Customers are human beings. They buy with their head and their heart. Therefore, you can’t sell a “solution” until you’ve made a compelling offer to each.
Most companies, in one way or another, sell “solutions.” Their customers accept these solutions because they believe these companies have their best interests in mind. Simply put, they have their trust so they’ll share their problems, it really doesn’t happen the other way around. In a trusting relationship the sale of product becomes purely maintenance. At that point it’s a rather pragmatic, fairly rational, transaction. The customer trusts you have the right solution. This is a multi-dimensional relationship that creates both transactional, and strategic value.
So many times salespeople try to rush to close before they’ve established any meaning in the relationship. (Men often hear this complaint from women.) If you’re busy trying to sell product before you have established trust you’ll have to be content with a merely transactional relationship because that’s about all you have. In doing so, you negate all the broader, more important strategic business goals and benefits.
It doesn’t matter if you’re selling products or services. Customers appear completely rational and talk like their only concerns are price and the few features they can remember. They’ve calculated present value and minimized the downside risk in their head. They’ll even throw you some benefit of the doubt. Still, you won’t be hearing about the problems they really want to talk about any time soon. Not until you’ve built some trust and make it comfortable for them to do so.
Customers ultimately choose who they buy from largely on an emotional basis. Think about it. As customers, we care about ourselves. We’ll choose a product or service based on how we feel about it. The decision to buy depends upon how much we trust the seller.
Without trust no one really cares about you, your skill or what you offer. To be effective, you have to get through their natural defense barrier and make them care.
Here are two basic tenants of trust building, perhaps we most often forget:
1) It’s about THEM. Not you
It’s natural to want to be friendly and conversational but talking about yourself will never make you seem more trust worthy. It really doesn’t. If your prospect asks you to tell them about yourself they’re only being friendly and don’t know where else to go with it unless they opt to be rude.
Keep it focused directly on them. Have good questions prepared and listen very, very carefully to what they say and what they don’t say. If you get them talking freely and run out of time before you can make your pitch, consider the meeting exceedingly successful. I don’t care if you drove for 8 hours for a 20-minute meeting. Consider the effort well worth the deposit in the bank of trust.
2) Think strategic before transactional
Sure, there’s value in both transactional and strategic relationships. The question is, what kind of results are you trying to achieve? If the reason for your meeting is to help your prospect fix an immediate problem you know what you have to do. But if you want to build a relationship and generate future revenue streams or leverage resources, to name a few, forget today’s transaction and think longer term. Make it a strategic relationship for both of your companies.
There’s inherent competition to sell the goods and close the deal but that’s classic transactional thinking. Ironically, it fails more often than not because the seller assumes the buyer will make a purely rational decision. As I established above, he most likely will not. The best transaction occurs when we focus on the customer. The resulting strategic relationship creates a habit of commitment (the transactions you seek) and a higher level of trust.
Here’s a blog from business guru Seth Godin. It appeared on my feed yesterday. I thought it was timely and emphasized part of my message:
“The people who came before you
Maybe I’m not listening to your pitch because the 100 people, who came before you abused my trust, stole my time and disrespected my attention.
Perhaps I’m not buying from you because the last time someone like you earned my trust, he broke my heart.
People are never irrational. They often act on memories and pressures that you’re unaware of, though.”
You never know what’s going on inside someone’s head. Note the weight of the emotional content.
No one really cares about you, your skills and what you offer. That is, until you get through their barrier and make them want to care.
I welcome your comments, questions or more discussion.