People only buy from people they trust. So, can you train sales reps to be trustworthy?
See, trust is the topmost catalyst of buying and is in the center of establishing relationships with prospects. If a buyer trusts a rep, they believe what the rep is saying. They believe that the rep’s best interest is the customer’s best interest.
In most sales organizations, soft skills training is mostly centered on learning scripts, pulling the right content from the database for each selling scenario, and other skills that can be measure definitely.
Even when trustworthiness is the top motivator of sales, a lot of training programs have no module or portion in place that’s consciously designed to promote and hone trustworthiness in the sales force.
Of course, it’s tough to quantify trustworthiness, so the best way to go about incorporating trustworthiness training into programs is by breaking it down to more specific traits and training sales people for it.
So, can you train salespeople to be trustworthy? Yes. Definitely, yes.
In this post, I will list core traits of trustworthy sales professionals, a training activity that can be incorporated into programs and some recommended reading for each trait.
Let’s get started.
Traits of a Trustworthy Salesperson | Train Sales Reps to Be Trustworthy
A compassionate salesperson is caring—someone who really listens and cares about a prospect’s problem. Faking compassion is not worth it at all because people are amazing in spotting fake behavior. Even when prospects don’t call you out, dishonesty is easily palpable even subconsciously causing prospects to never fully give you their trust.
Compassion is being a solution to someone’s problems. It can be lending a hand or helping them solve their problems upfront. In sales, it’s offering the best solution to their problem AFTER you’ve given prospects the time to discuss their problem with you.
Like Anthony Iannarino said,
Compassion is feeling in your heart what the other person feels in their heart.—@iannarino
Compassion builds trust because people only disclose their feelings and problems fully to those they believe will help them.
Activity: Active listening exercise: Talker and Listener (at least 2 participants)
Talker describes where they want to go on holiday without mentioning destination. They will talk about activities, food, weather, but nothing that outright gives away the location. Listener taps on their active listening skills by carefully following what the talker is saying, what the talker is implying and what is not being said at all. After five minutes, the listener will give a summary of the criteria the talker mentioned—emphasizing their needs and wants—and then take a guess.
In a minute, discuss the listener’s assumptions based on what the talker disclosed. Review what they missed and what they were able to extract.
Swap roles and repeat.
Book: Listening as a Martial Art: Master Your Listening Skills for Success by Cash Nickerson
Humility is severely underrated in sales and in business as a whole. The champions, the winners, the high-octane sellers are emphasized and celebrated. A lot of times, salespeople are pulled in toward this culture of doubling down on individual achievement.
Modesty and candidness are often looked upon with criticism. That doesn’t change the fact that when it matters, humility is a golden trait of a trustworthy salesperson.
Seasoned salespeople who actually get sales know that braggadocio hardly get you anywhere—they put off buyers because over the phone or a short meeting, bravado translates to arrogance. Buyers do not like argumentative salespeople that are out to disprove their hardened beliefs just to make a sale.
Buyers like their own ideas—that’s a rule. A humble salesperson will integrate the buyer’s ideas into the solutions presented.
Humble salespeople have the capacity to position themselves as authorities without talking down on the buyer. This way, they can be trusty advisers and not only people who sell.
Trust that stems from humility is not a one-sided coin.
Think: How do you begin to trust someone? When they show a bit of weakness and vulnerability. When they’re willing to risk their ego to get in the door. This takes huge amounts of humility.
Be open to be corrected. Be willing to discuss and develop solutions with the buyer.
Activity: Admitting Weaknesses: Listing What You Can Change (minimum 3 participants)
Humility is about admitting weaknesses—that you don’t know something, that you need help, and that you have room to improve. In this exercise, ask the participants to write their weaknesses on a piece of paper no matter how small or big they are. Only ask them to write what they are comfortable to write. Now ask the rest of the group (make the groups small) to suggest solutions and ways to improve. The role of the facilitator is crucial in that they need to ensure that the solutions suggested are actionable and not personal.
This activity is not a one and done deal. It should be incorporated into team activities and be regulated as needed.
Book: Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling by Edgar Schein
People trust those who know what they’re doing. But here’s a dose of truth: You might know what you’re doing but you may appear not to.
Confidence is key in communicating competence that signals trustworthiness.
A confident salesperson is someone who believes in their solution and their ability to help the customer.
Bear in mind that confidence is not arrogance. Arrogance can stem from a lot of places—the belief that you should get a sale because you’ve always done so, the belief that your background gives you the right to push your way through a sale, and so on.
In many ways, overconfidence is what drives salespeople to oversell—they do not think that the buyer will see value in their solution and in the same way, they are lazy and unable to communicate value effectively. When you’re overselling, you are setting yourself and your company up for failure because you enter a precarious situation where you are setting extremely high expectations that the solution might not meet in reality.
Confident salespeople are also humble in that they are open to feedback but are still comfortable in discussing their own ideas.
Preparation, training, and a lot of external factors affect confidence in salespeople. From that, we can say that training for confidence is not a one-day thing. However, there are activities that can foster confidence in the sales force.
Activity: Confidence Building: Simple Tips
Building confidence is long-term but incorporating good confidence-building habits into your sales force’s daily grind is something you can start with. If you’re a trainer or manager, you do not have to be very involved in these tips and exercises, but it helps if you do your best to encourage them to do all.
These are things that impact their moods as a whole. Confident salespeople feel good about themselves.
1. Honesty List.
Make three lists: one for achievements, one for strengths and another for the things you like about yourself.
2. Dress better.
3. Drink less coffee and exercise more.
4. Sleep at least six hours each work day.
5. Set monthly, quarterly and yearly non-quota goals. Constantly assess and create a plan to achieve these goals. They can be losing weight, more sleep, reading more, and so on.
6. Do something nice for others.
Print out this list and distribute to your sales force.
Book: Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges by Amy Cuddy
The world of business is obsessed with appearances—but only the earnest go miles. Too many sales professionals focus on appearing trustworthy. That’s far from the point!
The main key to earning a buyer’s trust is following through on every single thing you say, every syllable that comes out of your mouth.
Some simple things: if you say you’ll call at 2 p.m., you will call at 2 p.m. Call ten minutes earlier if you can. Show that you’re willing to be put on hold. This demonstrates dependability and consistency—two things all salespeople should strive to have as personal hallmarks.
If you’re thinking, “Sheesh, those are such minor things. Nothing that can’t be fixed by having a good call.”
The sales process does not stop. The minutes leading to the call is part of the call and is reflective on you and the product you are selling.
At the beginning of your relationship with buyers and prospects, they have very little information and experience to hold on to in terms of judging you for your trustworthiness and credibility. Every small detail counts.
That translates into the call itself. be careful not to oversell and only promise things you can definitely, definitely, definitely deliver. I’m talking about setting dates, demos, content, discounts, and anything else you provide the customer.
But hold up! These things don’t mean that you will be tailing your customer. No. You are building trust so you can lead your customer. Consistent, trustworthy salespeople are leaders.
Once you get their trust, you can confidently make them follow your lead.
Activity: Building Consistency: Following Through
Following through is a huge hurdle for a lot of people, even outside sales. So tough that a whole industry have been built around discipline and productivity.
There’s no shortcut to following through, but having the discipline to only promise what can be delivered can be honed by setting goals and learning to follow through for yourself.
Consistency is a mix of honesty, discipline and the eagerness to help. When you set goals that improve yourself and set out to make those goals, you are building consistency.
Have your team set personal goals and check up on them consistently. For now, the accountability is monitored by another person (you), but by habit, it will become their nature to follow through and be honest with what they can and cannot do.
Book: The Brand Who Cried Wolf: Deliver on Your Company’s Promise and Create Customers for Life by Scott Deming
What did we miss? What are the other traits of trustworthy salespeople? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
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