BrainTrust Query: Building Relationships Starts With Trust

Discussion
Jun 15, 2012

Salespeople need to be taught to go beyond the traditional skills of their craft: emphasizing features and benefits, engaging in fact-based selling or using pressure or other subtle tactics to create "pain," etc. But there also needs to be awareness of how to appeal to the emotional decision-making requirements the buyer has to have met. One of the key challenges for a salesperson is to build a relationship with his or her prospect. But to do that, one needs to develop trust.

Trust does not happen solely by the sharing of data or facts. In fact, when logic, data, quantitative input and facts are offered, we tend to want to challenge, argue and dispute them. When we are told a "story," we relax and listen for ways in which it mirrors our own reality. We are willing to share experiences, and the conversation becomes a dialogue of equals — and not a salesperson trying to sell something to a resistant buyer.

Overall, building trust requires the six Cs: Competency, Commitment, Communication/Clarity, Caring, Collaboration, Character. But critically, it involves putting them into action:

  1. Competency: Rather than go on and on about the level of their selling decks (all self-reported), he or she should share an example of how the sales team had solved a problem for a client or customer. The example will convey the competency far better than beating of the chest and claiming one’s superiority.
  2. Commitment: The salesperson should share a story of how the company went above and beyond the expected. It is far more accessible for the prospect than simply stating, "We are with you from sale to implementation."
  3. Communication/Clarity: Share a time when, by virtue of your communicating clearly, you avoided a catastrophe that was bound to happen.
  4. Caring: Examples should be offered such as when the salesperson personally delivered product to a customer’s home in time for a scheduled bridal party because a shipment was late in arriving to the store and could not be picked up before the party started.
  5. Collaboration: For example, the salesperson could recount that time the firm worked side by side with a client to staple pages and punch holes in their sheets to be stuffed into binders.
  6. Character: Avoiding gossip and not taking potshots at competitors will be noted in the salesperson’s favor.

Discussion Questions: What do you think builds trust for retail sales associates with prospective clients? Which of the 6 C’s noted in the article is most challenging for associates to master in building trust?

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16 Comments on "BrainTrust Query: Building Relationships Starts With Trust"


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Ryan Mathews
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

First of all, competency, commitment, clarity, caring, collaboration and character ought to be the “table stakes” for retail sales associates. Ask yourself this: which of these attributes could a sales associate lack and still be employed in a perfect world?

Secondly, the whole “trust” thing bothers me. Trust isn’t something you can either promise or aspire to, it is something that must be externally awarded. You can clearly do things to facilitate or abrogate trust, but in the end trust just can’t be an internally-centric goal. Trust always comes from the outside which is one of the reasons it’s so hard to gain.

Brian Numainville
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

I believe Caring is one of the most difficult to master. Given time pressure, quotas, and the urgency of the moment, it is easy to not go the extra mile even when there is a perfect opportunity to do so and win a customer for life. Plus, caring has to be sincere and believable. Although not a retail example, my mechanic personally worked literally nonstop for two days to rebuild a transmission for me so we could start a family vacation on time. He did it because we have done business with him for years and he sincerely didn’t want to see the vacation delayed for my kids’ sake. Unfortunately the deer I hit a few days later totaled the car….

David Biernbaum
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

All the “C’s” in this article share an equal value of importance, while if any one of these are lacking it takes away from the dynamic effectiveness of all the others. Attitude, vision, and energy are the glue that drives all of these “C’s” together, and the belief that the consumer goods and retail marketplace can grow only through innovation, new products, new ideas, and a passion for effective communication. When you believe it you will see it, that’s a promise form David Biernbaum.

Max Goldberg
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

Listen to what the customer wants and then offer the product or service that will meet those needs. It’s all about this customer, not about customers from the past. Most of the 6 C’s in the article are about the company selling the product, not about the consumer.

Giacinta Shidler
Guest
Giacinta Shidler
9 years 11 months ago

I totally agree with Max — these suggestions are not at all customer focused. If any associate started tooting their own horn in this way, I would leave — immediately. The qualities are important, but the implementation leaves much to be desired.

Camille P. Schuster, Ph.D.
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

Success will not be acquired by creating trust. That is too amorphous, fleeting, and has no relationship to results. A more effective approach is for sales associates AND buyers to be trained to take a more strategic perspective: what can be done to achieve goals that have positive results for my organization and for our two organizations together?

David Zahn
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

Camille’s point is one that warrants further discussion. In our current selling environment, we often default to providing; facts, data, logic, and rationale to support our efforts. Missing is the emotional, non-logical and “soft” side of what the sale will allow the buyer to accomplish. So — when Camille points out the need for strategic and goal-oriented solutions; it is real easy to agree with her. The issue is in DEFINING what those are collaboratively WITH the customer.

If we take the time to assess, we often find it is more than just “feeds and speeds” or “bits and bytes” or “features” of a product. The buying cycle is actually quite different than the selling cycle. We need to build skills in the understanding of the buyer’s approach to decision-making and not simply in how we best sell.

Adrian Weidmann
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

Caring by far is the most valued by people regardless of their relationship. It would seem to be the easiest to get right, but by daily observation, this simple ‘C’ seems to be next to impossible to enable and/or empower sales associates to exercise.

Zel Bianco
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

Unfortunately, these six C’s take time. That’s what I love about the relationships I have built with my clients at Interactive Edge. Many of our clients have been with us for over 12 years and the trust we have established has strengthened over time. The beginning of a sales relationship is always the most difficult, but as time goes on we become a team.

It is easy to establish trust with someone when you have the same goal. The six C’s are a great way to approach this, but my golden rule has always been this: Even though my business and the sales I make are my livelihood, the ultimate goal is the success of my clients. If I focus on their needs rather than my own, I am bound to get better results.

David Zahn
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

To Adrian’s point — it may seem trite, but “no one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.” I agree with the point of caring being the one that is often overlooked or hardest to maintain (and Zel’s example reinforces that).

Ralph Jacobson
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

Rather than struggle to come up with six words that start with the same letter, I’d be a bit more direct and say the following characteristics build trust in ANY relationship: Be transparent, Focus on adding value, Always treat people with respect, Take responsibility, Focus on feedback, Be consistent.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

I learned early in my sales career — that has lasted many years — this one thing that will be with me forever: If two people, one the buyer and the other the seller, like each other, the facts will not prevent them from doing business together. If the same two people do not like each other the facts, no matter how appealing will not overcome this and they will not do business together.

Kai Clarke
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

These are interesting perspectives, since each requires embracing the concept that relationships and credibility are an inherent part of selling (and minimizing the other 4Ps of marketing). In today’s environment, this is less so, since so much is dependent on product quality and price. But each of these 6 C’s is important as a part of a total sales process.

Jason Goldberg
Guest
9 years 11 months ago
Trust (or lack thereof) is becoming the primary impediment for growth for many cross-channel retailers. An interesting recent example is walmart.com which recently starting offering the ability for shoppers to order online, and then pay with cash in a store. They imagined the feature would appeal to the segment of Walmart shoppers that don’t have/use credit card. After offering the service for 2 months, it’s now used by 2% of all Walmart.com purchases (and 30% of all new Walmart.com shoppers), but most interestingly, when those shoppers get to the store to pay they are using a credit card 50% of the time. It turns out many shoppers have a credit card and simply don’t trust using it online. Along the sames lines, the Google “Panda” update last year, was primarily focused on causing sites that consumers perceived as “Trustworthy” to rank higher in Google. I’ve seen estimates that lack of trust, cost US retailers over $1B in sales annually. I’m sure any of the 6 C’s could erode trust if poorly executed, but the one… Read more »
Mike Osorio
Guest
Mike Osorio
9 years 11 months ago

Most of the responses focused on how a retail consultant works with their clients, which missed the point which is how sales associates can build trust with their customers.

The article is correct in that a trust based relationship will lead to to positive sales results. The challenge is for the retailer to do invest in this meaningfully. Teaching soft skills takes time and money, which most retailers are unwilling to spend.

When the investment is made and the sales associate is treated with the respect the role deserves, they will embrace developing these skills and create truly meaningful relationships with their customers leading to high engagement for both employee and customer.

Marcia Hubert
Guest
Marcia Hubert
9 years 11 months ago

One very important component missing from this discussion is that every customer is different and what triggers their comfort/trust/liking/believeing you enough to complete a purchase varies based on their personality style: “Drivers” like directness — don’t care about warm fuzzies, want to know what the item can do for them; “Influencers” want the warm fuzzies and to feel valued; “Socialers” want to please others and may not make a decision independently if someone else is impacted (will want their input) or will need salesperson’s reassurance that they’re making a good decision/choice; and “Compliant” customers will want facts, figures, details, etc.

There are numerous different types of “breakdowns” to categorize people differently, the above happens to be what we use at my office.

Great conversation thread!

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