Long term customer relationships are built on trust. Trust is the single most important ingredient in a successful long-term selling relationship.
Trust is the belief that you will do your part, that you will deliver what you promise and that you will fulfill your obligations in the relationship. These commitments can be in writing, verbal, or inferred. They are your responsibility.
Sometimes, trust can be almost mammalian: we immediately trust some people because of their role, the way they look or act, or because of a referral. For example, a fireman shows up at your burning house to help you and your family; I would guess that you will immediately trust him even though you don’t know him.
But, most of the time, trust is earned over time. Instinctively we keep score on other people about how they fulfill their obligations to us. This is especially true for your customers; they are keeping tabs on you and your trustworthiness at all times.
The basic elements of trust include:
Dependability- This is the customer’s perception that you are accountable. Referrals can make you appear dependable. Punctuality for appointments is a factor; being repeatedly late makes you look undependable. Being late also infers that you don’t value the customer’s time.
Competence- This is the customer belief that you know what you speak the truth. Customers will often test sales people with questions to test their knowledge of the industry or their products. Some of these questions might trap you into revealing what you don’t know, so don’t BS. If you BS, you will get caught and this will break down whatever trust you’ve built thus far. Looking stupid or unknowledgeable is one of the biggest fears of sales people, yet making it up as you go along will only hurt you. If you don’t know the answer, this is when the old standby of “I am not certain; may I research that and get back to you?” can be very effective.
Customer Empathy- Understanding your customers’ needs and how they feel is critical to building trust. If a salesperson is only focused on the sale itself and the potential commissions, this will look selfish and not empathetic. This will slow the development of trust.
Telling the Truth- If you tell the truth, you will sleep at night without worry. Also, you won’t have to remember anything, because the truth is always the same. Additionally, how you tell the truth is important. You must be sincere and tell the truth with reliability. If you get caught in a lie, you may never be trusted again.
Rapport or Being Liked- You know what I mean. Some people are just more likeable and they are trusted from the beginning. But, a likeable sales person who is not dependable or who does not tell the truth will lose this advantage quickly.
You can trust me on this one.
John Bradley Jackson
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