Overcoming Distrust in Sales

I originally wrote this article for publication elsewhere last September, but it never got used. I'm glad because it really fits with our conversation about American Hustle and the #1 Sales Challenge. Enjoy!

Somehow, salespeople got the reputation that they have a tendency to exaggerate.

I know. I know. You’re probably thinking, “Tell me something that I don’t know.”

Seriously, how did that happen? Are salespeople dishonest? Do they exaggerate? Will they stretch the truth? Will they say whatever it takes to get the sale? Will you?

Look at history. Snake oil salesman selling an elixir that will cure everything from infertility to baldness; con artists selling the Brooklyn Bridge several times a day; lifetime guarantees; bait and switch. Let’s face it. Bad news sells papers. A dishonest car dealer is front page news, but the salesperson that has a book full of happy customers that evangelize for him on a daily basis doesn’t even make the paper. Bad salespeople often draw the spotlight and good, honest salespeople are in the shadows.

Let me use an analogy. Good auto drivers are penalized by bad drivers. Underinsured bad drivers have collisions with good drivers and the good driver’s insurance must pay for repairs because the bad driver doesn’t have enough insurance. Even if there is no collision, good drivers always need to be on the lookout for bad drivers to avoid the negative impact of having them on the road. The same thing happens to good salespeople. When we visit a prospect, we don’t wear a sign that says, “I’m one of the good guys.” When we call them on the phone, caller ID doesn’t read, “Trust this one!” Good salespeople have to realize that their prospect doesn’t know that they can be trusted and that the prospect is predisposed to assume that you will lie or exaggerate, whatever it takes to get them to buy.

So, once we realize that prospects are pre-disposed NOT to believe us, how do we engage them? Let me suggest two rules. #1 – Ask about what you already know about them. #2 – Less is more.

Here are a couple of examples. 30 years ago, I worked in a retail furniture store. Now, think about how salespeople approach you when you walk into their store. They say, “May I help you?” You say, “Just looking.” If you think about AIDA (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action), haven’t you gone straight to action? You may have smiled to get their attention, but what have you done to get them interested or create desire? You’ve taken too big a step. Now, reflecting on my suggested rules, what do we know about them? They came into the store. Why? Good question, but maybe too big a question to start. So, let’s ask, “First time in the store?” to get their attention. They reply, “Yes.” We say, “Welcome! What brought you in?” and they can start talking about the ‘why’. They may reply, “No.” and we can say, “Welcome back! What brought you back?” and they can start talking about the ‘why’. I should tell you that the most common answer to, “First time in the store?” was, “Just looking.” To which I would reply, “Huh?” They saw a salesman and expected me to ask, “May I help you?” and had already tuned me out.

Another example:  I went to a conference recently and immediately after the conference went on a two week, ‘no time for work’ vacation. My first day back, I sent this message to the few dozen people with whom I exchanged business cards.

“I hope that you enjoyed Conference as much as I did. I've been a user/fan since they were founded in 2006 and have never missed one of their parties. It's been fun to watch them grow.

Please allow me to apologize slightly for my delayed follow up. I drove from Conference to our family vacation. I had originally planned on following up with you during vacation, but it didn't work.

So, here I am, asking if you'd like to continue the conversation that we started at Conference.”

One person replied with 243 words about his company, services and the synergy between us. I didn’t remember talking about all that stuff. So, I replied, “Is that what we talked about at Conference? Do you remember where our conversation took place?” and he replied, “Hi Rick – I believe we met either at the sponsored mixer Tuesday night or out in the hall in a group conversation. I don’t recall specifically, it was a brief introduction. We didn’t talk about any of this at Conference, however after visiting your website I saw a natural confluence of the services we are both offering. All the best,…” Notice that a few words from me typically gets more words from them. Quite honestly, he’s told me enough to make me think that I don’t want to know him.

I sent the same initial email to someone else and they replied with,

Hi Rick,

No need to apologize. I have been swamped with end of summer events and vacation too.

That was my third Conference. The first one I attended by myself, the second one I took my daughter, and this year I took four employees with me. This year I feel we got the most out of it because my staff came back with items that they want to implement instead of me having to tell and convince them.

Yes, I would like to continue our conversation. I think we left off talking about (redacted) help and how to bring it to clients that need it.”

See the difference? This reply was more personal, engaging and not salesy or pitchy.

describe the imageA friend of mine designed this funnel specifically for prospects that come to you via the internet. Where is your prospect losing interest? Is it something that you said? What could you do differently? Feel free to contact me. I’m always up for a conversation that starts with, “What do you do when….?”

Topics: trusted advisor, earning trust in sales, Sales


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