Wouldn’t it be nice if we were all mind readers?
You’d be able to take your prospect’s statements at face value, and you’d never have to worry that they weren’t being honest about their budget, timing, or anything else. They’d implicitly trust you too, because they could assess how forthcoming you were being about your product.
Unfortunately, we’re not. But luckily, psychologists and researchers have uncovered a whole host of tricks you can use to come off as more trustworthy and honest. The following five tactics can help you overcome your prospect’s initial skepticism or suspicion and get them to trust you.
(Caveat: Use these tips for good, not evil! We don’t support ever lying to your prospects.)
1) Play up your commonalities.
In-group favoritism (also known as in-group bias), is a phenomenon where people favor members of groups they belong to. Went to the same college as your prospect? Cheer for the same sports team? Whatever your points of commonality, play them up.
Obviously, rapport isn’t enough to close deals on its own. And don’t force it -- an already-skeptical prospect is going to be quicker to assume that you’re just a sleazy salesperson if you lay it on thick. But if you can find a point of commonality that you can bring up organically, use it to your advantage.
Whether you’re in field or inside sales, the power of a smile can’t be overstated. Humans can hear smiles, and we can even distinguish between different types based only on audio. You come across as more open and engaged when you smile, and prospects will respond positively.
A bonus tip for negotiations: People like to be smiled at. One study showed that not only did participants prefer genuine smiles over polite ones, they “were willing to sacrifice the chance of a monetary reward to receive a genuine smile.” So the next time you’re in a tough conversation, smile a lot and you just might get more concessions than you expected.
3) Lean in (literally).
According to Psychology Today, people tend to lean backwards and also move their heads backward when they’re lying.
“Liars often sway their entire bodies slightly backward to distance themselves from their targets,” writes FBI behavioral analyst Jack Schafer.
So even if you’re just relaxed and at ease, get a little closer to your prospect. They’re more likely to believe what you say. (Not too close, though. Don’t be creepy.)
4) Make eye contact.
Schafer points out that our eyes tend to betray us, even if we’re not aware of it.
“Our eyes point to where the body wants to go,” he writes. “Liars often look toward the nearest exit, telegraphing their desire to physically and psychologically escape the anxiety caused by lying.”
Eye contact produces a subconscious connection between the subjects looking at each other -- even when we’re not looking at someone human. Participants in a Cornell University study were more likely to choose a Trix box where the rabbit was looking directly at them than one where the rabbit was looking away.
Staring without blinking is a no-no, though -- liars often overcompensate by staring straight at their targets. Body language expert Carol Kinsey Gorman recommends making eye contact for 30% to 60% of a conversation.
5) Sit still (but not too still).
Like eye contact, your body movement is a delicate balance between too much and too little. According to behavioral analyst Lillian Glass, shuffling your feet and standing completely still are both signs that someone is lying.
People move naturally during a conversation, so the former is a good sign that they’re trying hard to control themselves, a sign that something is off. However, shuffling your feet signals that you’re uncomfortable and want to leave the conversation.
The takeaway? Plant your feet firmly on the floor -- but don’t be afraid to use all the gestures and expressive motions that come naturally to you.
Ultimately, if you’re being untruthful, nothing can save you. But for the vast majority of salespeople who just can’t seem to capture the trust of prospects more skeptical than usual, these five tips are a science-backed way to bridge that gap more easily in your next sales meeting.