. We find subconscious trust in their demeanor and approach.
Simply put, alignment builds connection, transparency builds trust, confidence builds confidence, and generosity builds credibility.
Alignment Builds Connection
Do your homework. Read their LinkedIn profile. Do a Google News search on them and their company. "Hey, I see we have X in common." or "Oh, do you know X at your company? I knew them back when we worked at Y together." or "Congratulations on the fund raise!" Effort begets effort.
Transparency builds trust
Be humble and transparent. Remember, your role is to be an asset to the individual...whether that's through them becoming a customer of yours - or your competitor. If there's potentially an elephant in the room, address it first! "Before we dig in, there are a couple of things that we're not so great at." or "You may have heard that a few weeks ago, we had a big issue with a customer. Turns out that's true."
Think IKEA - they give up the experience (find it yourself, load it onto a cart yourself in their warehouse, load it into your car yourself, assemble it yourself) to give you modern, Scandinavian-designed furniture that doesn't break your wallet. They don't hide any of that. They set accurate expectations, and meet them every time.
What are you giving up to be great at your core?
Confidence Builds Confidence
As it turns out, confidence is contageous. When we are confident, the individual's brain we are interacting with can subconsciously sense it. It lights up that area of their brain, and as a result, they become more confident. Confidence is a core element of trust. Without it, every word goes through a filter in their recipient's brain that asks, "I'm not sure I should believe this."
Generosity Builds Credibility
We don't build credibility through boasting. We build credibility through our knowledge."Is this person here to help me, or to sell me?" The answer to this question means everything to whether this individual is going to trust you to be an asset to them, or if they'll need to keep the filter thick.
Setting And Consistently Meeting Expectations Builds Lasting Relationships
Nothing erodes trust more quickly than the "over-promise & under-deliver". We subconsciously know that perfection does not exist. When we are confronted with the cure-all, or brain needs to know what could go wrong, and what is being given up to be great at that core.
Salespeople and organizations who best set accurate expectations, and consistenly meet them are those who grow, retain, and best create advocacy.
Just think about it. Consider what you would do approaching someone who likely doesn't trust you, where their opinion matters to you. In a sales environment, assume the same...and treat the interaction with the same level of humility and transparency you would in your personal life. Watch the impact!
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As we used to say in grade school, "I'll be your best friend!"
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