I am a process oriented sales person. I believe that a well defined and psychologically based sales process is at the heart of my success as a selling professional. I specify a “psychologically based” sales process because I think building a process around the way human minds interact in the “buyer-seller” dance is essential. The key to my conviction on this matter comes from experience, specifically, the two experiences of selling without a process, and selling with one.  Why is it that process so important, or more to the point, why does it work?

A well designed sales process leverages what we know about human psychology to create trust.  Trust is the essential ingredient of sales.  Your buyer doesn’t have to like you, but they do have to trust you.  The bigger and more complex the sale is, the more trust you need.

In “Tin Men”, a classic sales movie with Danny Devito and Richard Dreyfuss, there is a scene where several experienced sales guys are teaching a newbie one of their “trust” tricks.  It consists of dropping a $5 bill on the ground while making an in home sales call, and then “finding” it and handing it to the customer, creating the illusion of trust.  The idea being that if I can trust you to be honest about $5, then surely you are trustworthy to spend $3500 on new siding for the house.

Now obviously, this is an extreme example of falsely trying to create trust.  However, many salespeople focus so hard on trying to create trust, albeit in less extreme ways, they completely forget to do one thing….actually create trust.  In other examples, I see salespeople try to make a connection with a prospect by commenting on the pictures on the wall, or attempting to find a common point of interest.  “Hey we’re both Cowboy fans, surely that means you’ll trust me with your investments, right?”

I know of only one sure fire way to create genuine trust.  Be Trustworthy!  That comes down to a few things in my book:

  1. DO what you SAY you are going to DO – That means that if you said you would be here at 8:00 am, BE HERE at 8:00 am.  8:04 is late, period.  Leave earlier, get there early and walk around the block.  Take responsibility and just own it, whatever it is.  That also means that you don’t commit to do anything that you can’t deliver on.  This will entail some uncomfortable conversations on the front end of a sale, and yes, you will lose some sales because you don’t promise what you can’t deliver.  You’ll make it up in referrals, for sure.
  2. Be a believer in what you sell – Several times a year, I speak with salespeople racked with guilt because they wouldn’t buy what they sell.  My advice?  Go sell something else.  I once watched a guy try so sell me a Ford for 2 hours.  He offered to take me for coffee to discuss the terms, IN HIS TOYOTA!!!!?!!!  Make no mistake about it, if you sell something you don’t believe in, you are not a salesperson. You are either a con man, an actor, or both.  NOT trustworthy for sure.
  3. Be an expert in what you sell – If I know more about mortgages than the guy trying to finance my house, I have trust concerns.  If I know more about boats than the guy trying to sell me one, I have trust concerns.  Your expertise in your product or service doesn’t need to be all over you like a suit of armor, but you should leverage it to ask the right questions and GUIDE your customer into making a good decision, even if that decision is NOT to buy.  If you have a genuinely valuable product or service, you will never run out of prospects.
  4. Be able to debate the other side of the issue – I used to have lunch weekly with a guy named Rex Erickson.  The really fun part of Rex was his ability to debate you passionately for 15 minutes, exclaim, “OK, switch sides”, and then do a better job of debating from your original perspective than you did.  This is important, because if you truly understand the opposing point of view, you can properly address the concerns and objections fueled by it.  That full understanding builds….you guessed it, Trust.

Yes, you can make some sales without trust.  In the same way you can build without a foundation, but it won’t last, it never does.  Being trustworthy will earn the trust you need, and you’ll never have to ask for it (See my post on things never to say in sales, like “trust me”)