No matter how complex your products or services, customers look for four things before making a buying decision.
- a product
- a solution
- a worthy business partner, and
- someone they can trust.
They look for salespeople who understand and appreciate their problems and provide valuable expertise.
Trust-based selling requires you to develop your customers’ trust by focusing on their needs rather than your own. It involves building relationships, not just making sales. In trust-based selling, the relationship is the customer.
Better for both
When trust is there, customers are less likely to look for other vendors or question your pricing. They will take your calls and share information. When trust is lacking, most transactions will involve haggling, contract disputes, auditing, maneuvering and endless verification. Salespeople practicing trust-based selling focus on their customers, build relationships for the long haul, collaborate and are up-front and open in their dealings.
Four crucial components
Trust has four crucial components:
- Customer focus. Keep an open mind, and be attentive and willing to make your customer’s concerns, doubts and objectives your priority. Let customers describe their situations in their own words. Ask questions when you need clarification.
- Collaboration. Openly share information with customers, acting as a team and striving to align with their interests. You are being sincerely collaborative when you and your customers write a proposal together, discussing pricing, fees, rates and discounts up-front, and you admit that you don’t know every answer.
- Long-term view. It’s a good idea to adopt a long-term perspective in advance of your relationships with customers. Remember that your career is not based on one sale. Focus your efforts on being creative enough to arrive at win-win deals over the long-term. Build a long-term relationship instead of just closing a deal.
- Transparency. Secrets are the enemy of trust. Be transparent and give your customers insights into your motives. Invite your customers into your business and your mind, and answer questions honestly and directly.
Negotiating from trust
Negotiations that take place in a trusting environment with a long-term view are much different from negotiations that concentrate on “winning” a single transaction. Trust-based negotiating is about supporting the customer/seller relationship, sharing information and visualizing the transaction taking place many times in the future. It means never misleading your negotiating partner and having a well-defined pricing policy.
Nine attitudes that block trust
Here are nine attitudes that block trust:
- Being afraid of trust.
- Believing that customers mean what they say.
- Being tempted to say, “trust me.”
- Believing you have to appear brilliant.
- Believing that a great track record sells itself.
- Seeing trust in terms of process and incentives.
- Believing that leads are scarce.
- Believing the system won’t let me.
- Lacking passion.
Five steps of trust creation
Here are five steps that can help you build trust:
- Understand your customer’s value. If customers trust you, they’ll tell you their needs and expectations. If you can get them to talk about what they want, they may listen to your solution.
- Listen. Salespeople who listen more than they talk are more likely to build trust with their customers. It’s a good idea to ask questions, then try to be quiet and let customers get their entire point across before saying anything. Repeat what you’ve heard to confirm accuracy and prevent misunderstandings.
- Frame. Develop a problem statement with your customers. Trust-based salespeople understand that problems never go away. They try to become experts at anticipating, understanding and solving customer problems.
- Envision. Visualize a future in which you resolve customer problems and establish long-term relationships. The key to customer loyalty is not just what you deliver, but how you deliver service and support it. One slip on your part — a broken promise, a false claim or a breach of trust may end any hope of a long-term relationship.
- Be ready to take action. Trust-based salespeople are ready to take action. They focus on what they want to achieve and establish priorities, and they know what they have to do in order to keep moving forward. Their plans are flexible enough to allow for the unexpected, but they always have a specific destination in mind. Goals provide them with purpose and allow them to remain energized, because they know that nothing worthwhile is ever achieved without effort.
Adapted from: The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook, by Charles Green and Andrea Howe. Green is CEO of Trusted Adviser Associates and author of Trust-Based Selling. Howe is the director of learning for Trusted Advisor Associates and heads the BossaNova Consulting Group.