4 Proven Steps to Building and Keeping More Sales

Trust is likely the most important element in the development of a learning community (Dr. Kevin
Vodicka).

People do business with those they “Know, like, and trust.”

Right?

Well, the ‘knowing and liking’ parts are pretty well straightforward. Most of our social activities are centered on meeting others and making that all-important first impression – then building on the relationship to identify common interests and develop friendship.

What about trust, though? Top-performing salespeople know that what happens AFTER an agreement is reached is every bit as important as the work preceding it.

Low-performing salespeople (usually inadvertently, rather than intentionally) think the ‘job’ ends when the sale is made and the commission earned.

Let’s take a look at the rudiments of trust from a research-based vantage point. If you can learn better ways to build trust, you’ll not only be in a better position to grow your business — but you’ll enjoy the process much more along the way.

What happens AFTER an agreement is reached is every bit as important as the work preceding it.Click To Tweet

Getting down to the nitty gritty of sales

Dr. Devin Vodicka prepared a paper for the Principal Leadership journal aimed at helping schools establish higher levels of trust between all stakeholders. Vodicka knew that trust and achievement go hand in hand. He wanted to know whether it was possible to grow the second by focusing on the first.

In true academic form, Vodicka read the best studies he could find on the topic of trust and pulled from them to develop his conclusions.

The resultant paper – The Four Elements of Trust – presents a distilled look at how trust is built. The work is not only valuable to school administrators, but to you and me – IF we will listen to Vodicka’s conclusions and apply them to the sales process.

The 4 elements of trust

Here we go, then: Vodicka’s elements and my brief comments on each:

  1. Consistency: This element isn’t only about reliability and availability. And it’s not only important for one-one-one communications. It is important to deliver a consistent message to ALL stakeholders. If your business is customer-centric (and it should be), then you can’t speak to prospects one way and to your fulfillment department another. With my private clients (and when I speak to groups), I often talk about the importance of congruency in conversations and messaging. Lack of consistency is perhaps one of the fastest ways to break trust – it sends ‘mixed messages.’ NOTE: Many times, consistency is seen as the ‘be all and end all’ for building trust – but it is not. It’s just one of the four primary building blocks. Here’s something else: You must build trust with yourself as well. By being consistent across all relationship levels, your own belief in the message you carry will be solidified. After all, if you don’t have faith in the promises you make – no one else will either.
  2. Compassion: Prospects must sense that you truly care about them before they can believe you will look out for their best interests. Compassion is shown when you express an interest in another person’s struggles and concerns. Compassion is shown when you can identify with those struggles and acknowledge them – even when you DON’T have an immediate solution. Compassion sees prospects as people – not as dollar signs – and engages them on a personal, caring level.
  3. Communication: Citing The Eighth Habit (Dr. Stephen Covey), Vodicka points out that “Loyalty to the absent, clear expectations, necessary apologies, and legitimate feedback are activities that promote trust.” It is important to remember that we trust certain people with certain things. For example, you trust your dry-cleaner to properly clean and press your garments — but your cleaner may not be the best person to advise you on financial investments. SPECIAL: It is crucial to never overpromise. From the beginning, your customers or clients should know exactly what you can do for them AND what you cannot do. Sales built on unreasonable expectations will eventually fall flat. The result will be ill will, not goodwill, and you will have done more to damage the reputation of your company or brand than to promote it.
  4. Competence: It is one thing to sound and appear capable – but quite another to deliver the goods. That is why the most successful salespeople are constantly seeking to learn more about the principles of sales and about the products or services they promote. Determine exactly what you can do – and do that. If the prospect needs something you can’t deliver, acknowledge that. Fight the temptation to promise the moon (unless you can actually provide it). No person, product, or service is exactly what everyone needs in every situation. Know your limitations and acknowledge them. Otherwise, any trust you do build will eventually be demolished.
You may be known and liked… if you fail to build and maintain trust, though, none of that will matter.Click To Tweet

Here is an example I came across recently. No doubt, you can provide plenty of your own. Please do so in the comments at the end of this article. Let’s learn more… together.

Example: My friend purchased a new car. During the negotiation phase of the transaction, the salesperson said the company would cover the first service visit and he would personally cover the cost of the second. When asked for a written statement to that effect, the salesman said it was unnecessary – that he would definitely remember.

The first service visit went off without a hitch. During the second, though, when my friend told the service manager the salesman was going to cover it the response was that the statement must be verified by the salesperson – who at first said he didn’t recall the statement, then begrudgingly allowed the agreement to stand.

That lack of consistency, compassion, and communication made a huge dent in my friend’s level of trust in the competency of the dealership. His favorable impression after the first visit was destroyed on the second.

Will he continue to take his car there for service? Maybe and maybe not. One breach in trust can ruin a relationship for life. Research says ONE bad experience must be offset by FIVE positive experiences before it is negated.

Write these four elements down on an index card and carry it with you. Refer to the card until you have the foundations of trust memorized and you are mentally ticking them off as you proceed through the sales journey.

You may be known and liked… if you fail to build and maintain trust, though, none of that will matter.

The Importance of Trust in Sales

Every sale has five basic obstacles: no need, no money, no hurry, no desire, no trust (Zig Ziglar).

Of all the components to the sales process, “trust” is the one least understood. Many sales training courses will talk about creating desire and urgency, how to overcome price objections and how to emphasize benefits to develop the need — but not every teacher or sales method talks about trust.

In ‘The Inevitable Sale’ process I teach, trust is at the core. It is a ‘trust-based system.’

As Zig Ziglar said, ‘no trust’ is one of the basic obstacles in the sales process. I agree. You can address all of the other four obstacles: no need, no money, no hurry, no desire… but it is still difficult to successfully advance the sale without gaining your prospective client’s trust.

And learning how to address the first four obstacles without first building trust OFTEN leads to what many consider an ‘adversarial approach’ to sales (wherein the potential customer or client is the ‘target’ whose resistance to buying must be overcome in a ‘push to close’ manipulation).

The Inevitable Sale approaches the sales process as a transaction between seller and buyer that is low pressure, low stress, and beneficial to both parties.

It is designed to make the single most important function in any for-profit business (sales) an enjoyable endeavor that produces long-lasting customers who know the seller is genuinely concerned for them and their business success.

In The Inevitable Sale process, trust is at the core. It is a trust-based system.Click To Tweet

What is trust?

A dictionary definition of trust will tell you something like this: “Trust is a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.”

You exercise trust every day and in 1,000 ways. You couldn’t leave the house or drive a car without it. The absence of trust is “doubt” and enough doubt leads to fear and paranoia.

Do your customers or clients trust you? Do they believe you are reliable, that you have the ability to make good on your promises to them? If they don’t, they are wide open (and may even be seeking) an alternative to your product or services.

Moreover, it is important to remember that salespeople don’t normally begin on flat ground. Because the selling profession consistently ranks low in the public trust (Gallup’s last survey put sales at 8% — just one percent above members of Congress), the sales process most often begins with the prospect instinctively doubting the salesperson.

How does it feel to be doubted?

That’s why sales is often viewed as a distasteful and anxiety-ridden process. Many people would rather take a beating than try to ‘sell something.’ Even within the ranks of the sales force, companies seek ways to differentiate the team – maybe calling their salespeople ‘account executives’ or ‘product advocates’ – anything is better than being ‘in sales.’

Or is it?

Once trust is established, both seller and prospect can relax and work on making sure the product or service fits the need. Working out the terms of the sale ends up being just a byline in the process.

Many people would rather take a beating than try to sell something.’Click To Tweet

A better approach to sales

You can fall in love with sales again. You can begin to enjoy bringing in new business and watching your company’s bottom line grow.

The late, great Zig Ziglar loved to read the following note to his audiences. Zig knew the first job of management is to sell the salesperson and the first sale a salesperson must make is to himself.

If you’ve been struggling with sales then this is for you.

There’s nothing at all wrong with sales. Our economy depends on sales, and your business depends on sales.The problem lies within us – and the good news is that we can do something about it. Let’s talk about that next time.

I Am a Salesman

I am proud to be a salesman, because more than any other man, I and millions of others like me, built America.

The man who builds a better mouse trap — or a better anything — would starve to death if he waited for people to beat a pathway to his door. Regardless of how good or how needed the product or service might be, it has to be sold.

Eli Whitney was laughed at when he showed his cotton gin. Edison had to install his electric light free of charge in an office building before anyone would even look at it. The first sewing machine was smashed to pieces by a Boston mob. People scoffed at the idea of railroads. They thought that traveling even thirty miles an hour would stop the circulation of the blood! McCormick strived for 14 years to get people to use his reaper. Westinghouse was considered a fool for stating he could stop a train with wind. Morse had to plead before 10 Congresses before they would even look at his telegraph.

The public didn’t go around demanding these things; they had to be sold!!

They needed thousands of salesmen, trailblazers and pioneers – people who could persuade with the same effectiveness as the inventor could invent. Salesmen took these inventions, sold the public on what these products could do, taught customers how to use them, and then taught businessmen how to make a profit from them.

As a salesman, I’ve done more to make America what it is today than any other person you know. I was just as vital in your great-great-grandfather’s day as I am in yours, and I will be just as vital in your great-great-grandson’s day. I have educated more people, created more jobs, taken more drudgery from the laborer’s work, given more profits to businessmen, and have given more people a fuller and richer life than anyone in history. I’ve dragged prices down, pushed quality up, and made it possible for you to enjoy the comforts and luxuries of automobiles, radios, electric refrigerators, televisions, and air conditioned homes and buildings. I’ve healed the sick, given security to the aged, and put thousands of young men and women through college. I’ve made it possible for inventors to invent, for factories to hum, and for ships to sail the seven seas.

How much money you find in your pay envelope next week, and whether in the future you will enjoy the luxuries of prefabricated homes, stratospheric flying of airplanes, and new world of jet propulsion and atomic power, depends on me. The loaf of bread you bought today was on a baker’s shelf because I made sure that a farmer’s wheat got to a mill, that the mill made wheat into flour, and that the flour was delivered to your baker.

Without me, the wheels of industry would come to a grinding halt. And with that, jobs, marriages, politics and freedom of thought would be a thing of the past. I AM A SALESMAN and I’m proud and grateful that as such, I serve my family, my fellow man and my country.

~Author Unknown

WHY People Buy (and why they don’t)

At TEDxPuget Sound (2009) Simon Sinek presented one of the most popular TED talks ever. To date, Sinek’s “How great leaders inspire action” presentation has been viewed 22,633,972 times.

Calling his topic “A profound discovery that changed my life,” the focus is on what Sinek calls “The Golden Circle,” and how it affects human decision making — especially in sales and marketing

We are a “What oriented” society.

When we meet someone new, we want to know WHAT that person does. If we take the conversation deeper, we may ask HOW the work is accomplished.

Rarely, though, will we ask WHY.

We always ask 'what' someone does. Rarely do we ask WHY they do it.Click To Tweet

‘What’ is on the outside — WHY is on the inside

WHY is at the core of being. It is experienced in the limbic brain — the place from whence all decisions are made. That is the place where TRUST is experienced, because trusting someone is a ‘feeling’. 

Great sales professionals have long observed and taught that buying decisions are made with the emotions (then justified rationally).

Actions begin with feeling, not with thinking. Logic makes people think, but emotion makes people act.

Martin Luther King’s speech was “I have a Dream,” NOT “I have a plan.” Nobody wanted to hear about another doomed-to-fail, half-hearted PLAN for change. But millions of people had to keep on believing in the POSSIBILITY of change.

People know plans will fall apart -- but the vision will keep going.Click To Tweet

Getting to the other side

How to we “cross the chasm”? How do we get the majority of potential customers and clients on board to cause a fundamental shift in effectiveness?

Citing Apple Computers as a primary example, Sinek maintains the wise employer doesn’t hire people who need a job — rather the emphasis is on hiring people who believe the same thing the company believes.  

Attracting ideal customers and clients is primarily about attracting those who believe what you believe.  

And here’s what I believe: You can achieve extraordinary sales success and do so with integrity.

You can do it in a way that your clients, customers or patients trust that your desire to serve their best interests is ahead of any agenda you might have to ‘sell them’.  

MY ideal clients share that belief.

People who believe what you believe will go to the trenches for you. They will help you get the word out. They will stay at their posts as long as you are willing to fight.

Attracting ideal customers and clients is primarily about attracting those who believe what you believe. Click To Tweet

Which came first, the leader or the cause?

Credit is often given to the leader. That’s not where it belongs, though. The leader is but another person smitten with the grand Dream, the irrepressible desire.

Great leaders gather force behind an idea, not behind themselves.

Great leaders always begin with WHY!

Do you see yourself in this video? Do you believe WHY matters?

Here’s a replay of Sinek’s bold endeavor. He talks about the Diffusion of Innovations Theory, he talks about the Wright Brothers and about Samuel Pierpont Langley.

The big question, though, is this: Does Sinek talk about YOU?

AND… have you been able to get past your own What and How to contemplate and nurture your WHY?

If so, you are unstoppable.

Join me on that journey…

How Joe the Sales Pro Wins TOUGH SALES (and you can too)

Let’s take two people: Joe and Barb.

Joe sells dental products for a major dental supply house. Barb is the buyer for a dental group with offices in a three-state region.

Joe is an optimist. He is an idea guy. He sees the big, beautiful picture.

Barb is cautious. On her twice-annual pilgrimage to Las Vegas for industry conventions, she will invest no more than $20 per day (all in nickels) with the ‘one-armed bandits.’

You’ll find Joe at the roulette table with chips piled in front of him.

What happens when Joe calls on Barb to introduce a new product – a tooth polish twice as expensive as most, but made from all organic components?

Will Barb take a chance on ‘excellent opportunity to be first in the region to get on board’? Or will she play it safe and avoid investing in an unproven product?

Care to vote on the outcome?

Yep. Joe lost – right?

How Joe the Sales Pro Overcomes Bias Opposition.Click To Tweet

But what if Joe is a salesperson armed with a knowledge of cognitive bias?

Barb’s thinking is characterized by ‘loss aversion bias.’ She is hyper-focused on avoiding loss. She is a shrewd buyer for her company and exacts the most for the least from every sales transaction.

Joe knows this. He has seen her ‘gamble’ in Vegas, and he has sat across the desk from her often in his regular visits to her office.

And Joe gets more of Barb’s business than any other salesperson in the region.Continue reading

Are You For Me or Against Me? A Trust-Based Approach to Sales

Think back to high school.

Were you a “Chief,” a “Bear,” a “Pirate”?

At my own dear school, we were called the “Will Rogers Ropers.”

Do you still recall the chants and songs  you would do at your games?

I do.

Who were your ‘arch rivals’?

Chances are good that would be the nearest school with teams in the same division – you ‘hated’ them and they ‘hated’ you.

As a ‘Roper,’only a traitor would actually make friends with one of those Memorial Chargers [ :-))

From the playground, to high school,to college and beyond – we are biased

We’ve been studying ‘cognitive bias’ as it relates to the sales process and those responsible for sales, and we’ve discovered that cognitive biases are default responses that can help make (or break) sales.Continue reading

What You and I Don’t Know [WYSIATI]

You don’t know everything. And neither do I.

That is why scientists are so careful to term their interpretations “theories,” not “truths.”

The mind will take whatever information it has about a situation and make a story out of it. Sometimes the story has merit, and sometimes it does not.

When new data becomes available, cognitive biases (anchoring bias, for instance) can make it difficult to let go of that old story and form a new one.

That makes it tough to grow – and that is why high school reunions can be so very stressful.

The mind will take whatever information it has about a situation and make a story out of it.Click To Tweet

Even though we KNOW change is a part of life – we resist it

People change.

  • Larry is no longer the ‘awkward, tongue-tied fella who can’t get a girlfriend.’ He’s a surgeon with a beautiful wife.
  • Everyone was sure that, if anyone would, Sheila would end up as the first woman U.S. president. She’s married to a guy with a drug problem, has five children, and feels disheveled and defeated most days.

We WANT people and situations to stay true to the story we created for them.

We HATE it when one of our favorite brands moves operations overseas and begins turning out substandard products, but we keep buying and hoping things will change.

What you see is all there is

Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman identified a cognitive bias based on the mind’s tendency to act as if ‘what you see is all there is’ (WYSIATI).

For example, says Kahneman, suppose I tell you about a woman who has just been elected president of a country. I say, “She is intelligent and strong.”

Then, I ask you: “Do you think she is a good leader?”

You have a quick answer, “Yes, of course. I am always thrilled to hear whenever a woman becomes head of state.”

But what if she is also corrupt?

You see, we often form opinions (stories) based on limited data. Then – after the story has solidified – we find it difficult to change – even when additional data would indicate change to be justified.

Never forget this principle of cognitive error: Stopping to think is always more difficult than leaning on the familiar biases that serve us so well most of the time.Continue reading

Are You Always Right?

I’m right.

You’re wrong.

Think back over the past couple of weeks and consider this tell-tale question: In your relations with others — how often were you right (and they were wrong)?

Be honest, now.

This is information for your ears only. You don’t have to share it with anyone.

Are you right MOST of the time?

How often do you tell someone (and really mean it)… “You’re right. I’m wrong.”?

We don’t realize how wrong we often are

The mind (your mind and my mind included) is a marvelous tool. It is way more powerful than ANY computer, and it deals with an enormous amount of information CONSTANTLY.

Temperature, motion, color, names, plans, weather, body functions, hearing – your mind monitors EVERYTHING and filters out the inconsequential.

The enormity of the data your mind processes is definitely ‘mindboggling.’

But the mind is SO SMART that it often outsmarts itself. (Does that ring a bell at all?)

The enormity of the data your mind processes is definitely ‘mindboggling.’Click To Tweet

Your mind values quick over correct

To deal with the never-ending onslaught of data being presented, the mind develops short-cuts — “biases,” if you will.

Cognitive biases (i.e. “thinking preferences”) help the mind cope.

For instance, have you ever driven somewhere familiar and realized you don’t even REMEMBER the trip? Do you ever set something down and not remember where you put it?Continue reading

Cognitive Bias in Sales – The DECOY

IN EARLIER articles, I’ve written about how cognitive biases can influence the sales process – but we’ve barely begun looking at the TYPES of cognitive biases anyone in sales (or in business) may confront every single day.

Whether you are a solopreneur, a small business owner, a service professional, or part of an executive leadership team – we are talking about something that can have a HUGE IMPACT on the sales process.

It could even be said that understanding this kind of information is what sets the 20% of upper level performers (those who make 80% of the sales) apart from (and out in front of) the rest of the pack.

NOW, here’s the thing: sometimes you hear it said that someone is a ‘natural salesperson”. What is probably more accurate is that the person who seems to be a ‘natural’ really just seems to instinctively understand the processes at work when cognitive bias affects sales.

Really good news: Even if you aren’t a natural at sales – you can learn!Click To Tweet

Why YOU need to know about cognitive bias

You may have a FEAR of sales. You may dislike … dare I say, even HATE sales … but that doesn’t change the fact, one iota, that you are selling SOMETHING every day.

I encourage the people I counsel to EMBRACE the SALES PROCESS. After all, nothing can help you reach your business goals quicker than boosting sales.

Nothing.

So let’s go talk about another manifestation of cognitive bias – and let’s continue that track for another few articles.

I BELIEVE: If you will commit to studying, learning, and putting into practice the things you learn here TODAY – your sales can’t HELP but increase.

(To brush up on the hows and whys of cognitive bias, READ THIS.)

Here we go…Continue reading

Cognitive Bias – How the Mind Helps and Hinders Sales

The most merciful thing in the world… is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents (H.P. Lovecraft)

DO YOU EVER defend a purchase you’ve made – even though you may wonder whether or not it was truly a wise decision?

Have you ever considered that you may champion ideas and products you think are right for YOU, while not always acknowledging signals that those things may NOT be right for the prospect across the table from you?

Everyone exhibits what psychology calls “cognitive bias.” You, me, our prospects, customers, and clients – ALL of us are afflicted.

Here’s the big question: How might that influence the sales process?

Could a knowledge of cognitive bias help you make and KEEP more sales?Click To Tweet

Cognitive bias in a nutshell

You may not feel like it’s true all the time, but your brain is considerably more powerful than any computer. Your mind can think a whole lot faster than you can consciously keep up with.

Consequently, the brain makes many snap decisions all by itself.

For instance, do you think first impressions are important?  (It’s been said you only have 7 seconds to make a strong first impression on those you meet … or be summarily dismissed from consideration.)

Now, consider this: Do first impressions ever result in unwarranted bias?

Bingo!Continue reading

More Sales, Peace of Mind – Sales Psychology to the Rescue

The most destructive element in the human mind is fear. Fear creates aggressiveness (Dorothy Thompson).

Decision making is integral to the sales process. It could even be said that the primary job of the salesperson is to HELP the prospect make a decision.

Sales is about Leadership and helping others. You help them people move to action – in spite of their concerns, their challenges, their fears or their reluctance!

The ability to make decisions is essential to mastering sales. If YOU can’t make decisions when you need to – if you struggle to be decisive in your own life and business –it is very difficult for you to lead others in the decision-making process.

Sales is about Leadership and helping others. You help them people move to action – in spite of their concerns, their challenges, their fears or their reluctance!Click To Tweet

Sales psychology in Trust-Based Selling

Gosh, there is so much I have read and studied regarding sales psychology. From my own 40 years of sales experience, I agree with some of the claims – and disagree with others.

Anything contrary to relationships built on trust … I tend to disagree with!

To get started, let’s talk about a direction in research most attributed to psychologist Daniel Kahneman. He was awarded a Nobel Prize for his work concerning “human judgement and decision-making under uncertainty.”

First off, though, we should acknowledge an important concept: In Trust-Based Selling, the goal isn’t that you ‘make the sale.’ The goal is to discover the TRUTH about your potential client’s situation and whether you can help the client solve a problem or achieve a goal.

After the process of discovery, the next step is to help the prospect make the decision best in his or her own favor – and that is not always a decision for your product or service!

Ethical (and wise) salespeople don’t study decision-making in order to manipulate others, but to best serve them.Click To Tweet

One brain is plenty … but we have two!

Kahneman’s observations spring from a dichotomy in the way we think. These ‘two brains’ are readily observable in daily life.Continue reading