The biggest complaint customers have about salespeople is that they seem to know very little about their business, and make no attempt to learn more.
Conversely the highest compliment a customer can give you is, ‘You understand our business.’ This indicates they regard you as a partner, rather than just a vendor.
Sometimes a potential customer will test your knowledge early in the meeting. They will ask you what you know about their industry or about a current concern. They want to be reassured that you know what you’re talking about and you are the sort of person they want to do business with.
To establish stand out credibility and trust there are five key steps to follow:
1. Be a specialist
How would you react to being referred to a Harley Street doctor who claimed to be a leading authority on orthopaedics, gynaecology and ophthalmology? You’d run a mile from such obvious quackery. It’s just not possible to be a master of all those disciplines.
Such a scenario is ridiculous, but salespeople often miss the underlying point. If you try to be all things to all people, you will struggle to have any impact. Instead be brilliant at the one subject closest to the customer’s heart – their business.
The more you specialise in an industry, the better sense you will have of the problems and opportunities that can be uncovered.
Approach the account with: ‘In this type of business, it often happens that this situation arises. Is that the case here?’
2. Present NEW knowledge
When in front of a potential new customer, aim to present new knowledge on how to improve their business. This leads to a powerful question that provides real insight into what’s required to build credibility. Ask yourself:
■ Would your customer still hire you as a consultant if you no longer had your product or service to sell?
This question, perhaps more than anything else, captures the essence of modern selling. The answer reveals whether you are a resource to the customer, or simply a person who sells.
3. Reduce risk
To become the preferred supplier you must persuade your customer that choosing you over your competitors carries less risk.
Sales people often fear rejection, but the customer also has a fear – the fear of making a mistake, of paying too much, of being criticised for making the wrong choice, or of being left stranded by your company because the support is inadequate.
In every sale ask yourself how you can reduce the customer’s perception of risk.
Position your company as the low-risk provider of the required solution. Demonstrate that doing business with you is the safe option. Allocate sales training course time to strengthening how you convey this.
4. Provide hard evidence
If you can provide concrete evidence that confirms the quality of your product or service, you will earn the customer’s trust.
Avoid woolly claims such as ‘It’s cost effective’. You are unlikely to be in a situation where a buyer on hearing that says, ‘Really, you’re cost effective. That’s incredible. Just what we want, because the supplier we’re using now is cost hopeless’. Of course that’s farcical but you would be surprised how many salespeople are still using that phrase.
Instead, demonstrate what you mean by cost effective. For example, ‘On the basis of a 10 per cent reduction in processing time, this new system will pay for itself in eight months.’
But what lowers risk the most – what you say or what your customers say? Your customers’ opinions are hugely important in reducing the perception of risk, so use case histories, client lists, references and reference sites wherever possible.
5. Share testimonials
As a first stage, build a file of testimonials and attach relevant ones to every proposal. You’ll find that your sales go up as soon as you start using them. Include these in a section of your website so potential customers can see them.
If you currently don’t have enough testimonials, set a goal to get 10 in the next four weeks. Contact your customers and ask them for an email, or even better a short video, explaining their experience of your products/service and support. Ask them to describe the benefits they have received.
If your customer asks, ‘What do you want me to say?’, be careful you don’t fall into the trap of saying, ‘I’ll leave it to you.’ If the testimonial is a hassle to write, they won’t do it. Instead, offer some ideas to help them, preferably by asking questions such as: ‘What is the biggest benefit you have received?’
These five steps will help you establish yourself as a credible, trustworthy salesperson and position your organisation as the preferred supplier.
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