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Trust: Deconstructed

TRUST. It is a simple word with big meaning that is used frequently in sales. Buyers often say they chose one competitor over another because they felt that they could trust one more than the other. Sellers often tout being trustworthy and strive to hold that coveted position of "trusted advisor". We have heard the old adage that trust is earned, and we tend to think of trust being built over time. On more than one occasion I have heard it said: "It all comes down to trust". I agree.

So, how can a sales team develop trust in a sales presentation, particularly if the buying committee is sometimes meeting the team for the first time?

Let's start by deconstructing trust. There are two components - the first is competence. It has to do with your knowledge, skills, experience and track record. The second is character. This has to do with who you are and how you interact with people - your honesty, authenticity, and humility.

One without the other does not establish trust. For example, in B-to-B sales, we know how difficult it can be for an underdog company to compete against an established name. No matter what the character of the people, it is often an uphill battle without the experience and track record. In order to win the deal, the underdog not only needs to demonstrate character, but they also need to go to extreme measures to demonstrate their knowledge, skills, and experience in the absence of the proof.

The opposite is true as well.

You can have all the experience in the world, and a track record that can rival Michael Phelps, but if you come across as ingenuous or arrogant you will not be considered trustworthy.

When sales teams prepare for a presentation, it is important that they remember that trust is a combination of both competence and character and that they consciously plan for how to demonstrate these. As salespeople, our tendency is to think more about competence than character so be particularly diligent in thinking about ways you can exhibit humility, authenticity, and honesty.

Three Ways to Demonstrate Competence

  1. Incorporate proof points and favorable statistics. If you have have them, use them. Numbers are very powerful. If using slides, allow one, impressive number or percentage to be the star of the show by using a large font and lots of white space.

  2. Incorporate stories. This is even more important when you are lacking proof points. Stories can provide validation and make your assertions real.

  3. Use testimonials and case studies. Bring the voice of your happy clients to the table through quotes or case studies. Think about using video or audio to give these extra punch.

Six Ways to Demonstrate Character

  1. Set the intention to help this client solve their problems. Listen with the true intent to learn and be helpful. Assume a consulting mentality rather than a sales mentality.

  2. Encourage team members to be themselves and allow their true personalities to shine. This is most important in the introductions when the climate is set for the meeting.

  3. Be confident, but not boastful. Have team members brag on each other instead of someone bragging about themselves.

  4. Tell stories that incorporate emotion and will illustrate your care and concern when working with clients.

  5. Be honest. When you don't have an answer to a question, say so and offer to get back to them with a correct answer. Don't promise something that you cannot deliver.

  6. Leave the jargon in the office. We know from research that the more jargon a person uses, the less trustworthy they are perceived.

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