Picture this. You’re standing at the foot of a steep rock wall, harnessed and ready to go. You’ve had prior climbing experiences that have led up to this moment, but in order for you to make it to the top of this particular structure, you need the right belay partner and some reliable guidance to do so. Sure, you’re a relatively adept rock climber, your equipment checks out as secure, and you’ve reviewed your instructor’s credentials… so far, so good. But as you look over to said instructor – you ask yourself… what has this person done up to this point in order to earn my trust? Am I really going to go through with this?
(Okay, so the image accompanying this post is admittedly a little dramatic. Let’s hope none of us ever find ourselves dangling mid-cliff, desperately hanging onto someone else’s foot with no apparent safety apparatus in use whatsoever.)
The point is: establishing trust in your expert belayer is extremely important – otherwise, your snowballing sense of skepticism will win out and you’ll never commit to scaling that wall in the first place. You need to know you’re in good hands. And so goes the story for many B2B business professionals interested in purchasing products or services from another company’s sales rep.
When it comes to sales, particularly for B2B transactions which typically require more time and buy-in from multiple decision makers, creating that foundation of trust from the onset of the business relationship (and then repeatedly demonstrating your reliability throughout the sales process) is quintessential to closing the deal. Often times, trust is forged by the little things – the actions we take throughout this process that may seem minute when singled out, but which make a huge impression as a whole. So it’s important to use those building blocks where and when you can!
Before we go on, I need to know… does everybody have their helmets on? Carabiners clipped in? Fears subdued and senses heightened? Okay, great. Then let’s dig right into 5 ways you can build better relationships with your prospects during the sales process, and thus prevent getting caught in a landslide of crumbling deals!
As a salesperson, it’s your job to show the prospect that you fully understand their pain points and business needs. But keep in mind that this part of the sales process truly begins with your company’s marketing efforts. (So… hint, hint… make sure your Sales & Marketing teams are strongly aligned!) When inbound leads download pieces of content from your website, subscribe to your blog, sign up for a webinar, etc., you should be leveraging what’s known as progressive profiling via your landing page forms to gain as much relevant information about them as possible – and then market to them based on these insights.
For example, if our PMG team learns that a particular prospect hails from the manufacturing industry, runs a B2B business, and demonstrates legitimate interest in reading more about producing great content for their own audience, we’re likely to send them this white paper to help them along! Of course, you can provide value in a similar fashion as a sales rep. Know of a cool survey, interesting article, or thought-provoking eBook your prospect would love? Let them know you were thinking about their current challenges by sending an email with links to those helpful resources. Particularly if the resources are produced by your own company! Trust comes from giving away value before the sale, so don’t be stingy with your content.
Again, if you have the opportunity, work with Marketing to develop or fine-tune your sales collateral. More often than not, you’ve already got an entire library of content that can be repurposed into sales aids. One great way of promoting your business is to put your client case studies and testimonials on display. In fact, 65% of B2B companies report case studies to be an effective content marketing tactic for nurturing leads. And this makes sense, right? It’s no secret people prefer to work with credible experts. When a prospect reaches the point in the sales funnel when it’s time to make a decision between you and your competitor, an industry case study or rave review that strikes the right chord can make all the difference. So don’t be afraid to tastefully showcase your customer success stories during presentations to potential new business partners.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but there are some Marketing & Sales reps out there who will unfortunately drop the ball by forgetting that selling to a business is really about selling to people. And people tend to buy from people they like – plain and simple. That’s why it’s so important to not only communicate at the right times and through the right channels, but to do so in the right manner. On some level, this simply means to be your genuine self. But you also want to be the best version of your genuine self. And that might require a little more thought and effort.
Sales pros will frequently refer to matching and mirroring as a technique that helps build a sense of rapport during an in-person meeting. This entails incorporating elements of the prospect’s communication or processing style into your own – friendly gestures, a particular talking speed or volume, etc. – which are likely to make the prospect feel more comfortable. But if you find this approach to be a little contrived, at least be sure to maintain consistent eye contact, and of course, to smile! Remember, your facial expressions and body language in sales are just as important as what’s coming out of your mouth.
In the B2B world, the significance of creating and maintaining a personal connection cannot be understated. If a prospect asks for a sales proposal (or you’ve reached this stage in your sales process), and he/she says something like “oh, you can just email it over to me,” please don’t do this! Instead, coordinate a time with them during which you can present the proposal yourself. Even if you’re presenting it virtually, this “face-to-face” interaction is going to facilitate a sense of reliability and trust – and it shows that you care enough about the prospective customer’s business to go over the proposal in detail. Moreover, you’ll be able to provide clarifications or answer any questions your counterparts may have right in the moment, avoiding potential confusion that could later result in an unforeseen obstacle.
Ah, the Golden Rule… the cornerstone of any positive social interaction. During the sales process, be sure you are providing the prospect with the same experience you would like if you were on the other end of the opportunity. Nobody wants to be treated like they’re just a number or retainer. So make sure you are really listening to what he or she is telling you about their goals, challenges, preferences and past experiences – and find out what makes their unique business tick.
Even when you stick to a concrete sales process, that’s no excuse to ever use a one-size-fits-all approach to sales. And despite that every efficient sales team makes use of email templates, make sure you’re tailoring your message to the individual every time – and not recycling the same words from a single master email over and over again. Nine times out of ten, this “approach” is extremely obvious to the recipient – and you’ll immediately lose their trust.
Perhaps most importantly, deliver on what you promise. Meeting deadlines and starting (or arriving at) meetings on time will solidify the relationship you’ve built with a prospective partner. Wouldn’t you be frustrated if someone wasn’t taking you seriously enough to show up when they said they would? Make it crystal clear you understand their time is valuable. What’s more, a simple “thank you” never goes unnoticed.
There are plenty of other ways you can build trust, but if you integrate these five key tips into your sales interactions, you’ll foster better connections with your prospects – and in the end, your efforts will hopefully influence your sales numbers, too. At the very least, you’ll be leaving a stronger and more professional impression, and you may get a referral down the road!
In the spirit of this blog post, we’ve also teamed up with our partner HubSpot to ask consumers about their thoughts on sales – what irks them, what factors inform their buying decisions, etc. There are specific questions for sales professionals, too!
If you could spare a few minutes, we encourage you to take this survey about your experiences with sales. It’s quick and painless, and it’s totally anonymous. We appreciate your time and any feedback you provide. Thank you very much!!
Oren Smith—our resident Marketing Manager and data geek... *ahem* expert—has been heading up PMG's marketing for 5+ years. Between stretches of content writing and inbound strategy, you might find him planning his next adventure abroad or enjoying a good, old-fashioned lobster roll.