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Before buying anything, the buyer has to trust that the product can do as it claims.  In B2B sales, this essentially means that you need to trust the person that is selling to you.  It is unlikely that the seller can provide a 100% guarantee that their product / service will solve the client’s need so the buyer needs to take a leap of faith, which means trusting the seller.  If the seller cannot be trusted, then the buyer will not proceed.

The elements of training associated with Trust are:

T1 - Building Trust; how do we go about doing this?

T2 - Why do you do what you do?  This helps to build trust with your customer.

T3 - Customer Research; knowing basic information about a customer demonstrates your interest in them.

T4 - Good Customer; what does a good customer look like?

T5 - How to get through the front door; how can you persuade a customer to see you?

T6 - The Science of Persuasion; what small things can you do that help convince a customer to use your services?

T7 - Presentations; how can you present your products in a compelling way that proves to the customer that you can do what you claim?

Any or all of these modules can be built into a customised training course designed around your products and services.  Please contact us for more information.



Building Trust

In general, we don’t buy anything from someone that we don’t trust.  We use guide books to tell us where to go; we look at product reviews before we choose new purchases; we ask friends to recommend quality tradesmen etc.

In business, we have to build that trust.  We don’t get automatically trusted by our customers.  We have to earn it and its probably the most important thing that you do as a sales person.  The reason that sales has had a poor reputation is that there has been a history of dodgy sales people, selling dodgy cars and double glazing without ever caring about their customer.

Building trust starts the first moment that you meet someone new so turning up on time, being polite and friendly and engaging the client in conversation are important to do first.  As part of your ongoing strategy to build trust, consider the following:

  • Say what you are going to do and then do what you say!
  • Communicate with your customer when they need it, not when you need it
  • Trust is built one day at a time but can be lost in a second
  • Long term relationships are more valuable than short term successes

When there is trust in a relationship, great things can happen.  Remember the game of football played between the British and the Germans one Christmas during WW1.  One day they were trying to kill each other and the next, because of trust, they played a game of football together.

Without trust, a sales person has little value to anyone, neither the customer nor their employer.  Investing time to build trust is worth more than any commission – it is your license to work today and into the future.

In this element of our training, we review what trust means and why it is important in the buyer- seller relationship.  Trust is the reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something.  It is critically important in B2B sales as so much of what we are selling is frequently intangible.  This means that the buyer must trust the sales person as much as they trust the product or service they are promoting.

We review what a trusted advisor is and how we might develop that relationship with our client.  We consider first impressions and how important they are in building trust.  We then review strategies and tactics for building trust and how they can be applied to your company and your customers.  

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Why do you do what you do?

I wonder how many people stop and think about why their company does what it does?  For most companies with a long history, they do what they do because that’s what they have always done!  It would be quite difficult for BP to suddenly become an accountancy practice for example.  For the people who work there, it is important to agree with the company’s objectives and values otherwise it is almost impossible to be content there.

For sales people, buying into the product that they sell is very important.  If you don’t believe in it, then you are not going to convince your customers that it is worth buying.  I believe that the best person to promote a product is the person who invented it.  They know what drove them to think of it, how long and how painful it was to build it and know how useful it is.  Sometimes, this can blind them to the fact that not everyone has the need for it so they can be quite inefficient at selling (see www.hoolock-consulting.com/needs-identification).

However, for a company to grow, more people than the original developer need to be involved in selling.  The sales team all need to understand and appreciate the history of the product, even if they didn’t live through its development.  They need to be inspired by what can be achieved by the product, by how it can improve the lives of their customers.  This passion will come through in everything that they say and do and will help to convince your customers of its value.

If you watch Simon Sinek’s TED talk about “why”, it will help you to understand this further.  I suggest that you watch it a few times because it takes time to appreciate (well, it did for me anyway).  His assertion is that people buy why you do something rather than what you do, they want to believe in your ethos as much as your product.  The most powerful sales presentations I have ever heard have dealt with "why" rather than "what" (think about Seb Coe's presentation to the IOC before London won the 2012 Olympics).  

As part of this module, we consider the "why" behind your company and each of the participants.  Everyone might have a slightly different "why" as well as the company "why" and being able to articulate this to your customer will help to build trust and emotional buy-in to the product or service that you are offering.

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Customer Research

Part of trust is being credible.  If you go to talk to a customer and you haven’t made any effort to understand their business in advance, what do you think they will think of you?  At the very least, you need to have a vague idea that they might need your services.

Customer research is the first stage of the sales process.  We want to know some basic information about a customer to determine if they are a potential client or if they are already a client, how can we sell more things to them.  Research shows that only a few of our customers are actively buying at any one time.  By knowing which these are, you can be more focussed in your sales efforts and win more deals.  This doesn’t mean ignoring the rest, it just means you do different things with them.

Before you meet with a client, you need to find out some basic information that is relevant to the product or service you are offering.  This might include:

  • Where in the world do they operate?
  • What are their current activities?
  • What announcements have they made recently?
  • Are they looking for new staff?

By researching a standard set of information, you can compare them to your other clients to determine how good a customer they are (more on that next week).  This way, you can determine which are the most important clients to see first.

Your research should also include any history that your company has with the customer.  You should know what they have bought in the past, what opportunities have been lost in the past, what is the status of the overall relationship.  You should find out about the important contacts in the company and any information that you can learn about them.  Look them up on LinkedIn so that you know something of their history.

This module reviews each of these things for your typical customers to give you an idea of what to look for and then reviews specific customers to see how this works in practice.

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What does a good customer look like?

One of the most common mistakes sales people make is to assume that everyone is good customer.  This is definitely not the case.

In the first instance, not everyone wants to buy your product today.  They may be interested in it tomorrow but spending lots of time with them today is a waste of everyone’s time.  You need to be keeping them warm as a potential customer but constantly contacting them for a purchase is not a good tactic.  There are lots of ways of keeping them warm, such as sending them useful information or hints and tips but don’t try to sell to them.  If they are going to be a customer, they will come to you at the time that they need the product.  The skill of the sales person is to know when that is.

Even if they do want to buy your product today, they may still not be a good customer and it is important to distinguish them.  We have a mutually beneficial relationship with our good customers and they generate lots of revenue for us.  Less good customers cost us time and money.   They are unresponsive, only ever buy the cheapest products, are overly demanding and indecisive.  You should avoid them if you can.

To determine who is a good customer, you need some criteria.  Think about what your best customer does and judge everyone else against that.  Use a points system to determine how different customers rate against each other.  This helps you to determine who to spend the most time with.  Some criteria that you might use are:

  • How much annual revenue do they generate for us?
  • How complex is their decision making process?
  • Do they pay their bills on time?

Whatever criteria you use, you need to focus on the best customers who are most likely to generate the most revenue for you.  Don’t chase the glory customers who won’t ever buy from you, that path only leads to disappointment!

This is a very important part of my sales training and we typically deliver it during all of our courses.  We get everyone to list their own criteria for what makes a good customer and to rank one of their customer's against the criteria. 

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How to get through the front door

Quite regularly at my house, there is a knock on the door and I open it to find someone selling cleaning products, door to door.  They are usually people who are trying to rebuild their lives and demonstrate that they can be trusted to go straight.  I frequently will buy something from them to demonstrate my support for what they are doing.

In the business world, if you knock on a stranger’s door, whether physically or electronically, they are less likely to be so accommodating.  If you call a potential client and ask for some of their time, you need to demonstrate that its going to be worth it for them.  You don’t have to demonstrate that your product will benefit them, you need to demonstrate that the time they are giving you will be of benefit.  You have to sell the benefits of that meeting.

To do this, you need to grab their attention so that they want to listen to you.  You need to give them something of value to show that you are worth meeting.  This may be by giving them some intriguing information, quoting statistics about the value other customers have got from using your products or making a big bold statement about how you can help them.

I once called a potential client and left a voicemail along the lines of:

“Hi Mr Client, this is Tim Gibbons from ACME software. Your company is the only major oil company in Aberdeen that doesn’t have any ACME products in use so I’m really keen to come to talk to you to discuss how ACME can help you with your exploration activities.”

The client was intrigued enough to call me back and ask for a meeting.  He remains one of the very few clients to ever call me back after a cold call.

However you do it, you need to be selling from the moment you make contact with the client; sell the first meeting, sell the second and third if you need them, sell a proposal, sell a presentation.  By the time you have sold those, the product you are selling will have sold itself.

In this part of the training, we consider the various ways that we can contact the client and the ways that we can grab their attention and make them interested enough to give up their time to meet with us.

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Science of Persuasion

There’s a great video on YouTube all about the science of persuasion, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cFdCzN7RYbw .  It is all about how little things we do can help to persuade people to see our point of view or to be more generous or to buy something.  It is a little like Nudge Theory, where small suggestions can make big differences.  There is also the concept of critical non-essentials, developed by Paddi Lund, and made well known by Sir Clive Woodward, coach of the world cup winning England rugby team and more recently by the UK cycling team.

All of these concepts are about small things, which on their own may be irrelevant or not worth doing, but which will make big differences when put together.  The Science of Persuasion includes:

  • Reciprocity – give when you receive but better still, be the first to give
  • Scarcity – people want things that are hard to get, things that are unique
  • Authority – people trust experts
  • Consistency – look for small incremental commitments
  • Liking – people are more likely to do business with those that they like
  • Consensus – people do what others are doing

In everything that we do, we should be looking for these small ways that we can influence our customers.  Try giving some information that is not required, like important industry news that has only just been announced.  Understand what makes your product unique.  Position your company as experts in your field, write papers for conferences and build your reputation.  Ask for small commitments along the sales process, don’t ask for a huge project to begin with, try an evaluation or a pilot project.  Do things that make people like you, take cakes along to meetings, ask after their family etc.  Point out what other companies are doing, use case studies and customer workshops to promote what others are doing. 

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Sales Presentations

Many sales people make fundamental errors in presenting to customers.  Firstly, they typically present too early in the sales process and therefore use their language to present all about their company and their product.  The problem with this is that it assumes that the customer is interested.  Without establishing the customer's needs first, most presentations will fail in their objective.   Secondly, most presentations fail to make an impression and don't provide the customer with the information that they need.

Think about how exciting the start of the first Star Wars film is (that’s A New Hope just in case you are wondering!)  There’s the dramatic music, the text scrolling into the distance and the background story in the text.  Who could fail to pay attention and be intrigued by what was coming next.

A great presentation tells a story, just like a great movie.  There’s a hero, there’s a complication and there’s a successful conclusion.  We all tell stories to our friends and colleagues and a great story is much easier to remember than a succession of facts.  A well written story inspires emotional reactions and emotions drive more decisions than logic.

Whenever you make a presentation, you need to grab your audience’s attention and, particularly if it is a long presentation, keep grabbing their attention.  There are various devices we use to do this, tell a story, use a picture or video to illustrate a particular point, use an analogy to make the audience think, ask them to remember something from their past.  Of course, you need to make sure that it is relevant to your subject and is appropriate for your audience.

Immediately after you have grabbed their attention, you need to tell them the most important thing that you want them to remember.  People are much more likely to remember what they heard first in a presentation than what they hear last.  Your main message, which for a sales presentation should be why your product is perfect for the customer, should come immediately after you have everyone’s attention. 

Finally, the presentation should conclude with the proof that you can do what you are claiming, either by demonstrating the product, presenting a case study or similar.  You client should have emotionally bought into the idea but will still want to back up their decision with some logic. 

Great presentations don’t happen without preparation and practice.  They need to be created well in advance of the delivery date and then rehearsed.  Any new presentation will require some refinement to get right. 

In this training, everyone gets the opportunity to make a number of presentations, each of which is videoed to allow participants to review their own performance.  Feedback is also provided on presentation style although we believe that everyone has their own style and that it is important to embrace that rather than try to force an unnatural behaviour on anyone.

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