What you should know about building trust

During one of the most brutal battles of World War I, the fighting stopped for one particular evening. Christmas Eve. Men on both sides of the battle lines hunkered down in their cold fox holes for at least one night of peace.

Soon, a Christmas carol was heard floating on the cold air across the contested ground. The language was different, but everyone knew the tune and soon both sides were singing together. Before the evening was over several of the men emerged from their muddy trenches, met in “no man’s land,” and exchanged greetings and even humble Christmas gifts with their enemies.

If battle-hardened men who were in the midst of trying to conquer each other’s territory can find common ground in no man’s land, then certainly we salespeople can do the same thing on the showroom floor, at the executive desk, or the dining room table.

Finding that common ground is critical to building a level of trust that lowers sales resistance. During this early segment of the sales process, you should search for areas of interest you share with each new person you meet. The supply of topics is practically endless. For example, family, the weather, sports, hobbies, or current events are natural choices in consumer sales. If you’re in business-to-business sales, you can always ask those questions as well as questions about their company, products or industry.

Because of the potential for highly-charged emotions, I recommend that you always avoid seeking commonality in two areas: religion and politics, unless that’s how you and your prospect met.  For some people, there just is no common ground on these subjects. You either agree one hundred percent with their view or you create a potential mine field of lost opportunity. Those are battles you should choose not to fight because you just can’t win them.

In those rare cases where you just can’t seem to find commonality, create some. Humor is an excellent tool for this purpose. Don’t be afraid to use a light-hearted approach, even if your customer is showing a bit of tension. Here’s an easy-going ice-breaker for a visit with a couple.

“John and Mary, I’m curious, how did you two meet?” Sometimes just the question itself can start a thaw. The answer to that question, for example, is almost always a humorous one. He might say, “Oh, I picked her up in a bar. Ha-ha.” This would probably be quickly followed by her reply of, “You did not!” and a mild poke in the shoulder. Or, the woman might say “Oh, he showed up at the back door and mom said I could keep him.”

Without realizing it, the customer has helped you break the ice and start the warm up. For example, the how did you meet question often leads to brief comments about their dating and courtship. That friendly chatter usually brings up all kinds of warm feelings. The comfort level between salesperson and prospect grows right along with those feelings. They open up a part of their lives to you. Because you make the effort to find or build commonality, your customer opens up personal “turf” that few other salespeople ever see. With very little effort you’re suddenly a friend of the family!

In a business situation, you could ask, “How did you get started with the company?” Your potential client could be new to the firm or they could have worked their way up to the purchasing department from a mailroom position. Most people enjoy talking about themselves and their accomplishments. The more they talk, the more potential you have for finding commonality.

Never forget: customers want to like you. They want to trust you. Do your part and they’ll always do theirs to meet you halfway. When trust builds, sales resistance crumbles.

Learn more ways to lower sales resistance with our “Sell It Today, Sell It Now” audio CD!

This information is copyrighted by Tom Hopkins International, Inc. for reprint permission, contact Judy Slack (judys@tomhopkins.com).

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