Trust Paced Marketing and Sales
In the Article titled The Question of Trust, the basic principles of Trust nominated were:- The success of every marketing and sales activity is dependent on the concurrent establishment of an acceptable level of mutual Trust.
The DNA of Trust is comprised of 2 components, character and competence. Character has two elements of integrity and intent; the elements in competence are capabilities and results. This core is surrounded by 16 behaviors, encased in an outer layer of values and principles.
People in all facets of life assess the trustworthiness of themselves, and the business they represent, by their intentions. They assess the trustworthiness of others by their actions and results. The pace of progress for marketing and sales activities cannot exceed the pace of establishing an acceptable level of mutual Trust.
Businesses operate a Trust Account for every individual stakeholder – prospect, customer, supplier, distributor, shareholder, employee. Every marketing communication and sales activity will result in a deposit or withdrawal of Trust, and an updated Trust Account balance.
Definitions of Marketing and Sales.
There are many definitions of Marketing and Sales, and I favour the least complicated of all:-
–Marketing consists of all activities designed to convince individuals within the target market to initiate contact, and therefore includes web sites, brochures, advertising, events and displays.
–Sales consists of all activities where the seller initiates contact with individuals within the target market, and therefore includes outgoing telephone calls, face-to-face approaches, letters and proposals.
Peter Drucker summarized the challenge perfectly with “The aim of marketing is to make selling superfluous.” Until marketing is consistently achieving that aim, selling will continue to be a very necessary activity, and a major determinant of business success.
In the process of converting prospects to customers, a consistent contributor to the erosion of Trust, or the instant and permanent destruction of Trust, is the lack of congruence between marketing and sales activities and perceived attitudes.
Too often a sought-after prospect will respond favorably to a marketing activity, but when exposed to the organization’s sales tactics, the prospect feels like they are now dealing with an entirely different entity.
To expand on the definition of marketing above, the role of Trust-Paced Marketing is to build a reputation or a brand that inspires Trust within your target marketplace. One vital change in that marketplace, which did not exist 4 or 5 years ago, relates to the balance of knowledge about your products and services, between buyer and seller. The one word explanation is the internet.
Previously the buyer approached your marketplace relying on your marketing, and that of your competitors, to compile their knowledge and take a purchasing decision. Apart from a possible testimonial or feedback from family and friends, the buyer gathered information from the seller’s marketing activities, or by attending sales presentations.
Today, the buyer can evaluate your marketing claims against an almost limitless, and rapidly multiplying amount of information via blogs, social media sites, and commercial operations such as Morningstar for financial products.
The buyer can do a detailed evaluation of every aspect of your business and product offerings, without exposing their interest or initiating direct contact. And the exchange rate between deposits and withdrawals in their Trust Account applies. Take your web site content as an example. 99% may be meticulously correct and Trust building, but an incorrect claim in the other 1% can destroy that Trust instantly and permanently, particularly when exposed and “authenticated” via the internet blogs.
And you probably will not get to defend your marketing claim – even if correct.
Harsh, but that’s today’s reality.
The takeaway from this harsh reality is that a commitment to trustworthy marketing is more important than ever. Minor Trust-eroding issues that in previous times caused little or no bottom line damage, can escalate today into business altering events.
Trust- Paced Selling.
Trust-Paced Selling is not intended to replace the activities or steps nominated within the organisation’s current Sales Process.
Trust-Paced Selling is meant to pervade and penetrate the existing Sales Process, and the rationale behind it, and to act as a set of “guiding principles” and a measuring stick for all future evaluation and proposed amendments to the Sales Process. Trust-Paced Selling is not a sales tactic. Unless there is authentic commitment to the principles of Trust-Paced Selling at all levels of the organisation, unless it can co-exist culturally, your target market will perceive it as an attempt to deceive, and Trust will be the first casualty.
The Principles of Trust-Paced Selling.
The first principle of Trust-Paced Selling is to value the customer relationship above the next transaction.
This principle may involve the ultimate test of the salesperson’s commitment to Trust-Paced Selling. For the sake of the long term customer relationship, the salesperson may recommend a competitive supplier for the next transaction if that represents a better outcome for the customer.
2. Invert the Focus.
In truth, most salespeople focus on the interests of (1) themselves (2) their employer (3) the customer.
Trust-Paced Selling requires the salesperson to not only focus first on the customer, but always for the customer’s sake, not their’s or their employer’s.
Most selling presentations start with the emphasis on the seller’s expertise – displaying, proving, claiming leadership. Trust-Paced Selling requires the initial emphasis to display genuine interest in the buyer.
The single most powerful variable affecting trustworthiness is the perceived level of self-orientation of the seller.
Many world class companies prove the paradox that by being willing to put their customers’ interests ahead of their own, they achieve a better bottom line than if they had their own interests as their primary focus.
3. The 3C’s Selling Style.
–Collaborative. Trust-Paced Selling cannot co-exist with the combative, winners & losers, battle for control evident within many sales processes. Control of the process must be evenly distributed between buyer and seller – in perception and reality.
–Consistent. For Trust to flourish, every aspect of the salesperson’s approach must be consistent for every interaction. If more than one salesperson is involved, consistency in approach between the salespeople, including sales management if introduced, is equally important.
–Congruent. Congruency needs to be evident between every marketing initiative and every selling activity.
4. Extend the Time Perspective.
In assessing the value of a customer relationship, extend the time perspective beyond the short term, into the medium and long term.
Patience is not only a virtue, it is a business essential. Short term expediency should never outrank the lifetime value of a customer relationship.
5.Transparency in all dealings.
Contrary to the thinking behind manipulative selling processes, Trust-Paced Selling requires Transparency in all aspects at all times. If the customer asks a question on price, or raises an objection relating to a known product deficiency, the topic should be openly addressed at the time the customer dictates.
When is Trust most important?
In some buying circumstances Trust in the seller is relatively less important. These circumstances generally involve low cost, easily assessed, tangible products, with little likelihood of repeat business.
Conversely, in other circumstances, Trust takes on absolute “deal breaker” importance. This is particularly true when selling intangible, complex products and services – for example in financial services where the products are advice, opinion and experience.
Similarly in any selling environment involving mature age consumers, Trust is an upfront non-negotiable. When selling to mature age consumers, product centred approaches are less effective. As we age we are more attracted to meaningful experiences than gaining material goods.
The best illustration of this point is Retirement Accommodation, which in most circumstances is not a real estate “bricks and mortar” decision – it is a lifestyle experience decision centred on intangibles such as a sense of community, belonging, security, insurance for the future.
What lifestyle does the prospective resident want to experience, and who do they trust to deliver that experience? Trust Building Sales Process. As stated earlier, the Trust-Paced Selling principles are intended to interact with the steps of an existing sales process.
If there is no real compliance with a prescribed sales process, or as a means of reviewing the effectiveness of your process as currently nominated, here are the steps of our Trust Building Sales Process, and a brief explanation of the intent behind each:-
T – Talk to me.
R – Really listen.
U – Unanimous on Issues.
S – Share the future
T – Take action.
1. Talk to me.
Encourage the prospect to talk about what is important to them, their values and aspirations, and specifically their objectives for this current interaction. Resist the temptation to display your selling expertise or the competitive advantage of the organization you represent. You have the right to remain silent. Exercise it.
2. Really listen.
While gathering information in this step is vital to the Trust building effectiveness of the Process, information gathering is secondary to the emphasis “really listening” places on the buyer. This continues the buyer orientation to be maintained throughout each step. Good listening technique, and your genuine intent, earns you the right to be right – later.
3. Unanimous on Issues.
Before considering any attempt to propose solutions, it is imperative there is unanimous agreement on an understanding of the issues to be tackled. This agreement must be genuinely inclusive of all parties on the buyer’s side.
4. Share the future.
This step is designed to jointly envision how the buyer’s situation will look once all the issues are solved, and to create shared ownership of the outcome. Vital in this step is envisioning the value to the buyer, understanding implications and complexities, and introducing acceptance of the actions required.
5. Take action.
Provided the first 4 steps of this Process have been handled effectively, the logical conclusion is a commitment to progress with the actions required to achieve the value for the buyer and to create the future situation envisaged.
Actions speak louder than words.
While much of this article has concentrated on listening and talking to maximize the pace of establishing mutual trust, as we have witnessed in several high profile examples, it is the behavior of an individual or organization that determines their ability to build or destroy Trust. “You can’t talk your way out of a situation you behaved yourself into.”