When you go to a doctor, you automatically assume they are qualified to do the job. Can you say the same about salespeople?
Many people who are tasked with selling their products and services aren’t really qualified to sell. They do it because they have to. So many small business owners and operators have to sell their products and services because they can’t afford to hire a professional salesperson.
Imagine you were about to hire an accountant or a lawyer, you would want to know several things about them first.
- Do they have the right qualifications and expertise to handle your affairs?
- Do they have the right experience?
- Is their fee commensurate with their qualifications and experience?
- Are they able to provide the right advice depending on your personal circumstances?
- Are you confident they will deliver on what they promise?
- Do you see value in what they provide compared with the fees they charge?
- Can you afford their fees?
And lastly…. do you trust them?
You can tick the box on all the questions above but when it comes to trust – that’s a million dollar question. An essential skill every salesperson needs is the ability to build trust and confidence with a prospective customer. Why is trust so important? Let me introduce you to a concept called the Circle of Trust.
The Circle of Trust
The Circle of Trust is like sitting on a three-legged stool. If one of the legs are missing, the stool will topple over along with you.
- The first leg of the Circle of Trust is to build a relationship with a prospective customer. This means building and maintaining rapport.
- The second leg is to ask effective questions to uncover buyer needs. Even more important is to actively listen to their answers so you gain a greater understanding what their real needs are. Only then can you begin to influence their decision to buy from you.
- The third leg of the Circle of Trust is to provide an ongoing service they are happy with your service so they keep buying from you.
Step One: Build trust and confidence
Before you can even think about selling your products and services, your prospect needs to trust you. Being able to establish rapport with a prospective customer is the first step towards creating trust and confidence.
Buyers can sense a fraud a mile off so in establishing rapport, you need to be genuine. This means always be yourself and not act like you think a salesperson should act.
It’s so obvious that you need to smile when you meet prospects yet some people are smile challenged, it’s not something that comes naturally to them. A smile is one of the first things a prospect will notice about you and goes a long way to building a sense of trust. First impressions do count.
It’s easy to tell if a person is faking a smile because the mouth moves and the eyes stay cold. A smile needs to come from within, especially from the eyes. If you are smile challenged, before meeting a prospect think of something that genuinely makes you smile so it does become more natural when the moment comes.
Develop a positive attitude before meeting with a prospective customer. Having a positive attitude is what separates successful salespeople from the not so successful. Social Psychologist Amy Cuddy in her famous Ted Talk; Your body Language shapes who you are, suggests you fake it till you become it. The very act of putting yourself in a positive frame of mind helps to give off a confident air about you even if you don’t feel very confident inside.
Before you meet with the prospect, strike a power pose for two minutes. A power pose releases cortisol (stress hormones) in the body and increases endorphin’s which helps your confidence levels.
Find things in common
When you meet with a prospect, look for things you might have in common with them. People like others who are like them, so when you have something in common, you will build rapport more quickly.
Research the prospect before meeting them if possible. Check out their profile on LinkedIn or their website. This research may give you a clue as to their interests or achievements which makes it easier to start a conversation that they will find interesting.
This might be hard with someone you are meeting for the first time say at a networking event. To find some commonality, ask questions and listen to the answers as their answers will give you an indication where you have similar experiences or similar interests.
Maintain good eye contact
There is a fine line between maintaining good eye contact and giving the prospect the impression that you are staring at them which can be quite unnerving. It’s okay to look away from time to time but don’t become distracted by what else is happening around you and keep looking away because that will immediately break rapport. If this happens, the prospect will feel you are not really interested in them.
Maintain open body language
Body language makes up 55% of our communication skills, tone 38% and words only 7%. Maintaining open body language sends a message to your prospect that you are interested in them and what they have to say. Face towards them and from time to time lean in towards them. Avoid leaning away from them, crossing your arms or having your feet turned away. This can indicate disinterest or sends a message you disagree with what they have to say.
Step Two: Develop effective questioning techniques
The ability to ask the right questions at the right time is essential to finding out prospective customer needs. You have nothing to sell if the prospect doesn’t have a need for your products or services. You can’t assume that everyone is in the market to buy your products and services and even if they are, it doesn’t mean that you are right for them. What effective questioning does is qualify a prospect to discover if they have a need, are in the market to buy now and if your products or services match their needs.
Step Three: Become a good listener
For most people, they don’t engage in a process called active listening. Next time you go to a social or networking event, watch how people engage with others in a conversation. You can tell the ones who are listening carefully because they are very much focused on the person speaking. They have maintained great eye contact, their body language is open and you will see them nodding, smiling and asking questions.
The ones who are pretending to listen are looking around the room trying to figure out who is more interesting to talk to. Alternatively they are constructing what they want to say before the other person has finished talking.
Along with asking questions, a professional will also be listening to the answers. Learning to actively listen with empathy and for understanding is an essential skill you need to succeed as a salesperson.
Step Four: Deliver on your promises
It’s not enough to make a sale. A single sale is just that – it doesn’t mean they become a loyal customer. It’s only when you receive repeat orders from a customer that means you have established a trusting relationship and they become a loyal customer. Just as important as building the relationship and influencing them to buy from you is the ability to keep them as a long-term customer. You can only do that if they are happy with your products or services and you deliver on your promises.
On a final note
By building trust and confidence, asking effective questions and actively listening to your prospect, will enable you to influence their decision to buy from you.
In a Nutshell
- Develop rapport with a prospective customer by establishing trust and confidence
- Be yourself
- Have a positive attitude
- Find things in common
- Maintain good eye contact
- Maintain open body language
- Ask effective questions to uncover their needs
- Be a good listener
- Deliver on your promises