It All Boils Down to Trust
Taking emotional risks and being vulnerable is one of the best ways to build trust in a business relationship because when you implicitly trust someone you put yourself in a vulnerable position. So to break the initial barrier so many customers put up to protect themselves, purposely put yourself in a vulnerable position.
Trust and freedom of choice are inseparable. One cannot trust another fully if one does not have a choice. Likewise with guarantees, when trust is lacking customers are always asking for some type of guarantee. When trust is present, guarantees are not necessary.
So when you are upfront, radically honest, transparent and allow customers the independence to find her own answers, you are naturally able to more easily put aside your agenda and self-interest and give more of your undue focus and attention on the best interests of your customer.
However, when you want to arrive at your goal of making the sale more than you want to build trust in a relationship, you create a disconnect with your customer. Sales people who have a strong emotional investment in the outcome of the sale will always have a higher standard of trust to overcome.
Sales people lose trust and credibility when they appear overly eager, enthusiastic, excited and are too eager to please. Business relationships deteriorate when sales people prematurely decipher what customers need to decide for themselves, and vice versa when sales people let customers make decisions for them that they should have made themselves.
Good relationships in sales share a common purpose, a wordless understanding, are devoid of expectations and operate in an environment of full and open disclosure. A trustworthy sales woman does not try to find, control or persuade a customer. But rather, they try to build a relationship by liberating, empowering, honoring and respecting their customer's independence to find their own truth.
As long as a sales person is perceived as wanting something from their customer, they will not be fully trusted or considered credible. Only when you want nothing from them can you be totally honest, genuine and trustworthy. This is a worthy goal to shoot for. This is what customers will pay a premium for.
Trust can be accelerated when the sales person decides to take the high road and be the first to extend it. By dropping one's defenses the sales person increases the chance that their customer will drop their own defenses. Also, sales people often are afraid to admit and bring up shortcomings of their offering and ask questions that could compromise their agenda because they fear losing confidence from the customer. Ironically, the reverse is true. Being authentic, transparent, radically honest, forthcoming and exercising full and open disclosure promotes a sense of accessibility, approachability and intimacy that leads to trust in a relationship.
A huge problem with a majority of traditional sales people is their sales strategy pre-assumes they already are a credible source and are considered trustworthy. Nothing could be further from the truth from the perspective of most prospects. So be prepared to earn trust.
"Many traditional sales people have convinced themselves over the years that the seller with the strongest relationship (friendship) will win. That is only the case where the seller is selling a commodity product to a repeat buyer—where there are no other differentiators other than the relationship," says Michael Bosworth. Some sales people put too much stock into making friends with customers and they risk coming across a tad needy, superficial and clingy.
Research has been conducted that animals in the wild that appear too friendly are not respected by the pack and do not ever get a leadership role. I think the same is also true in sales most the time. Sales people who appear too friendly and too accommodating can be viewed with suspicion and distrust when it is premature, when the customer really needs to trust someone based on their insight and expertise, when it is not reciprocated and it is out of context.
Trust works because it gets to the core of why people buy—emotionally. So you really have to question how important is your ROI and your superior solution when customers buy emotionally. This is a question you will have to answer yourself. What truly builds an emotional connection of trust to a buyer is your superior knowledge of their circumstances and challenges.
Being authentic and trustworthy is very intimidating to most sales people. When you truly embody it you do not feel separated from your customer. You lose aspects of your identity and ego that in the past used to keep customers at a distance. You become open to a full range of possibilities and not tied down by your own self-interest.
Few if any sales people will build better relationships based on being friendlier, nicer, having better product knowledge and learning to just communicate value more clearly. However, they will be more productive sales people if they learn to build trust through the action and deeds of empathy, listening, better questions and more effective problem-solving skills. These skill sets have less to do with selling and being understood and more to do with empathy and being better at understanding.
Not assuming trust in the sale is a realistic strategy because it has you working all that much harder on being the first to extend it by being transparent, authentic, radically honest, demonstrating minimal self-interest, no emotional investment in the outcome, and by showing your willingness to have full and open disclosure. These are traits that are rarely seen in mainstream sales people because they love the black art of selling and shameless promotion. In other words, they are steeped in traditional selling beliefs where they are product-centric, company-centric and ego-centric sales people.