After meeting with a prospect, have you ever had the gut feeling you weren’t able to establish a climate of confidence, and that was why they didn’t buy? If your answer is yes, do you believe you can do something to improve the situation? Some people will say nothing could be done. There just wasn’t any chemistry between you. But I disagree, because you can almost always do something to build more trust.
First, it’s important to know that one person’s trust in another is based on feeling, an impression or perception – meaning something intangible – and is not based on anything rational or logical. Studies have shown that 15% of a customer’s trust in the vendor comes from the vendor’s technical competency, and 85% from the vendor’s human qualities – the feeling the customer picks up from the salesperson.
To build trust effectively, this approach must be natural and authentic – your primary sentiment must be the sincere desire to help clients and contribute to their success. This proven method is used by the master salespeople who get outstanding sales results.
In this column, I’m proposing a structured, seven-step sales interview approach that will let you build more trust with your customers, especially during the initial encounters.
The Structured Approach to the Sales Interview
- Prepare: Before meeting your prospect, get interested in the company’s business. Check out their website, find out about the satisfaction level of their own customers, educate yourself about their industry, and even send them a preliminary questionnaire before the sales interview to gain a better understanding of what they need and want. Carefully prepare your questions to cover all aspects of your interview. The prospect will appreciate your interest in their business – and that helps you create an atmosphere that fosters respectful discussion.
- Connect: We all make quick assessments about people we meet for the first time. The same goes for your prospect, who first wants to know if you really want to help, or if you’re simply looking for a big commission. To establish a solid relation very early on, make it your duty to identify the customer’s positive points. In the first few minutes of the meeting, find positive things to say about their facilities, mention something you learned from your research or about the customer’s favourite hobby. Then find and discuss what you have in common, such as activities, mutual acquaintances, etc.
- Give an overview of your offer: At this stage, you should provide an overview of what you have to offer, in a FEW MINUTES only. Present the main points and explain the benefits that you would like to bring them. If the customer asks questions, give brief answers and stay general, because you still don’t know if you can help them or not.
- Understand: This step is the most important and must take 50% to 80% of the total interview time. Your work here consists of exploring the depths of what the customer wants. What are their dominant concerns? What is their current situation? What are the issues and challenges, the sources of stress, etc.? You must ascertain the deep reasons that are the source of the need manifested, so you can help them make the best decision from their own perspective. The more you can help the customer get what they want, the more successful you will be. You must ask lots of questions and even more importantly, listen closely to the answers.
- Present the solution: Once you truly and DEEPLY understand the important issues for the customer, it’s time to present one or more possible solutions. AND NOT BEFORE. Propose solutions that address the customer’s specific concerns, not what you prefer or is most advantageous for you!
- Confirm: Make sure the customer is comfortable with what you have proposed. Ask, “Are you comfortable with the concept I’m proposing?” or “Does this solution respond well to the concerns you raised?” Before you make an official proposal, the customer must agree the solutions you’ve proposed do indeed respond to their concerns and desires. Engage the customer in constructive conversation to improve your solution.
- Take action: Before leaving, set up an action plan by discussing one or more of the next steps. For example, plan your next meeting with that particular customer or with more people from the organization, prepare a proposal, and so on. If you’re unable to develop an action plan at this stage, there’s little possibility you’ll make a sale to this customer.
Many salespeople do not have a method for structuring the sales interview aimed at building the trust that fosters purchasing. Too bad for them. And too bad for the customers.
Make the decision to adopt a structured approach to sales interviews. The first few times, you will probably be a little uncomfortable applying it, but persevere until this new way becomes natural and instinctive. Then run with it, and have fun watching your sales soar!