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Customers Don’t Buy From People They Like, They Buy From Those They Trust
It is often said that customers buy from people they love. While we don’t buy from people we don’t like, there is another dimension to this old saying.
Customers buy from people they trust
To illustrate this point further, let’s look at how typical potential customers react to new sales leads (otherwise known as cold-calling):
1. They find an excuse to hang up the phone as soon as possible
2. They make themselves very busy during appointments and sales people
3. They keep their mouths shut as much as possible when salespeople ask questions
4. Salespeople will not be referred to a higher authority even when such a need is clear
5. they often use delay tactics such as “if there is a need, we will call you” to appease the seller, etc.
These are just a few examples of customer behavior when they challenge salespeople. As such, to find customers who are interested and excited about what you have to offer, you first have to win their trust.
A question of desire
The reason why customers don’t trust their sales people is very simple: they feel that the only thing that sales people care about is getting their money. Unfortunately, this “lust for customers’ money” is quite true with many sales people out there, AND customers can smell them from miles away.
When customers make purchases, what they really want in exchange for the money they spend is proven value. That is, the products or services they buy can bring better productivity, reduce waste or simply improve their quality of life.
Hence, the first step to building trust is this: you must be perceived as being on the customer’s side and pro-actively helping to solve customer problems.
Here is a simple example. When most sales people approach potential customers, they will say something like, “Hi, my name is xyz, and I’m from abc company. How are you doing today? I’d like to show you a demo of our latest improved gadget. productivity. . As I will be in your vicinity on Tuesday afternoon, can I come see you around 2 pm or 4 pm?”
The problem with this way of approach lies in how these customers intend to respond. They will either just say “not interested”, or say yes and then have their secretary tell you “the boss has an urgent meeting, please leave your materials on the desk, and we will call you when we have a need”.
The reason for these responses from customers is that they don’t trust what you said. They’ve probably seen just too many “productivity-enhancing gadgets”, and heard too many “I just happened to be in your neighborhood” stories and will certainly be too busy to meet just another gadget vendor. In addition, they do not trust you enough to tell you “productivity” challenges, if that is what your product will solve.
To overcome these trust issues in the first contact, both sales people and managers will have to work together to build trust and alleviate customers’ fears that they will be ripped off, or that they will waste their time.
From a sales person’s perspective, he will have to give the customer what Miller Heiman calls a valid business reason in his opening call, for example “Hi, my name is xyz. I understand that many companies in your industry are facing serious challenges due to a. sharp increase in raw material costs. I would like to explore with you if we can help improve your productivity, and thereby reduce your costs.”
From the perspective of sales managers, trust will have to be built beyond the initial cold call. Customers are likely to increase their confidence if they have seen testimonials and case studies of past successes, BEFORE their first phone call from a sales person.
Build credibility, NOT benefits
Traditionally, many companies focus only on “Features, Advantages and Benefits”, none of which will work IF the customer does not trust you enough. Hence, sales people should build credibility during the sales process, namely:
* Do your homework and ask intelligent questions
* Provide assurance to your customers
Many sales people tend to put too much emphasis on their company, and the products they offer, that they forget to listen to their customers’ needs, wants and concerns.
To ensure that customers spend more time talking, sales people should ask intelligent questions. Typically, customers expect sales people to have done some basic research on their customers’ websites. Sales people can improve on this by going to their clients’ annual reports (if they are listed companies) or sources for news reports about those clients. If a potential customer is a competitor of a current customer, you can find more information in the letter. Web 2.0 social networking sites are also a great source of information.
While some sales managers may argue that spending too much time on the Internet will eat into selling time and hence, is detrimental to sales. However, going to a client and not knowing what the right questions to ask will make the client feel unprofessional and incompetent, which is worse. Sales managers will have to get the balance right by giving enough time to research and to sell.
Finally, customers will often have niggling concerns about buying from you. Rather than avoiding these concerns for fear that addressing them will hurt your stomach, the opposite is likely to be true. If customers have any unanswered questions or concerns about your products and services, they will:
* Less likely to buy
* Buy less
* Drive a hard bargain on your price
Hence, when you are approaching the final stages of your sale, look out for symptoms that show the client is nervous or uncomfortable. Then seek to address these concerns and provide relevant assurances.
The politics of truth
Perhaps the biggest destroyer of trust is “over-promise and under-deliver”. The cause of this destruction is twofold:
* Sales people make promises to customers about things that they can’t (or aren’t sure if they can) deliver
* Companies that deliver less than expected levels of product quality to customers
For the former, sales managers should ensure that salespeople do not promise customers just to get the sale or reach sales targets. Doing so will seriously damage the trust between buyer and seller, and will make it very difficult for future sales efforts to succeed.
For the latter, nothing de-motivates salespeople more than having to answer customer questions that they don’t have answers to. No amount of sales efforts will be successful if the company does not invest enough in quality to ensure that customers get the value they paid for. When companies deliver shoddy quality, not only will there be a decrease in sales, there will also be an immediate increase in sales staff turnover. It’s not a question of “if”, it’s just a matter of time. After all, who wants to sell to a company that they can’t even trust?
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