How to understand & build trust with a prospect (by Chris Ginnelly)

Can you truly read your prospect or client and create an environment that they feel comfortable in? Comfortable enough to very quickly share their emotions and give you permission to ask deep searching questions that are intrusive if not expertly posed?

It starts with the first “Hello” and continues throughout the relationship as you become a trusted advisor and they become loyal long-term clients. It’s amazing how many salespeople I’ve met over the years that believe they lose on price or the technical advantages of a competitor’s product or service. I’ve yet to hear (from those who haven’t yet worked with us) that they failed to establish a strong bond and a degree of rapport that led to a trusting dialogue between them and the prospect. The challenge, of course, is that prospects don’t usually feel comfortable telling us that they ‘just didn’t like us’, they ‘just didn’t feel comfortable with us’, or they ‘just didn’t believe us’. They’ll typically find another way of letting us down more gently and in a way that is less personal. The reality is that far more sales are lost due to poor bonding and rapport than any other reason.

As the seller, it is our responsibility to comfortably engage prospects in meaningful conversations that connect with topics that are relevant to their businesses, industries and markets. We should have pre-prepared questions to ask and a structured framework from which to ask them. It’s important to actively and conscientiously listen to your prospects to make sure that you understand what they’re saying. It’s important to do this in a manner that is nurturing. Take time to understand them, their business challenges and opportunities and importantly connect with their personal and emotional desire to resolve or improve the situation being discussed. Pay close attention to your prospects’ body language, tone and words to detect any signs of discomfort and, if detected, act appropriately to help them regain their comfort. Never rush to share the features, advantages and benefits of your product or service.

During interactions with your prospects and customers, your other goal is to avoid making them feel Not-OK. Causing them to feel Not-OK can quickly destroy any rapport you’ve worked hard to establish and will eliminate the possibility of a sale. It’s very easy to make your prospect Not-OK. It can be a simple as using buzzwords or technical jargon the prospect might not understand, being too assertive and perceived by the prospect as ‘pushy’, or simply moving too quickly through a presentation. If you’re more technical or intellectually more capable than your prospect then tread very carefully. Make sure you are not stroking your own ego – this is 100% about them.

Some people have natural styles that are more likely to help people feel comfortable in their presence. Regardless of your natural style, developing a greater understanding of how to read and communicate with your prospects and clients is likely to have a direct impact on your win rates and loyalty levels.

Chris Ginnelly from Sandler Training ran a Sales Masterclass for Upstream in February.