One reason clients may distrust salespeople is that they believe salespeople are hiding some inconvenient truth. Prospective buyers worry about what they don't know and what the salesperson is not saying. Salespeople want to impress clients by accentuating the positives while avoiding the negative; however, there is no difference between not disclosing something the client needs to know and lying. An omission is a lie.
Telling the whole truth may be the best and fastest way to gain a client's trust. After a few years in sales, honing my profession and craft, I'd have clients that would ask me about the systemic problems in my industry. They wanted me to tell them they wouldn't have those same problems if they bought from me. Instead, I told them we would have the same problems, but there were other areas where I could make a difference.
One client asked me to complete an RFP. The RFP required me to agree that I would guarantee I could meet a set of metrics that would mean eliminating all the systemic challenges in my industry. I walked into a conference room in Chicago to find nine people sitting around a huge table.
All my competitors brought a large team, and I had shown up alone. I thought to myself, "I have them surrounded."
One person on the client's task force started the conversation by asking me, "Why are you here? You are the only company that didn't agree to our metrics." I opened a binder and showed them their actual metrics from the location I was helping, explaining that no one could promise them what they expected and outlining why that was true. The room was quiet for a long minute. The lawyer sitting at the other end of the table said, "This is the first honest person to sit in that chair." I won my location, and the company asked me to tell them which competitor should get the locations I couldn't reach.
Most salespeople want to prove they are better than their competitors. The legacy approach uses many tactics to demonstrate the certainty of positive outcomes. This unfortunate fact is why buyers are skeptical, and even cynical, about salespeople. Many salespeople say nothing that might be perceived as a weakness, but believing that will end their chance of winning the client's business.
What follows are a few categories and trust-based relationship selling examples.
Disclosing a Weakness
Disclosing something like, "Our prices are going to be higher than other options" early in the conversation may be enough to create the trust that will allow you to justify the delta between your price and your competitors'. Those who fear disclosing their higher-priced model often find out they lost because they did not address why their price is higher and how it benefits the client.
Speaking Truth to Power
Salespeople who conduct weak discovery might fail to address the changes the client will need to make to improve their results. Your clients prefer to believe that replacing their current provider and buying from someone else is all that is necessary to improve their outcomes. One way to assess a salesperson’s discovery is to see if they recognize what role the client plays in their poor results.
Here are a couple trust-based relationship selling examples. I have had to say, "You are not going to produce you want at your current investment level." I've also had to say, "Your managers are the reason for your poor retention." In Elite Sales Strategies, I have a story about speaking truth to power that ended with me losing a $6 million client. That's the only time I have experienced that outcome.
Explaining the Real Challenges of Change
The legacy approaches make it seem as if all your client must do is "buy your solution" and they’ll have the positive outcomes they need.
I have told clients, "We tend to get things right on the third of fourth try. There is always a learning curve." The first time I said this, my team was horrified. The contact said, "How good are you guys?" It's takes us eleven tries." By disclosing that it's going to take work, you make it easy to believe that you can be trusted. Look, if you will have challenges and a learning curve, disclose it. You might be the first person to tell the truth, even if you must explain why going through the learning curve together will be worth it.
Saying Nice Things About Your Competition
When you are young in sales, you are always thrilled when you come across a client that says horrible things about your competitors. They charge your up and excite you by telling you how dissatisfied they are, confessing their current supplier's sins. You will eventually learn that the client is the problem, and they are seducing you into being their next victim.
No one expects you to say anything nice about your competitors. When asked about your competition, developing trust would have you say something like, "There are a number of very good companies in our industry. We have a lot of friends in the industry, and they all do their best, despite the difficulties in our business. I can tell you why we might be a good choice, and if we aren't, I can tell you who to speak to next."
The Foundation of Relationships
Trust is the foundation of relationships. Your relationships allow you to have better conversations and solve problems and challenges. Your trustworthiness is what allows you to have candid conversations. Establishing trust early makes it easier for clients to prefer you over your competitors.
As a next step, buy Charles H. Green's Trust-Based Selling and the Trusted Advisor Field book.