For several decades, sales training programs have taught us to sell first and build relationships later. This approach is the same as seeing a stranger on the street whom you find attractive and asking him or her to marry you — without so much as asking to meet for coffee first. It’s not beyond reason to expect that if you meet enough strangers, you might find a person who is lonely or curious enough to say yes to you. Time and time again, though, you will be told “No!”
“Research has found that 86 percent of consumers say loyalty is primarily driven by likability, while 83 percent say it’s tied to trust.”
Get to know your ideal audience
In the marketing world, the way to build likability and trust is first to get to know and like your audience. During the “get-to-know stage,” the relationship needs to start slowly. Meeting prospects first requires knowing the profile of your ideal audience.
An ideal audience differs from a target audience for a specific reason — a target is defined as “a person, object, or place selected as the aim of an attack.” In marketing circles, this term gained popularity with a certain approach to sales based on warfare tactics. But warfare tactics are far removed from proving likeability or building trust.
An ideal audience is made up of those whose challenges you personally understand and whose problems your products and services will help solve. These people are in alignment with you, and vice versa.
When moving into the “like stage,” both parties want to continue engaging with each other. This stage offers an opportunity to create valuable content in a variety of ways that help in solving the problems of your customers in an emotionally satisfying way.
For example, you might join a Facebook group of people who are looking for the solutions you offer. Or, you can create a group of your own with clients or customers who’ve become friends and invite prospects to join. When you offer a steady flow of content that they want to read, your prospects will engage with you by commenting and responding.
The most essential action to take at this stage is to acknowledge their engagement. In our fast-paced, no-time-to-think world, most people feel unseen, unappreciated, and taken for granted. The everyday practice of acknowledging people who engage with us is an important element in creating trust. The act of recognizing people’s feelings can help form deeper connections with them.
But when an acknowledgment is seen as being motivated by selfish reasons with an ulterior motive it’s not as effective. Therefore, it is so important that you don’t start asking for the sale at this stage. Not enough trust has been built. You must demonstrate that you’re trustworthy — and determine if your prospects are trustworthy, too.
Following are some ways both parties can demonstrate their trustworthiness:
- Honor and keep your own commitments and agreements
- Clearly communicate requests
- Offer support and ideas rather than self-promotions and product advertisements
- Have realistic expectations instead of greedy desires
- Have the courage to say no when something isn’t in alignment
- Maintain your strong boundaries while showing empathy to the other person
- Tell the truth about your actions and feelings
- Be positive, calm, and confident
- Listen carefully to the other person and respond promptly and appropriately with respect and consideration
Keep in mind the adage: “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” During the “like stage,” it’s essential to consistently demonstrate how much you genuinely care for the other person.
To arrive at the “trust stage” requires being consistently reliable in practicing the activities begun during the “like stage.” As a salesperson, you should also expect your prospective customers to practice these trust-building activities.
Building trust happens when both parties live within the same comfort zone, satisfyingly in alignment. Trust is built through the presence of these five factors in a relationship:
- Consistency. Both parties do what they say they’ll do consistently and dependably.
- Exchange of value. Both parties provide the value expected — or more value than expected — to the relationship.
- Mutual benefit. The relationship is equally advantageous to both parties.
- Truthfulness. Both parties are honest and authentic with each other.
- Acknowledgment. Both parties recognize each other’s challenges and accomplishments.
If you engaged well throughout the “get-to-know,” “like,” and “trust-building” stages, you’re now ready to offer your products and services. At this point, your prospects are likely to say “Yes!” because they trust you. They feel you have their best interests at heart and believe in the solutions you offer. If you sincerely feel the product or services, you’re selling will solve their problems, they’ll believe it, too.
Now it’s time to ask for the sale — and not a moment before!
Stacey Hall has coached thousands of entrepreneurs on how to attract sales, satisfaction, and success. She is a bestselling author, a TEDx presenter, and a leading social media marketing expert. She is the founder of Success with Stacey Hall and of the groundbreaking social media marketing training program, Go for YES, which has helped thousands of people attract more sales, customer, and employee satisfaction and success. Her new book is, Selling from Your Comfort Zone: The Power of Alignment Marketing (BK Publishers, July 26, 2022). Learn more at staceyannhall.com/home.
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