A shifty, duplicitous salesperson is unlikely to have a successful career. Business leaders want to buy from people they trust. Sell a few bad deals, and an unsavory reputation will begin to precede you.
However, the majority of salespeople don't fit the slimy "used car salesman" stereotype. At the beginning of a sales engagement, most get stuck in that precarious middle ground between trustworthy and downright dishonest. The buyer doesn't have reason to mistrust the rep, but they don't exactly have faith in the salesperson either.
To become a "trusted advisor" — as so many thought leaders advocate — a rep must first gain their prospects' trust. While trust is an intangible and somewhat slippery metric, there are still some concrete actions salespeople can take to build rapport with buyers and win their faith faster.
Here are 11 psychology-inspired tips to help you build trust with buyers in a snap.
How to Get Prospects to Trust You Faster
Offer Social Proof
Establish Your Credibility
Look Them in the Eye
Bring Up Bad Experiences
Eliminate Decision Fatigue
Put Your Faith in Them
Demonstrate Genuine Concern
1. Offer Social Proof
The bandwagon effect causes people to adopt trends and ideas because others are adopting them (think pet rocks, or more recently, yoga pants). When we see other people -- especially those we trust -- vouching for something by wearing it, using it, or talking it up, it colors our opinion of the object in question.
Harness the power of the bandwagon effect and social proof by soliciting LinkedIn recommendations from current or former customers. Did you help a client achieve incredible results, or earn a promotion? Ask them to write up a brief paragraph about your work together and share it for all to see on your profile page. Prospects coming to you cold might warm up to you a bit after reading a few glowing endorsements (especially if they know or share common connections with your referrer).
2. Establish Your Credibility
Humans naturally fear the unknown. This helped us from not getting eaten by a range of scary, sharp-toothed animals when we were still hunters and gatherers. Is that bush rustling in a menacing way? Maybe we should approach it slowly instead of running up to it yelling loudly with a stick.
Today, our chances of being devoured by a lion have greatly decreased, but our odds of being screwed over by a vendor have not. Hence, buyers are wary to trust salespeople whose credibility hasn't been proven. Providing hard data about results you've helped drive in your introductory call can do a lot to disarm the prospect, and inch closer to trust.
3. Look Them in the Eye
Maintaining eye contact when speaking with someone face-to-face is an important form of nonverbal communication, especially when building trust.
According to the Journal of Small Business Strategy, eye contact may help increase the level of motivation in those you’re speaking to, making them more likely to trust what you’re saying and increasing confidence in taking instructions.
However, staring directly into your prospect's eyes for your entire meeting is bound to make them feel uncomfortable. Try maintaining eye contact for seven to 10 seconds at a time to communicate trustworthiness and confidence.
4. Bring Up Bad Experiences
Has your prospect been burned by another vendor in your space? Encourage them to talk about the experience, and how it's affected their ability to trust salespeople.
This might seem counterintuitive, but digging up your prospect's negative emotions could pave the way for trust with you. By probing into where specifically the previous rep failed them, you can make a completely informed promise to your buyer that you won't go down the same path.
A Psychology Today articlealso points out that people are innately more or less trusting based on their relationship with their primary caregiver as a child. You don't need to (and shouldn't) butt into your buyer's childhood issues, but if you sense you're dealing with a naturally distrustful person, you might gently make them aware of this inclination.
"Because our mental representations are automatic and not consciously perceived, we can combat their effect on how we interpret events and actions by bringing them into conscious awareness," the article states. In other words, by bringing mistrustful tendencies to the surface, you might help the buyer reevaluate how they perceive you and your company.
5. Eliminate Decision Fatigue
Today, consumers have access to nearly any piece of information to support buying decisions at their fingertips. Though that may seem like a positive, it can be daunting for buyers. As shared by Gartner, having access to too much information is overwhelming for many consumers. In fact, when customers receive too much information related to a buying decision, they are 153% more likely to make a smaller purchase than planned.
Help your customers navigate this scenario and eliminate decision fatigue by offering to help your customers evaluate relevant information related to their buying decision, instead of merely throwing more information at them, leaving them to sort through it on their own. To do this, focus on simplifying what you share with your buyers, supporting them as they come to their own conclusions.
6. Leverage FOMO
When making the case for a sale, your buyer may be more motivated by what they will miss by not taking the offer than by what they could gain by purchasing from you. If that’s the case, creating a sense of FOMO or fear of missing out can be an effective tactic for your sales strategy.
Use FOMO to your advantage by creating a sense of urgency or scarcity when making the sale. Whether that’s by sharing your offer is only available for a limited time, or offering special pricing within specific terms, helping your buyers remember what’s at stake if they don’t take action can be a powerful motivator.
7. Be Consistent
Unflinching, total trust isn't built in a day. It takes days, months, or even years of proving yourself to earn someone's faith. But what if you only have a two-minute long cold call?
Regardless of the length of time, consistency is a key factor in building trust. Over the long-term, you should deliver on the terms of your client's contract and follow up on any promises you made during the sales process. However, you can also establish credibility in the super short-term.
For example, many salespeople start their cold calls by saying "This will only take five minutes." And yet, they talk on and on. Pretty soon a half-hour has gone by. The call ends only when the prospect hangs up.
This is inconsistent behavior. If you say you'd like to talk for just five minutes, talk for just five minutes. When you time yourself and stop promptly at the five-minute mark, the buyer knows that you mean what you say, you respect their time, and the seeds of trust have been planted.
8. Put Your Faith in Them
In a Business Insider article, Darlene Price, president of Well Said Inc., recommends the phrase "You decide — I trust your judgment" as a way to build trust. Why? Because demonstrating your trust in your prospect will encourage them to trust you back.
The underlying psychological phenomenon here is known as the Pygmalion effect, or the idea that positive reinforcement promotes a positive behavioral response. Researchers Rosenthal and Babad who coined the term in 1985 describe the effect as, "When we expect certain behaviors of others, we are likely to act in ways that make the expected behavior more likely to occur."
So if you think someone is trustworthy, you'll treat them as such. And because you treat them like they're trustworthy, they're more likely to reciprocate.
9. Be Competent
This is a no-brainer. If you're not good at your job, prospects won't trust you — and quite honestly, they shouldn't.
So what does it mean to be a competent salesperson? Here's a brief list of foundational skills you should master:
Asking the right qualification questions
Listening to the buyer, and pivoting conversations according to what they care about
Crafting thoughtful answers to objections and having them at the ready
Presenting tailored demos
Knowing when to close, and doing so effectively
If you're weak in one of these areas, ask your manager for help or seek additional training.
10. Demonstrate Genuine Concern
Trust often prompts people to share personal details about their lives, or divulge information not publicly known. And I doubt they would do this if they didn't think their listener would care, or at least empathize.
According to the American Psychological Association, empathy often feels like hard work, however, in sales empathizing with your customer is worth the effort. The best salespeople are concerned with helping their buyers above all else, and their genuine interest and empathy is repaid with the buyer's trust.
Trust is a serious topic, but that doesn't mean you have to look dead serious when you're trying to get people to trust you. In fact, an overly somber expression might have the opposite effect.
In an experiment between trustees and potential senders, smiles that were perceived as more genuine strongly influenced the senders’ opinions of who to trust and send money to. Offering a genuine smile and open body language can go a long way when speaking to prospects.
Again, trust isn't built in a day — but the foundation for trust can be. Employ these tips to get to trusted advisor status with your prospects faster (and increase your sales in the process).
Originally published Sep 4, 2020 1:45:00 PM, updated June 15 2021