I received a call the other day from someone selling website tracking software. We already use a marketing automation tool like this. I mentioned it to the seller. He then went on a rant about how he visited our website, recognized the tool we use, and how we weren't doing it right.
I don't know this guy. He knows nothing about our marketing and sales process. He knows nothing about the types of customers we're trying to reach. He knows nothing about our sales cycle or marketing philosophy. Yet he felt he knew enough to tell me we're doing it all wrong.
I know there are always ways to improve what we're doing, and I look forward to critical feedback. In fact I often seek out experts asking them for their advice on how we can do things better.
But this seller called me out of the blue, without knowing anything about my business, to tell me I'm doing it all wrong.
The seller was soon speaking to a dial tone.
The fact is that buyers (like me) are willing to accept the advice of sellers—but only to the extent that we trust them. In this case, there was no relationship, no trust, and no reason for me to listen to the seller. The result: no sale.
If you want to influence how a buyer thinks and what a buyer does, you must guide them out of the calm sea of the comfort zone and into riskier waters. Leaving the comfort zone can be, well, uncomfortable. The first step in getting buyers to go there with you is to start building trust.
Sellers who focus on advice, persuasion, and being provocative, without considering how much trust they've built first, see their sales efforts crumble. Trust is the foundation.
As trust grows and deepens, great things happen:
Trust gets you direct access to power. Imagine for a minute someone has been working with you for decades. You've been through thick and thin together. Because of this person, you've achieved some of your greatest successes. You may not talk frequently, but then an email from them pops up in your inbox: "I came across an opportunity you should consider. Can we talk?" You would say yes.
Trust gets you indirect access to power. Now picture the same situation, except the email reads: "I believe you know the folks who lead your European division. I came across an opportunity a few weeks ago that I'm guessing they might like to know about. Would you mind making an introduction?" When trust is high, people say yes.
Trust gets your advice taken. If the last 27 times you told someone, "This will work. It's a good bet," and it turned out exactly as you said, then the person is likely to accept that 28th piece of advice. If you've proven yourself trustworthy in the past, your advice is more likely to be taken seriously, even if your product or service is brand new and untested.
Trust gets you selected. Let's say that buyers have already bought into an idea. Sometimes there's still competition to beat. It's possible that multiple sellers are offering them the same idea. Maybe you weren't the one to bring it to them, but the more trust they have in you, the more risky the other options seem in comparison.
Trust is the foundation for success with difficult conversations. Sometimes we receive advice that's tough to take. Imagine that someone who you trust deeply says, "I know you won't want to hear this, as you're very invested in path A already and think it is best. But I have to say, I don't think it's a good idea."
While you might be defensive and upset, you probably wouldn't flat out refuse to hear what they have to say. If you know that this person is knowledgeable and has your best interest in mind, you're going to listen. But now imagine that someone you have just met says the exact same thing (like that seller did about my marketing automation tool). This person doesn't know you, and may not know your industry or business strategy. You might just stop listening and toss this person out of the meeting. Same situation, same delivery, different trust, different result.
When we talk about trust, sellers frequently say, "Well, my buyers trust me already. I'm trustworthy!" That may be the case, but could the trust be stronger? And while you may be trustworthy, with each new person you have to build trust from the beginning.
So when you're selling, first focus on building trusting relationships with buyers—then they not only will be more likely to listen to your advice, but will be more willing to take it and move forward with you.