Four Sales Techniques to Build Credibility with a Prospect
I have always been a fast talker, not like a huckster or snake oil salesman, but more to do with rate of speed - like the guy at the end of a commercial that reads a list of disclaimers. Needless to say that this has always worked against me when trying to build credibility and trust with new prospects and customers. Like many sales people, I was taught some sales techniques for rapport building. For example, when you begin a sales call, take a visual survey of the person’s office. Attempt to find some common ground or points of interest like golf, the kids, the alma mater or favorite sports team. This may have a place somewhere in the sales relationship but I don’t believe that its place is early on in the process.
The first encounters with a prospect are similar to that of an interview; it is a time to assess if there is potential for a mutually beneficial partnership. Think of it as an interview where, simultaneously, the prospect interviews you and you interview the prospect. If you want to have no chance of making a sale, go ahead and establish yourself as the master of small talk, wasting precious time that you may never get back. Along these same lines, try not to crack jokes; no one wants to buy from the class clown. If you have a good sense of humor, let it be a pleasant surprise later after you’ve established more credibility and respect.
The good news is that in B2B sales, there is often more time to build some history with a prospect. A shift in thinking is necessary. Sales people should think of prospects as potential life-long customers with whom they’re building a lasting professional bond, strong enough to survive changes in situation and even employment. So with this is mind, leave the BS for your competition and try these sales techniques instead:
Be Squared Away
One of my former mentors was an ex-Naval officer and whenever any of his employees would say, “I am sorry,” he would say, “don’t be sorry, just be squared away.” Show up for the meeting on time, show up for the meeting prepared, with respect to your appearance as well as your pre-call prep. Do not make excuses or jokes, and when you are asked a question, keep your answer concise and efficient. If you don’t know the answer, say that don’t know and commit to finding out and following up with them. Be sure to write it down (even if you know you’ll remember) and communicate back in a timely fashion once you’ve learned the answer. Think about it - who do you want to help you with your problem, Mr. Magoo or Mr. Miyagi?
Send a Pre-Call Questionnaire
I am seeing sales 2.0 lead/business information engines popping up all over the place, and there are some really good ones out there. Without a doubt, it is helpful to have detailed research at your fingertips, but nothing can supplant the understanding you can gain first hand from your prospect, in their own language. A great place to start is at the very beginning of the process. Send a survey or questionnaire that asks the vital questions that will give you a head start in customizing a sales solution. Some great free options to quickly and easily create on-line surveys is Google Docs and Zoomerang.
Become a Team Member (or at least a fan)
Ask if you can schedule some time to observe or lend a hand in a certain department that relates to your product or service. Observe and make note of the:
- way things are currently being done
- challenges they face
- language that is used
- team dynamics
Look for inefficiencies and be prepared to make professional recommendations. Start to look at the people you are about to do business with and see how, once your product or service is implemented, their situation will change. Start to learn their prospects, customers and competition in order to find a way to make them more competitive in their marketplace.
Prepare an Implementation or Rollout Plan
In your sales presentation, prepare and administer an implementation plan and schedule. This can be the most effective means of proactive closing. You will show that you know exactly what steps to follow, as well as alleviate any concerns your prospect may have that makes them feel uneasy about the difficulty of switching to, or purchasing, your product. Furthermore, sometimes the prospect does see a fit, realizes the urgency, but has no idea what to do next. A proactive implementation plan will serve as a guide for follow-up and help keep momentum going during the sales process and beyond.
Remember, you are not just winning the sale for today, you are building career-long business relationships. Start the process by being squared away, then build on it by sharing powerful industry knowledge in the context of their unique challenges. Once you’ve built the foundation of a solid business partner that provides value, you can then start to share your sense of humor and make other personal connections. These can definitely enhance a relationship but it’s important that you establish from the beginning that these are not the basis of your relationship.