In sales, gaining trust stands out as a crucial factor. To achieve this, you need to personally connect with prospects and establish rapport. Your objective extends beyond just closing the immediate deal; it involves laying the foundation for a long-lasting relationship.
I remember something remarkable my friend Chris Ruscio, the CRO at Synergy IT Solutions, once shared about trust. He said, “You want your customers to feel comfortable reaching out to you for anything they need, regardless of whether you can directly assist. Trust matters, and it’s important for them to believe that you have their best interests at heart. They should see you and your firm as trusted advisors they can depend on.” Adopting his approach to customer success and relationships is a goal worth pursuing.
This article can help you find ways to boost your trust factor with your clients to support the relationships necessary to drive long-lasting and meaningful value in their operations. For those who provide demonstrations, you will find valuable insights on how to extend trust in your solution presentation.
In the book “The Psychology of Persuasion” by Robert Cialdini, one of the concepts discussed is the principle of “liking” and how it can enhance trust and credibility through introductions. The idea is that when someone is introduced by a colleague or a person who is already liked and trusted, it can positively influence how others perceive them.
This is based on the tendency of individuals to be more receptive to people they like and trust, which in turn can lead to higher levels of credibility and persuasion. If you are presenting to a client and someone else has established a strong rapport, have that person introduce you. Here is how to do it:
- Choose the Right Introducer: The person introducing you should be someone already liked and trusted by the audience you want to influence. It will feel more genuine and authentic if this trusted person does not try to oversell or exaggerate your qualities. The positive image of the introducer may be transferred to you by association and enhance the prospect’s impression of you, thus improving your credibility.
- Highlight Positive Traits: The introducer may draw attention to your positive qualities, accomplishments, or traits. A good example would be talking about your many years of experience in the role you are now presenting solutions for or discussing your deep knowledge of the industry and/or how you have helped many clients and customers achieve incredible forms of value. Keep the introduction concise by highlighting key points that establish your credibility without overwhelming the audience.
- Provide Relevance and Authenticity: The introducer should link your expertise or qualities to the context of the situation, demonstrating why your involvement is valuable or relevant. If applicable, mention any shared connections, affiliations, or endorsements that contribute to your credibility.
Here is an example:
[Your Name] brings a wealth of corporate leadership experience. Having held significant positions in the corporate world, they have firsthand knowledge of the intricacies and challenges faced by organizations like yours. [Your Name’s] background provides them with unique insights into how our solutions can drive value for your company.
What sets [Your Name] apart is not only their extensive experience and professional qualifications, including hands-on knowledge as a customer using the product they will be demonstrating today. This firsthand experience means that the insights they share and the solutions they present are deeply practical.
An introduction’s effectiveness depends on the introducer’s trustworthiness and credibility, as well as how relevant the introduction is to the situation. You are likely to be seen as more trustworthy and credible in the eyes of others if you are introduced by someone who is liked and trusted.
Listening goes beyond hearing words; it is about understanding the needs, challenges, and aspirations of your clients. Take time to understand and observe not just what the prospects are saying but also the meaning behind their words and actions. This lays the foundation for a relationship built on trust.
Asking the right questions to understand your prospect’s needs, challenges, and goals is a big factor in earning their trust. Empathize with their pain points and show that you are paying close attention to what they have to say.
Addressing objections and concerns openly and effectively demonstrates that you respect the prospect’s perspective and allows you to act on your empathy. Here is an acronym that may help you remember the concepts below: LEARN. The acronym LEARN provides the steps to help you be better at empathetic listening:
- Listen: Actively demonstrate your involvement in the conversation. Then, move beyond merely hearing words and actively seek to comprehend the underlying needs, challenges, and aspirations of your clients. Maintain eye contact, nod, and use affirmative language.
- Engage: Invest time and effort in truly understanding your prospects. Pay attention not only to what they are saying but also to the deeper meaning conveyed by their words and actions. Observe and provide both spoken words and nonverbal cues to indicate your genuine interest in what they’re sharing. Ask follow-up and probing questions to engage with your prospect and gain a deeper understanding.
- Assess: Asking pertinent questions is crucial for gaining insight into your prospect’s needs, challenges, and objectives. The right questions demonstrate your genuine interest and commitment to understanding their situation. When done correctly, this will allow you to understand the impact of the situation and the tangible value your prospects may receive from solving their challenges.
- Reflect: Summarize and rephrase what the prospect has shared to ensure that you’ve accurately understood their points. This also shows that you’re actively processing their information.
- No Judgment: Maintain a non-judgmental attitude throughout the conversation. This encourages open sharing and builds a safe environment for meaningful discussions. Be patient and give your prospects the space to express themselves fully. Avoid interrupting or rushing the conversation.
Transparency and Honesty
Transparency about what your product can and cannot do fosters credibility. Clients value honesty, and by setting realistic expectations, you build a stronger foundation for a long-term partnership, foster credibility, and prevent disappointment down the line. This also bolsters your reliability, thus strengthening their trust in you over time.
Try conveying authenticity in your interactions by speaking clearly, simply, and confidently. It will help prospects feel more comfortable and confident in their intentions. Being realistic about implementation timelines is an example. Trust is built when customer-facing professionals are genuine, transparent, and honest in their interactions.
Think about being CLEAR and consider the following suggestions when extending your transparency and honesty:
- Client-Centric Approach: Focus on your client’s best interests rather than pushing features that may not align with their needs. Offer solutions that genuinely add value to their specific situation.
- Leverage Thorough Understanding: This is huge! Before addressing limitations, make sure you have a full understanding of how the client intends to use a particular feature. This ensures that your response is accurate and relevant. Refrain from making assumptions or jumping to conclusions about what the client needs. Instead, ask clarifying questions to gain a deeper understanding of their requirements.
- Embrace Integrity: Embrace integrity as a core value in your interactions. Recognize that clients appreciate straightforward communication and will value your candor.
- Acknowledge Limitations: When discussing your solutions, openly acknowledge any limitations or areas where your product may not be a perfect fit for the client’s needs. Be prepared to address these limitations when they arise in the conversation. Your goals should be to be honest and transparent, yet creative in using your solutions and ways to solve your prospect’s needs.
- Respond with Authenticity: Just be you! Authenticity creates a genuine connection and makes clients more comfortable sharing their concerns and aspirations. Speak authentically by avoiding clichés.
For customer-facing team members who provide demonstrations to clients, please consider the following. Offering valuable insights and solutions that directly address your prospect’s pain points establishes their trust in you. Consider using the ALT Approach (the Tell, Ask, Listen, Tailor, Teach, Tell framework). It’s an improved model based on the combination of Value Selling and Challenger Sales methodologies that will help you deliver more effective demos.
Start with ‘Vision Generation’ and a Great Demo! Situation Slide, tell a story about another customer with similar objectives, challenges, solutions, and the value they received. This sets up the context, generates interest, and challenges their thought process. Then, ask questions that will help them compare their current situation to the other customer and reflect on it.
Listen to their responses and ask follow-up questions. Turn the demo into a discovery conversation that focuses on uncovering business issues and the specific capabilities they need. From there, tailor your demo based on the information you gather. Present the capabilities and processes that make the demo experience worthwhile and the solution worth paying for. Lastly, communicate the value of your solution as it applies to their specific situation.
Customization and Personalization
Avoid a one-size-fits-all approach to interactions, demos, presentations, and solutions. A high level of personalization not only highlights your expertise but also shows that you are dedicated to helping them achieve their goals.
When you address the prospect’s specific situation and challenges using “you” phrasing, you capture their attention and create a personalized connection. This engagement is crucial for keeping the prospect invested in the conversation and interested in what you have to offer. Remember to strike a balance between personalized language and avoiding sounding overly rehearsed or insincere. Essentially, you don’t want your prospect ticked off. Think about this acronym – TICDOF when considering how to customize and personalize your message.
Consider the following:
- Thorough Research: Before any interaction, conduct thorough research on the client. Understand their industry, challenges, goals, and any unique factors that could impact their needs.
- Identify Pain Points: Pinpoint the client’s specific pain points and challenges. Take notes and ask clarifying questions to ensure you have a comprehensive understanding. This will allow you to address their concerns directly and demonstrate your commitment to solving their problems.
- Customize Presentations and Demos: Tailor your presentations and demonstrations based on the client’s specific needs, pain points, and objectives. Highlight how your solutions specifically address their challenges and contributes to their goals. Frame your interactions using the client’s industry-specific language and terminology to create a sense of familiarity and build rapport.
- Demonstrate Value: Showcase the value of your solutions in a way that directly relates to the client’s needs. Use examples and case studies that resonate with their situation. This makes your solutions more relatable and shows your ability to address similar challenges. Use tangible, meaningful numbers as opposed to broad-brush claims.
- Offer Tailored Solutions: Propose solutions that are specifically tailored to address the client’s pain points. Avoid generic recommendations that don’t align with their unique situation. During interactions, be prepared to adjust or tailor your approach based on the client’s reactions and feedback.
- Follow-Up: After interactions, follow up with personalized messages that reference the discussion and reinforce your understanding of their needs.
Collaborate with Prospects
Work with your prospects as if they are already your customers. Get to know their goals, understand their pain points, and identify the specific capabilities they need before presenting solutions. As you collaborate with prospects consider the skill, described in the book Doing Discovery, of Transitioning your client’s vision. According to Peter Cohan, “A Transition Vision is the process of helping your prospect understand how they can move from their current, painful state to the glorious future visualized as their solution. It represents another key opportunity to differentiate, based on demonstrating authentic interest in your prospect’s success.” Frame your responses in a way that fosters collaboration. Let the prospect know that you’re interested in their success and collaborate with a vision for how your solution will help!
Address objections or concerns openly and acknowledge their perspective. Provide thoughtful responses to show that you value their viewpoint and are willing to address any reservations they may have. Foster two-way communication and allow them to provide their input on the solutions you propose to make them truly active participants in the conversation.
Encourage your prospects to envision themselves benefiting from the proposed solution. Collaborating to find solutions that align with their goals helps shift your mindset from sales-oriented to customer success-oriented. When clients see you as a partner rather than just a salesperson, trust naturally follows.
Embracing Client-Centered Communication
Using “you” phrasing in sales, also known as customer-centric language, involves framing your communication in a way that focuses on the customer and their needs. The concept of “You Phrasing” is essential to connecting with clients and moving their minds to the perception of how your product or service can directly benefit them. This customer-centric approach not only builds trust and rapport but also guides the conversation toward a more positive and receptive mindset, increasing the likelihood of successful outcomes.
The concept is so powerful, that it is covered in numerous books including The Great Demo! by Peter Cohan, Neuroselling: Mastering the Customer Conversation by Jeff Bloomfield, Conversations That Win the Complex Sale by Erik Peterson and Tim Reisterer, and in other classics like How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie and To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others by Daniel H. Pink.
Employing it serves as a testament to your genuine concern for your prospect’s distinct needs, challenges, and aspirations. This approach plays a pivotal role in building rapport and trust, as the prospect experiences a sense of being truly understood and valued. Furthermore, it empowers the prospect to assume an active role in both the conversation and the solutions being discussed.
What’s remarkable is that the influence of “You Phrasing” extends throughout the sales process. It can (and should!) be applied during initial outreach, in the exploratory phase, in sales presentations and demos, in implementation discussions, and even in negotiations. Adeptly tailoring your language to align with the prospect’s perspective supports continued engagement and ensures that their interests remain at the forefront throughout the journey.
Incorporating “You Mode” into demonstrations, specifically, enables a unique dimension of trust-building. As you demonstrate your solutions, weave phrases that resonate with the prospect’s individual situation. Articulate how their challenges find resolutions in what you offer, and how their objectives can be achieved through your solutions. This focus showcases your dedication to their success, solidifying trust through your client-focused approach.
Mastering the art of introductions, empathetic listening, transparency, value-oriented demonstrations, customization, collaboration, and client-centered communication can help you win deals and cultivate enduring partnerships. These principles, based on psychology, renowned books, and practical experience, can transform you into a trusted advisor.
Ultimately, trust is crucial to successful customer engagement in sales, presales, and customer success. Once earned, it becomes the driving force behind every meaningful and successful customer interaction. If you’re seeking to foster trust-based relationships with your clients, use the tips presented in this article as a guide. Embrace these principles and apply them with sincerity.