Of all the things salespeople need to learn when working with customers, the one thing often missed when organizations train new team members or retrain existing ones is how to build trust with their customers.
Most shops rely on the sales staff’s interpersonal skills to get the job done; however, that alone usually isn’t enough. Being a nice person always helps, but for the customer who walks into a store with anxiety about working with a salesperson, more is needed to knock those walls down.
This is not an isolated case either, as most customers dread working with a salesperson for one reason or another, whether that fear is real or perceived. If you don’t think that’s true, just sit and observe the behavior of customers when they walk through the front door.
Some customers have become skilled escape artists, using a multitude of tricks like fast walking right by a salesperson without saying a word or using the age-old line all salespeople hate—“I’m just looking”—to avoid saying hello.
Even though everyone in management and on the sales staff realizes that customers resort to those tactics, almost no one includes the techniques and steps to make rapport-building a priority in training. Everyone focuses on product training, handling objectives and closing techniques, but avoids this sensitive topic.
We all forget that long before customers were customers, they were people. It’s odd that so many training programs discount this. When salespeople come to me for individual coaching—other than handling the rejection of customers repeatedly saying no—building rapport and trust is the most neglected item on the list.
One of the biggest obstacles is that building rapport takes more time. Most organizations run with the lowest possible salesperson headcount in order to have enough business to keep everyone happy. Another obstacle is that, because salespeople really do want to be customer service-oriented, when a customer wants to just rush through the shop to grab one thing, they tend to let them do it. When this happens, the most important event in the entire process gets missed—the opportunity for the salesperson to prove to the customer that they do have their best interests at heart and aren’t the bogeyman the customer thought they were.
The customer doesn’t realize that they missed the chance to like and trust the salesperson until the moment of truth when the salesperson asks for the sale and the customer says no. In most cases, they don’t even know why they’re saying no, but I do. It’s because they don’t trust the salesperson.
The sad part is that most of the time, the salesperson doesn’t realize that the decision they made cost them the sale.
Less (Stress) Means More
Customers are more anxious than ever before, with the aftereffects of COVID-19, politics getting uglier every day, the economy, rising prices, ballooning interest rates and so many other things causing stress. This means it’s even more important for salespeople to take the time to slow down the process in the first few minutes, go through the three minutes of discomfort to get the customer to wait, and give both a chance to build rapport and trust with each other. Neither participant realizes that, by taking a few minutes to get to know each other, everyone involved in the process will enjoy it more and relieve the pressure cooker feeling customers usually walk in with.
Even if this hasn’t made sense to salespeople so far, here are 20 more reasons that taking the time to build rapport and trust with customers will benefit everyone involved. Customers will:
- Listen to what the salesperson has to say in the demonstration
- Follow their advice and recommendations
- Pay less attention to negative comments they might have read online
- Be more honest in answering the salesperson’s questions
- Be more open to enjoying the entire shopping process
- Reduce the number of negative body language clues that the salesperson has to figure out
- Be more vocal and receptive to answering the salesperson’s questions
- Feel more confident about the salesperson’s promises and commitments
- Be more honest when giving the salesperson information they need
- Pay more attention to the salesperson’s demonstration on features
- Raise objections sooner so they’re easier for the salesperson to address
- Have fewer misunderstandings
- Move faster through the shopping process
- Be less price-focused
- Be more open to high-profit add-ons
- Feel comfortable asking for clarification when they are confused
- Become a friend
- Become a referral machine for the salesperson
- Be more flexible in the payment and reimbursement process
- BUY FROM YOU!
World-renowned sales coach and trainer Jack Daly said that selling is the transfer of trust. There is no doubt about the absolute value of rapport and trust with your customers. No one can argue that
trust beats price, quality, reputation, location and service.
The best way to implement this is to look at the first minutes of any customer visit as the “sweet spot” of the sales process. All salespeople need to step back and take a critical look at every single step they take during this period.
Other tips that will help salespeople put more emphasis on this time period are:
1. Take a few minutes to empty your head when you’ve finished with the previous customer.
Grab a water and/or a snack. Stopping and letting the world stop for a few minutes will help you be fresh and ready to start anew with the next customer.
2. Start with a blank piece of paper with each new customer and build the information that is specific to them.
What happened with the last interaction has nothing to do with the next one. If the last customer was rude and unpleasant to deal with, the memories and emotions of that must be wiped clean from your memory, with no carryover.
3. If you can’t determine how the customer prefers for you to work with them by what they say or their body language, ask them directly.
Each customer has a preferred way they like the salesperson to work with them and that will eliminate having to guess the best approach.
4. Be flexible in adjusting your style to that of your customer.
Customers like to work with and buy from people who are like them. If they prefer short, direct answers to questions, give them that. If they are analytical and like more detailed answers, give them that.
5. More than anything else, have fun.
Customers expect the worst when working with a salesperson, so when you can provide a fun atmosphere for them, the temperature will be much lower and more conducive to an open mind when it comes to buying.
Customers are people. Salespeople are people. It’s just people being together, having fun and finding the perfect product that fits in a customer’s budget.