What’s the most important component of a client relationship? Is it regular communication? Sharing the same values? Having a strong personal connection?

These are all key parts of a healthy professional relationship, but they pale in comparison to the basis of all relationships: trust.

Why is winning your prospects trust so important?

Trust is the foundation of every good business relationship. If your prospects don’t trust you, they won’t tell you where and how they need help. If they don’t tell you their problems, you can’t discuss possible solutions. If they think you don’t know what you’re talking about, they’ll move on to someone who does.

Not only is establishing trust necessary to close deals with prospects, it also pays long-term dividends. Customers return to salespeople and vendors that have served them well in the past, and give referrals to their friends and colleagues.

The bottom line is that people don’t buy from or refer customers to people they don’t trust.

Trust builds naturally over time. But as a salesperson, you usually won’t have months or years to spend with your prospects. You might have no more than a few hours.

So how do you build trust in a short window of time? Here are six techniques to show prospects you’re on the same team.

How to Win Your Prospect’s Trust: Six Tactics

1) Do your homework.

You’ve researched your prospect’s company -- now you have to research your point of contact to understand who they are. You should know the following:

  • How senior are they? 
  • What’s the best way to provide them information?
  • Do they want to manage the purchasing process or take your direction?
  • What’s their personality type?
  • What metrics and goals are they responsible for?
  • What is important to them? How do they personally benefit from working with you?

Don’t ever call a new prospect without researching them first. You can’t establish trust if your prospect thinks you don’t care about them. A few minutes of due diligence will go a long way in demonstrating that you’re invested in your prospect as a person and a professional.

Bonus tip: If you’re calling a C-level executive, be prepared. Youll likely only have 30 seconds to explain why you’re calling and two minutes to start to build trust, so you’d better use it well.

I recently helped a salesperson craft an outreach strategy for the CEO of a $500M company. He spent hours researching the contact and preparing a voicemail script before he called the CEO’s office. Guess what? The CEO picked up and was willing to have a conversation. Luckily, he was prepared to run a full-fledged connect call, but would have certainly ran a much less valuable conversation had he not done thorough research beforehand.

2) Start with a strong introduction.

Be humble, but establish your capabilities -- your prospect has no reason to trust you otherwise. Show your credentials. Explain your background and your relevant accomplishments. Stop short of being self-promotional and obnoxious, but let your prospect know you’re someone they can trust.

Have you helped customers with similar problems? Did you come from the industry your prospect works in now? Let them know.

Here’s a sample introduction: “Hi [Prospect], my name is John Doe. I am a [title] at [Company]. Ive worked here for X years and have helped hundreds of companies get started with [value proposition]. Today, I’d like to ask you some questions about your company, learn a bit about your Y strategy, explain [product] and see if it is a good fit. Sound good? Let’s begin.” 

3) Put your prospect at ease.

Find out what makes your prospect tick. Do you have any common connections? Shared interests? This point of commonality doesn’t have to be an outside-of-work hobby. Just try to find something to make sure your prospect sees you as a human being.

Remember -- it’s a whole lot easier to trust somebody you like.

4) Try to understand their goals.

Ask your prospect open-ended questions about their problem to start the conversation. Then, listen to what they say and focus your conversation on interesting points. Dig into any specifics that jump out at you.

Don’t worry that you’re getting too granular -- not only does a high level of detail empower you to better solve your prospect’s problem, asking questions also demonstrates that you care about their issues and aren’t just trying to check items off a list.

5) Get on your prospect’s level.

This one’s especially important if your prospect’s personality is extremely different from your own. By nature, I’m an energetic person. When I’m truly engaged in a conversation, I have a tendency to talk loud and fast. This style of communication works really well for people who have a similar personality to mine, but can be off-putting to others. So when I’m speaking to people I know might interpret my enthusiasm as aggression or simply get overwhelmed, I adapt.

Try to mimic your prospect’s mannerisms and voice tone. Don’t take it too far, but research shows that people respond positively to being mirrored. 

6) Don’t be too salesy.

People don’t want to be sold to -- they want to choose to buy. Rookie sales tricks are a huge turn-off. Pushing a prospect to close too soon is similarly off-putting.

Focus on helping. If your prospect is a good fit, the close will come naturally as you explain how you can get them where they need to go.

If they’re not a good fit, let your prospect go. Suggest alternative solutions to their problems and tell them you’re always here if they need you. Nothing cements a prospect’s trust in your good intentions than your willingness to walk away from a deal that truly wouldn’t have helped your prospect. And if one day they do become a good fit, they’ll remember you.

As difficult as it is to gain trust, it’s even easier to lose it. If you don’t practice building trust and winning your prospects’ confidence, you’re doing yourself and your business a disservice.

What are your most effective tactics for building trust? Let us know in the comments below.

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Originally published Sep 3, 2015 8:30:00 AM, updated February 01 2017

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Trust in Sales