Four Keys to Building Trust with Prospects
I’ve been in sales for about 15 years, and I’ve interacted with tens of thousands of people spanning the gamut of sophistication and complexity.
From helping entrepreneurs navigate the tax code, to investments, to learning the bible, to cell phones, to a USB cord – I’ve had lots of different interactions that I lovingly call “tuition.”
I can tell you from experience, the key to sales is Trust. But Trust is not about being a sales person – but being a fiduciary-level guide.
Sales vs. Relentless Pursuit of the client’s best interests: BEST BUY
My Best Buy Trust “tuition”:
Pre-recession, I was a sales supervisor at a Best Buy in Minnesota – and I love what I learned from my time in retail.
Best Buy, in the typical fortune 500 manner, discovered through research that great sales is about Trust. After making that realization, they tried to implement a system that would help their people earn trust with customers – but they neglected the core strategic and cultural problems that caused some of their people and stores to be UNWORTHY OF TRUST.
Best Buy tried using a sales training system to help their salespeople gain trust, by transitioning from their “CARE+” Sales system, over to a “TRUST” system.
Care+ was the sales process for blue-shirts up that point – an acronym to serve as a simple methodology.
Best Buy Care+:
- C – Contact
- A – Ask Questions
- R – Recommend a Solution
- E – Encourage the sale
- + – with your own skills and personality
Now they wanted to transition to a system called “TRUST”
Best Buy Trust:
- T = Thanks for coming
- R = Respect
- U = Understand (listen)
- S = Solve
- T = Thanks again
Best Buy’s Problem? Their culture created many stores and employees that were NOT WORTHY OF YOUR TRUST!
Best Buy’s employees had more competent people, at lower levels of their organization, than just about any other retail outfit. It was always fun when we’d become the masters at helping people choose the best value piece of technology for their problem, but the company had a cultural problem.
Their scorecard based compensation structure too often rewarded black-hat tricks. You needed to attach accessories, services, and warranties to a high percentage of your sales – and margin was king. That meant that if a customer came in to buy a laptop, with no intention of buying any of the high margin (and overpriced) extras, lots of stores would try to obstruct the sale. If you had no other “attachment sales” to the core product, it was considered a “naked sale.”
If you had a high percentage of “naked sales”, then you’d lose the favor of the district and general managers. This wasn’t an all-bad tendency though, because a naked laptop would often translate to a customer ignorantly neglecting Microst office, antivirus, and a wireless mouse of some sort. The customer needed a guide to ensure they had what they needed, but the scorecard created a bad incentive.
Not only did the scorecard system create bad incentives, but non-commission sales people make it worse.
Best Buy also struggled being worthy of trust because there wasn’t a fundamental incentive to pursue the client’s best interests so that the client would be completely satisfied over the long haul. In other words, the sales person didn’t care if the product got returned because it never affected their pocketbook.
If you’re in a commission job – you measure twice and cut once because You do NOT want to hand back that commission check.
Employees with no skin in the long term result of the sale, meant that they would be awfully tempted to seek their own personal best interests, which was to win the flawed scorecard game.
Best Buy was often not worthy of your trust because they only cared that they got credit for attachments of services and margin-rich accessories to a core product sale, rather than delighting the customer.
That was the tuition I received from Best Buy – that you had to be WORTHY of TRUST, and relentlessly pursuit the best interests of your clients.
Trust is the relentless pursuit of the client’s best interests.
Does that mean you don’t charge a nice price for your products or problem solving services? NO!
If you’re authentically pursuing the best interests of your clients, then you are worthy of Trust.
Back to the Four Keys of Trust Building
1 – Be worthy of trust
This isn’t just in sales – it’s true in everything. I think you could render down every single aspect of life to two categories:
Two categories of life:
- Execution or Tasks
That idea is stolen from Henry Cloud’s book Integrity, but I think it’s critical.
- When it comes to each individual relationship and task, are you worthy of trust?
- Are you the type of person, that does the right thing in every moment?
- Do you typically know the right thing to do for people?
- Do you know how to get things done, and do you actually do it?
- Would you buy from you if you knew you, like you do?
Those types of questions are important when your trying to be worthy of trust. To be worthy of trust, you ultimately need to relentlessly pursue their best interests.
2. Relentlessly pursuit their best interests
- What’s critical in your industry?
- What’s the worst case scenario that could happen?
- How does one find themselves “out of luck” with your company?
- As an insider, what’s the best value at certain price points?
- What are the major pitfalls in the industry?
- What should someone watch out for?
- How do some suppliers compromise the best interests of the end user?
- What would the biggest critics say, even if you don’t agree?
I personally love the last question the most – what do the biggest critics say about your service, even if you don’t agree?
This kind of thinking should NOT make you overly price conscious, and start “selling with your own wallet.” Rather, this kind of thinking should cause you to place yourself in the client’s shoes, and help clarify any opaqueness in the buying process.
If you’re pursuing the best interests of the client, it means that you’re a fiduciary guide that ensures there would never be a preventable regret later on (to an extent).
As a fiduciary, that means that you helped solve their problems, and did it by providing a great value. The type of solution that you would choose if you were them – with their problems and resources.
Every Sales Person thinks they do this.
I’ve noticed that every sales person I meet, tries to position themselves as the real and bonafide trustworthy guide in the industry. It’s important to note that just because you had the intentions of pursuing their best interests, it doesn’t count unless the product you sold them is ultimately a tremendous value.
Vanguard funds and the financial planning industry are interesting examples of this.
Vanguard has some of the highest quality, low priced index mutual funds and ETF’s in the world – but they don’t compensate financial representatives for selling them. This means that financial planners will not use that product because they don’t get paid, even though it’s probably the best value solution for the client.
My time as a financial advisor was short because I found that I couldn’t do for people what we all knew was in their best interests… at least if I wanted to pay my mortgage.
3. As a Business Owner, Ensure your Services and Products are a Great Value
Nobody wants to be in the position of selling something that they think is mediocre.
As an entrepreneur, you have the power to ensure that you’re product and services are NOT mediocre – so DO IT!
The beauty of being an entrepreneur or business owner is that you control the ability to deliver excellence and value.
Value is something I’ll dive into another time because there’s lots to unbox, but it’s another critical aspect of trust.
The Bottom Line: You know you’re a great value, when you leave the client saying “That was so worth it.”
If you’re an entrepreneur, you need to meet and exceed expectations. This means working diligently to identify all the expectations ahead of the sale, coming to an agreement on them, and then executing in a manner that meets or exceeds those expectations.
Value is tied to perceptions – and perceptions are all about expectations.
Want to grow sales? Create Conviction about the Value you Provide by actually being excellent!
4. Be a Guide – act frankly about the market and your company’s position in it
A couple days ago, I got a call from a buddy of mine that was starting a marketing company. He’s a great man, and I know that he has the best of intentions. But when we finally sat down, he spent the trust equity he had on me, trying to convince me to buy his service.
He didn’t take time to understand where I was, what my goals where, or what my best interests were. Instead, his time was spent convincing me to buy.
If he would have started asking some great questions, he would have gotten me to open up, and he would have understood that I own an outsourced sales company…. we’re competitors.
I felt kind of bad.
But a great sales person will come alongside people and build understanding – this is where the best buy system was brilliant. You need to show an authentic appreciation for the opportunity to serve them, and then you need to discover what their life looks like, what struggles exist, and where they’d like to be in the future.
If someone doesn’t have a vision for the future, or truly know that problems that they’re facing, a great guide would frame up excellent questions that would have them realize that they do have the struggle.
Once you’ve truly come to an undesrtanding with where the client is, and what problems they face, you can start to problem solve and guide them in solving those problems. Serving as a guide means that you are frank about the competition, you speak well of them, and you equip the prospect to make a great decision – even if it’s not your own product.
Guiding people means that you might lose some sales occasionally, but it will ultimately help you close lots of high quality business.
WHen you serve as a guide, you will act as a value interpreter for the client, helping them connect your value proposition to their problems. You’ll also need to prortray you mission, purpose, values, and core focus – which all serve as a differentiator.
Does this work? Aboslutely! Especially when my team is the one doing it…. which is why small businesses hire us as their outsourced sales, inbound marketing, and CRM implementation teams.
We serve as outsourced web developers, marketers, and sales teams for small businesses. If you like the idea of having someone come alongside you and go “fishing” for you, we’ll help make all sorts of quality catches to fill your small businesses sales hopper. We’d love to connect!