Training September 2014

Credibility is king in sales

Become a trusted business partner

  • Solving clients’ problems is the driving objective of sales
  • Asking pertinent questions can help determine business needs
  • A crafted statement on what you do grabs attention

Salespeople are carrying around a lot of baggage when they visit clients. The smooth-talking, dodgy con artist is the folkloric villain of the piece.

Reversing the doubt and hesitation that clients feel when approached by a salesperson is critical to gaining acceptance as a valuable business partner for the client. This entire issue is magnified when we meet the client for the first time.

Because they don’t know us, their default position is one of caution and doubt. We have all grown up being rewarded for being risk averse and so we are resistant to change.

The new salesperson represents change by asking the client to buy something new or to change suppliers. We need to break through that mental protective wall erected by the client and establish trust and credibility, so we can properly serve them.

Great—but how do we do that? Crafting a credibility statement—a succinct summary that will grab the attention of the client and help to reduce their resistance to what we are offering—is one way. It unfolds in four stages:

First, give an overview of the general benefits of what we do. For example, “we help to deliver the behaviour change needed in the team to produce improved outcomes”.

Next, we need to quote some specific results, as evidence that we are a credible supplier of services: “An example of this was when we helped a very high-end retailer with training their entire sales staff. As a result they are now enjoying a 30% increase in sales”.

Third, we introduce an important suggestion that makes this benefit and result summary relevant to the listener: “Maybe we could do the same for you?”

Finally, we need to create a “verbal bridge” so we can move on to questioning the client about what they need. In Japan, a lot of buyers expect to control proceedings, in that the seller turns up, gives their pitch, and then the buyer shoots it full of holes.

What buyers are doing is trying to ascertain the risk factor of what you are proposing by disparaging everything you have just said. They now want you to provide answers that eliminate their fears. You are immediately on the back foot. The client, not you, is controlling the sales process. Good luck with that.

To break this pattern (which has a very low success rate), we need to ask pertinent questions and find out what the client really needs. In order to do that, we need to get their permission to ask questions.

This transition into the questioning part of the sales process is absolutely critical. At this point we softly mention: “In order to help me understand if we can do that or not, would you mind if I asked a few questions?”

When they agree, we are now free to explore in detail their current situation; what they aspire to, what is holding them back, and what success would mean to them personally. If you don’t ask these questions you have little chance of convincing the client you can help them solve their problems.

Amazingly, the majority of salespeople don’t ask any questions, but just blab on about the features of their product. We have to do a lot better than that.

This credibility statement should be short—under 30 seconds’ duration—and delivered fluently and confidently, with no ums and ahs. Achieving this takes a lot of preparation and practice. Every word is vital and we must deliver it perfectly.

It can also be used as a multi-purpose tool, since it is an ideal “elevator pitch” for those occasions when we have to briefly explain what we do, whether face-to-face or over the phone. If it is the latter, then we would drop the question permission part and instead ask, “Are you available next Tuesday, or is Thursday better?”

Unless your product is specifically suited to being sold in that way, don’t sell solutions over the phone. Instead, secure a day and a time to meet. That is all we should be aiming for—the appointment.

The driving objective of sales is to solve clients’ problems. We need to establish the client relationship based on a professional, competent first impression. The credibility statement does just that, and opens the door to permission to find issues, offer solutions, and serve as a trusted business partner.

Apply these ideas and join the top 1% of professionals in sales.