5 Tips to Quickly Establish Credibility with Prospects

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Mike Renahan
Mike Renahan



A few days ago I read an article that likened the first time a sales rep meets a prospect to a 30-second commercial. The rep either makes an impact, adds value, and engages the customer … or the buyer changes the channel and sees what else is on.

Thirty seconds. That’s how much time you have. How can salespeople engage a customer that quickly?

By bumping up their credibility. Making an instant connection starts with building credibility early in the process and maintaining it throughout your buyer’s decision process.

And failing to do so can be fatal. Sales expert Brian Tracy goes as far as to say, “If you mention or discuss your product, service, or price before you have established a high enough level of likability, trust, and credibility with a prospect, you will kill the sale.”


To avoid screwing up your precious 30 seconds, we put together a list of five things every sales rep can do to quickly establish credibility with prospects.  

1) Be Authentic

Being human -- that is to say, authentic and honest --  is crucial. As Bernardo Tirado, an industrial psychologist, points out, being authentic is the key to developing rapport, and “people can sense a phony a mile away.”

While the phrase “I don’t know” often gets a bad rap in sales, it can sometimes be beneficial. One salesperson recently told me that saying “I don’t know” can make you seem human to prospects. It gives you a chance to connect with your buyer because you’re being authentic.

During the buying process, you’re going to ask your prospect some questions they might not have an answer to. They’re going to do the same to you. If you’re truly unsure of the answer, go ahead and say so. This gives you the chance to dive into a question, research the answer, and follow up with the prospect -- boosting both your authenticity and credibility.

2) Be Punctual

Does this sound like someone you know or work with: In a poll, 15 to 20% of the American population is “consistently” late, especially when it comes to work.

Punctuality matters a lot to people. Being punctual implies that you care, and that you’re organized and ready to help.

Today’s customers have come to expect punctuality, as they should. Nobody wants to take time out of their day and have to wait. It’s exactly why Seinfeld made an episode entirely around waiting for a cable guy.

If you’re in sales, make sure you’re on time to your meetings -- whether they’re with someone in your company, a prospect, or a customer. If the person you’re meeting is taking time out of their day, you should match their effort by showing up on time.

If punctuality is a challenge for you, you might consider using a calendar service like Google Calendar. It can be synced with your phone, and will send you reminders to stay on top of all your meetings. You can choose to get an alert 10 or 30 minutes before your appointments, among other options.

3) Watch Your Grammar

Believe it or not, but the biggest pet peeve when it comes to introductory emails is bad grammar. In fact, in a survey conducted by HubSpot, 40% of people said bad grammar was most obnoxious in initial emails, followed by an overly long message, and one lacking a clear question.

As he explains in a Harvard Business Review article, Kyle Wiens, the CEO of IFixit, refuses to hire people with poor grammar, based on the principle “sloppy is as sloppy does.” Wiens reasons that a person who pays attention to their grammar is more likely to pay attention to other small details, making them a more fastidious and all-around better employee.

Odds are, your customers have similar feelings on being sloppy and unclear. In sales, it’s crucial to have excellent grammar because of the logic that Wiens adheres to. If we want to let this prospect know we’re serious, they need to understand our grammar and what we’re trying to say.

Here are a few tools to help. Each of these scans documents to look for grammatical mistakes, including copy, flow, and sentence structure.

4) Be Informed

Going into each call with the same script is no longer working. It’s time to change how informed sales reps are about their prospects and their products.

Understanding your customer -- who they are, what they do, and how your service or product can help them -- is a tremendous way to build credibility during the sales process.

On the other hand, a lack of understanding can be detrimental. For instance, studies show that hearing our own name has several psychological benefits. So by calling your prospect or their business the wrong name, your credibility plummets.

Another way you can use knowledge to build credibility is to become intimately acquainted with the ins and outs of the product or service you’re selling. For example, knowing the difference between two kinds of flowers if you’re a gardener can be the deciding factor between converting a lead or losing a prospect.

Elite sales folks use their product every day, study it, and research their prospects as best they can.

5) Borrow Some Credibility

Don’t forget -- salespeople can use the credibility of the company they’re associated with in addition to their personal allotment.

For instance, instead of starting a call to a vice president of marketing with, “Hey, I’m Mike, do you have a second to talk about marketing software?” I can borrow credibility by saying, “Hey, I’m Mike from HubSpot, do you have a second to talk about marketing software?” instead. Leveraging the credibility that HubSpot already has in the marketing industry goes a long way.

Another technique for borrowing credibility is to reference a customer’s success. For example, if your company has helped supply companies get the office materials they need faster than any other vendor, resulting in more revenue and an efficient office, say so. It never hurts to bring statistics to the call.

Finally, if you’re using LinkedIn to find prospects, mentioning that you share mutual connections with your buyer is a quick way to establish credibility, according to RingDNA. While the prospect might not know you personally, you both know the same Erin Jones very well, and this common tie can help launch the conversation forward.

Building a connection is based on likability, trust, and credibility. While we can’t guarantee that you’ll become best friends with everyone you apply these methods to, we can guarantee you will boost your credibility -- and maybe even make a sale.

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