A TV show years ago entitled “Who Do You Trust?” ran for several years. In today’s marketplace, we can ask the same question, do you trust a salesperson to give you the best deal possible? In working with sales organizations from Fortune 500 Companies to small businesses, I have discovered two key insights:
- Most sales training provided to sales professionals focuses on presentation skills, handling objections, and strategies for closing.
- The most successful salesperson, the one who wins all the awards and has high closing ratios, is the one who has a focus on building trust relationships, turning prospects into clients.
Remember, when a salesperson first meets with a prospect, there is a natural resistance even if they initiated the appointment and have a strong interest in the product or service. Salespeople need to overcome this initial resistance and create a trust relationship if they are to be productive.
“I have learned that if I take the time to get to know a client by asking questions about their family, their business, their life in general and personal goals they have for the future, I then have an open-minded prospect because I am not jumping on him to make a sale. I also get a great deal of information that I can work into my presentation to build value in our services based on that person’s value system.” This comment was given to me by an agent of one of the largest insurance companies in America. I asked him what he does to get the pertinent information that is so valuable to include in his presentation. “I don’t have to do anything except ask questions about his life and family. I have found most people, whether they are business owners, executives, or work on the employee level, love to talk about the important things in their lives. This gives me a great opportunity to relate directly to those values with my comments and my presentation. I can focus on their high values rather than mine, which then builds the client’s belief in me, my product value to them personally and creates a productive close.”
“I can focus on their high values rather than mine, which then builds the client’s belief in me, my product value to them personally and creates a productive close.”
This salesman went on to say, “I also have discovered over the years that if I can create a good, professional relationship with a client, most of my business comes from referrals. I had a busy executive extend the time he had offered me when I set the appointment because as we talked about his life, he got into a lot of detail and went on for some time. I said to him; we have talked so much about life and family that the time you had allotted for me is almost gone. We can set another appointment so I can have the time to tell you the whole story. He said, “Don’t worry about the time; I can get to those other matters a little later.” He also gave me three referrals of other managers in his company.” I found out later that this salesman is one of the top producers in the company. The ability to ask the right questions, the patients to listen rather than jump into a sales presentation gives a salesperson all the information they need to make a tailor-made presentation to the prospect and, by doing this, increase their closing ratio. It takes patients to take the time to do this, but the rewards are high.
Building Relationships as a Leader
In another example, I delivered a two-day Direction in Management Seminar for a large manufacturing company with offices throughout the US and worldwide. Before delivering the seminar, I had the opportunity to sit down with the CEO and answer a series of questions about our research and the seminar. I shared with him that most of what I teach comes from talking to people in positions like you. I asked him, what is the most important concept you have learned and applied as a CEO in keeping this company on a profitable base? He didn’t hesitate, “I have found that if I can build a strong trust relationship with each of my executive staff, and require them to do the same, and then pass that down through the company leadership, it creates a working foundation that keeps everything else in the right perspective.” My question then was, when and where did you develop this principle as part of the foundation of your leadership?
He said, “when I was a young man just out of college, I was meeting my wife for lunch at a park bench in the middle of town. While I was waiting, I started talking to an older man who was sitting next to me. I found out he was a retired executive from one of the largest food manufacturers in the US with offices in our city and throughout the country. Boy, did he have some good stuff to share with me, a twenty-three-year-old just out of college and now getting into the corporate world. Before I left, I set a time to meet with him on that same bench or at a local coffee house to learn more about his experience and knowledge. This relationship lasted over a year, and I am still using much of what he shared with me at that time.”
“I use to sit with him, and he would go on and on about his business years before retiring. He gave me what he called the most important concept in leadership and relationship building, and I have never forgotten it, “The most important thing you will ever do in the business world is work at developing trust relationships with everyone in your company, from the Janitor and receptionist to the top management people. You can learn something from all of them, and you will find two things, those lessons will keep you in a good position no matter your job title and description, and second, the relationships you develop will push you to the top of leadership in your company. The greatest lessons I have learned have come from conversations with people on all levels of the corporate world by talking and listening to anyone and everyone.”
I had had this kind of conversation with people in high leadership roles in the federal government in years past when I lived in the Washington D.C. area. In getting to know members of Congress and senators as a part of one of the Presidential Inaugural Celebrations, this concept was evident. To be a leader, one must develop trust relationships with those who support their values, thoughts, and position. In a recent seminar I was presenting, I was asked, “how do you create a trust relationship with people you have never met before as a salesperson?’ Here are a few keys:
- You will find that if you are making an effort to get to know a person with questions that allow them to give you detailed answers, you can listen to what they say, but more importantly, you can hear why they are saying it, what you will hear are their values.
- Then it is a matter of relating everything you say to their value system.
You can apply this concept within your daily interactions within your work organization. If you are a leader, it is vital to your leadership to know and understand the values of each of your subordinates because their values will lead them into the decisions they make and how they relate to you. Many of the breakdowns in management, employee relationships are caused by a lack of understanding of the subordinate’s values. As a leader, it is vital to your deference with your people and to relate to each person as an individual. That happens when you understand each person’s values and allow them to give you insight on how best to relate to them personally.
You might say, “Isn’t it the responsibility of the employee to relate to my values?” You would like to think so, and many people will tell you that it is true. I have found in our studies that effective leadership relates to each individual as a unique personage, which causes that person to believe in the leader and become a strong supporter of that person’s leadership.
I believe in interviewing subordinates regularly with questions such as, “In your day-to-day work with our company, what do you find the most challenging aspect of your job?” “If you could change anything in your work area, what would that be?” “Who in your department is the person you are most impressed with?” “Why is that?” “Who in your department do you have the most difficulty working with?” “Why is that?” You might get some surprising answers that will give you a better understanding of the workplace and people that should be recognized for a good job. You might also be surprised that the person you are talking to has no clue what is going on in your department. There is great value to you as a leader to take the time to interview each employee over a period of one year. You might find a person that can be of far more value to you than you have been using. You also might find a person who is buried in responsibility that they cannot handle. In that case, you must find a position that better fits that person’s growth and development and then start a process of helping that person stretch and become more productive.
With the information you receive, you can build a stronger trust relationship between you and that person. People stretch to meet the expectations of a person who believes in them. These kinds of sessions cause the employee to feel accepted by you, and acceptance causes a staff member to believe you trust them, and trust projected creates trust returned.
In our online academy, How to Relate to Anyone, you will find these kinds of relationship concepts that can help you as a salesperson, manager, or in any relationship you may have. View the first program for free and see how you can better relate to anyone, including your working relationships.