Most sales managers, teams, and professionals share the following objectives:
- increase client loyalty and referral business;
- gain market share by winning more business;
- dismantle the competition and quicken the sales process;
- close new business on value, not price; and
- achieve “star” status as producers and as an organisation.
The truth is that most sales forces fail to build the client relationships essential to the manifestation of each of these goals. Our research with high-performing sales teams indicates that one of the key drivers to winning new business is the ability to earn the trust of each client. And although the speed of developing trust varies according to the dynamic, it’s the ability to consistently achieve this objective that separates the top sales performers from the rest of the pack. It’s time to stop believing that you can force trust by imposing your will on the client and start practicing the behaviours that garner trust and create loyal followers. Too many sales professionals approach the relationship as if the client were damaged, severely uninformed, and incapable of reaching his own decision. These faulty beliefs exact both monetary and relational costs to the sales organisation and its’ roster of professionals.
What you need to know about trust
- Trust is an inner game. The contest begins with identity: who you are as a person (character) and who you are as a professional (competence).
- Trust is earned over time. It’s a horizon that evolves via on-going self-analysis, adjustments, and accountability. Trust is also a gift that can be lost very quickly.
- No trust. No sale. If your customers don’t think immediately of you as the consummate trustworthy professional, you have to remedy that belief.
“Being in position to provide clarity and truth that is relevant to the client creates the best opportunity for success in sales,” says Arlo Henderson, sales leader at State Farm Insurance Company.
Three keys to developing trusting relationships
To excel in sales, you need to achieve the results for your clients. First, understand the challenge. Then find ways to improve the client’s condition. Make the client better. Yet, to enjoy that opportunity, you must first gain the client’s trust. Here are three keys to make that happen:
1. Trust yourself first – it’s been said that success is peace of mind. You must be a person that keeps promises to yourself. Every time you honour yourself, you build an unshakable self-esteem and inner confidence. Staying true to yourself affects how you speak, how you walk into a room, how you handle setbacks, and perhaps most importantly – how the buyer perceives you as a value provider.
2. Seek first to understand your customer – lead with great questions and insights that speak to your client’s most pressing needs and desires. “Pay attention to the client. Ask clarifying questions that help you understand what it feels like for him to have a problem fixed or goal accomplished,” says Henderson. Furthermore, if you possess the methodologies to effectively solve the client’s goals, then forge ahead. If not, let your clients know and help them find a professional who can help. Honest behaviour and authentic communication builds credibility in the marketplace.
3. Act responsibly and ethically – common sense isn’t always common practice. Speak the truth at all times. Do what you said you were going to do. Many have heard the advice. Few follow it. Underperforming sales professionals don’t practice these principles because they put themselves first rather than the client. They refuse to get out of their own way. Fundamentals such as being punctual, dressing professionally, and telling the truth are within your control. It’s a question of desire, not capability.
By Rene' Vidal, A six-time NCAA championship coach, René Vidal is president of S-Curve Coaching Institute, a leadership development boutique for top performers, teams, and organizations. Vidal also serves as co-author of Play Smart to Win in Business: Leadership Lessons from Center Court to Corner Office (June, 2015).