9 Tips to Build Trust and Confidence with Prospects

Trust is one of the most important factors in closing a deal. More than half of decision-makers say that trustworthiness is the most important quality they look for in a salesperson.

While the idea of trust can sometimes feel a little vague, the good news is that establishing trust with a prospect isn’t magic. It can be accomplished through preparation, strong listening skills, and empathy.

To build trust, make these actions part of your sales process.

1. Conduct thorough research on prospects and stakeholders

Prospects want salespeople to care about them as individuals. They’re wary of sales representatives who only see them as numbers on a list. To demonstrate trust, you need to do research that goes beyond looking at the “about” page on the prospect’s webpage.

In addition, learn as much as you can about the stakeholders you will be talking to. Find out about their role and what their main responsibilities are. Ask your network about the stakeholder’s personality, decision-making style, and communication preferences. Public social media accounts offer a wealth of information. The goal is to congratulate the stakeholder on a recent promotion, or bond over the fact that you share an alma mater.

2. Establish your industry expertise and past experiences

To build trust quickly, give an elevator pitch on why you’re someone who can help the prospect: “I have worked in this industry for ten years, helping hundreds of companies with x. Some companies I’ve worked with include…”

Establishing industry expertise isn’t just about reciting your resume. You need to show your expertise through your vocabulary, the questions you ask, and your familiarity with industry trends.

Ie: “I know a lot of other companies in this space are responding to this trend. How are you approaching this?”

3. Demonstrate your knowledge about the prospect’s business history

You should go into your initial conversations armed with substantial information about the prospect’s business history.

Instead of asking “what are you working on now?”, you want to be able to say, “I know you just rolled out a new product.” “What challenges have come up during the rollout?”

4. Understand the prospect’s needs and goals

Look at your pitch through the lens of these needs and goals. If your pitch isn’t directly addressing these core considerations, jettison it.
You want to be able to adjust your pitch if the prospect’s needs are different from what you anticipated. When listening to the prospect, remain attuned to what they’re saying about their current business situation. Ask questions that go beyond surface-level analysis of the prospect’s current situation. Use the information you’ve gathered to refine your pitch.

Some examples of questions to ask:

  • What is your biggest goal for the next year? The next three years?
  • What unanticipated problems have you experienced with [new initiative]?
  • How are you planning to address [challenge] that many other companies are dealing with?
  • What have you done to address [challenge] that hasn’t gone as well as you hoped?

5. Respond to all questions honestly

Honesty may seem like a given for many, salespeople often have the reputation of putting themselves and a deal first, at all costs. Understanding the value of open and honest communication is the key to establishing credibility with your existing customers and prospects as well. This can be quite challenging especially when you’re meeting quotas at the end of the day. But failing your client’s expectations means losing an opportunity for a repeat sale which is more profitable than landing new accounts.

6. Schedule a meeting early on

Schedule a meeting with your prospect as early in the process as you can. If it’s not possible to meet in person, ask to schedule a video conference.
Your body language is key to establishing trust. Practice giving a sturdy handshake, making eye contact, and having trustworthy body language. Displaying good body language via video conferencing is often a little different from in-person interactions. Before getting on a conference call, observe yourself and calibrate where you need to look in order to give the illusion of eye contact.

7. Share stories about past customer experiences

In conversations with prospects, show social proof through storytelling. Although it’s nice to have big-name brands in your stories, it’s more important to craft a compelling story. Talk about a problem that a customer faced and tell a story about how your product was the solution.

Include enough detail to add a sense of realism to the story, but not so much that you end up getting bogged down. People want to hear about other people, so include relatable characters.

8. Acknowledge any previous bad experiences the prospect has had

Your prospect may have had bad experiences with other vendors in your space, and that experience is impacting their ability to trust you.

Instead of trying to ignore this potential roadblock, acknowledge it. Ask questions about the prospect’s bad experiences. You want to be able to show that you’re different and more trustworthy. Knowing where things went awry previously can help you avoid pitfalls.

Here’s one way to approach this issue: “I understand that you’ve tried similar solutions before and weren’t satisfied with the results. Can you explain why the solution didn’t work as you planned? I want to make sure that our solution is a good fit for you before we continue.”

9. Show respect for the prospect’s time and maintain professionalism

Little things can be critical in order to build trust. Show up to meetings on time (or early) and always thank the prospect for their time. Follow through on all of your commitments and demonstrate that you are someone who is easy and enjoyable to work with. If they ask a question that catches you off-guard, don’t waste their time by coming up with a nonsensical answer. Say that you will research it and get back to them ASAP.

By practicing these habits, you can prove your expertise and honesty, showing prospects that you can be trusted. Once you build trust, the path to a sale will start to open up.

James Meincke

Director of Marketing @ CloserIQ. Previously Recruiter @ ManpowerGroup & Freelance Social Media Strategist. University of Wisconsin Journalism & Strategic Communication Grad.