Salespeople have to constantly fight an uphill battle to do well at their job. One of the worst battles that you’ll have to face is a prospect who is in defensive mode. We all know when this happens – they cross their arms, refuse to make eye contact, and offer as little information as possible when responding to your questions. Most of the time, this happens whenever prospects figure out that you are trying to sell them something. Instinctively, they put their guard up and get defensive because people don’t like the idea of someone else being in control of the conversation. Truth be told – prospects and customers are generally not trusting of salespeople to begin with, which is a big hurdle that you’ll have to overcome.
A prospect who does not trust you will not buy from you. It really does not matter what you are selling or what company you are with. Therefore, it’s important to build trust as soon as you can with the prospect/customer.
I know this first hand – early on in my career, I worked for a respected and reputable company. My product beat the competitions out in terms of price and quality, but I was still having a really difficult time closing deals. I had no idea why until a prospect told me that he did not trust that I would take care of him like his current supplier does. At the end of the day, it was my failure to build trust that ended up costing me that sale, along with many others.
After that, building trust became a major focus of mine. Once I was able to establish trust, selling became exponentially easier. Here are my favorite ways to build trust with prospects & customers.
Have Open Body Language
Body language is important. Many people assume that sales is all about what you say. I’d make the argument that it’s equally important to consider what your body language is saying as well. For example, sitting with your arms crossed and refusing to make eye contact is not a good way to build trust because that communicates that you are defensive and are possibly hiding something.
To facilitate trust, try making eye contact in a steady way. Rather than crossing your arms, let your arms rest on your legs and keep your palms open. Lean in when the prospect is saying something interesting. When the prospect is talking, nod at the appropriate times and smile often. All of these are subtle ways that you can build trust without saying a word.
A while back, I wrote an article on how to be a good listener. Being a good listener helps build trust because it shows the prospect that you are actually…well…listening to them! Nothing is worse than being ignored, especially from someone who is supposed to be helping you solve your problems.
Actively listen to your prospects and customers. Repeat back what they tell you and confirm that you understand them. Never interrupt them, even if what they are saying is incorrect. Take notes at appropriate scenarios. Ask follow up questions based on what they tell you. By doing this, the prospect will feel as if they are being listened to, which will allow them to open up and tell you more.
Build your own Credibility
A huge component in building trust is building your own credibility in the eyes of the prospect. This means that the more of a subject matter expert that you are, the more the prospect will trust your recommendations. Essentially, by showing the prospect that you are the authority in your industry, they will be more open to buying from you.
A real-life example can be found in the “Science in Persuasion” video by psychologist Robert Cialdini. Cialdini gives the example of how a real estate agency applied this principle to its business by instructing its receptionists to mention to callers the length of experience of its real estate agents before putting them through. This resulted in a significant increase in contracts that were written. Nothing changed here except the prospect felt as if they were talking to a credible source, which increases trust.
Don’t be overly bragging about your accomplishments. had a colleague who would tell prospects that he was the absolute expert at helping potential clients with their first-time purchase because he was the most knowledgeable about the program. It was a simple statement that built an immense level of trust.
Use Testimonials and 3rd Party Stories
People look towards their peers for help and advice on whether they should do something or not. Yelp and TripAdvisor have become immensely popular because people want to hear from other people who have been in similar situations.
While you probably cannot bring in some of your clients to provide positive testimonials right there on the spot, you can always tell their stories. Relating a similar story to a prospect’s situation can oftentimes be the deciding factor if a prospect trusts you and your company or not.
If you want to read on how to effectively tell stories to prospects, check out this popular article that I wrote a while back.
Your reputation will always precede you. Your trustworthiness can be demolished before you even walk through the door if you lie to a prospect and the word spreads like wildfire. The best way to avoid this is to simply not lie. Lying will never help your situation. It will harm your reputation, hurt your brand and your company, and will essentially be a major factor in whether or not a prospect will even listen to you.
Trust is key when working in sales and if often the element that separates out those who are successful from those who fail. Try out the above methods for building trust with prospects.
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Author: Jason Karaman
Hello! I’m a marketing, sales, and customer service expert, trainer, author, and doer. I live in the South Carolina Lowcountry with my wife, Ashley. I enjoy reading (history, philosophy, and science are my favorite topics), writing, hiking, kayaking, and all things beach.