Strategies: Building trust in a skeptical world

Denver-Based Sales Leadership Development Available Nationwide

Posted: July 23, 2013

Colleen Stanley

We live in an Information Age and bad news is everywhere. There are stories about wealth managers embezzling clients’ money, corporate America not looking out for shareholders and the government overstepping boundaries.

Is there more scandal today? No, there’s always been scandal. The difference is that access to bad news is easier than ever before. You have TV, the Internet, social media, magazines and more.

So how does bad news affect the sales profession? For one thing, prospects are more skeptical. They wonder if you’re the real deal or just another professional promise maker. Are you like the person they just heard about on TV or the Internet that took advantage of someone?

Successful salespeople recognize the dynamics created by the Information Age. They also realize that building trust and credibility always has been important in closing and retaining business. It’s even more important in a cynical, information-loaded world.

Here are three ways top sellers build trust and credibility with prospects, customers and peers.

• Be the real deal.

Most salespeople are genuine and authentic. The problem is that they often don’t appear as such during a sales meeting. They think they must say and do things that will impress the prospect.

As a result, they look and sound like sales robots, spewing out obvious sales techniques such as, “Wouldn’t you agree?” Or, “If we could, would you want to move forward?”

And how about this one: “How does that make you feel?” It’s not the way you talk in your everyday chats, which is why the conversation sounds stilted, canned and disingenuous.

Show up and talk like your prospects. Get rid of the formal language and demeanor. Be the real deal and have real conversations. “Let’s see if this makes sense for you.” Or, “If I was you, I’d be more than a little frustrated.”

Poor preparation for a sales meeting also causes lack of authenticity. A salesperson who hasn’t done enough planning will be nervous at the meeting, and worried more about the questions he’ll be asked than the ones he should ask.

When a prospect asks a question or states an objection, the unprepared salesperson stumbles over the answer and appears uncomfortable. This type of response creates even more doubts in the mind of an already doubtful prospect.

The real-deal salesperson follows a sales playbook. They’re diligent about pre-call planning. Because they have a process, they’re not sitting in a meeting wondering what is the next step.

They know exactly where they are in the process and thus are free to focus on their prospect, not themselves. They’re present and real. They’re authentic.

• Admit mistakes.

If you’ve been in sales long enough, you’re going to mess up. (And if you aren’t messing up, you’re probably playing it safe or not showing up. Neither approach helps you hit revenue goals.)

Admitting mistakes means you get rid of “but, but, but” language. You know what we’re talking about. The company screws up and the salesperson is dealing with the problem. The excuse-driven salesperson says something like, “I am really sorry that we got that delivery to you late BUT our suppliers are running behind.” Or, “I apologize for the incorrect invoicing BUT we have this new accounting software.”

Admit your shortcomings without excuses or blame. Your customers don’t want or need to hear the sad story behind the mistake. Take responsibility and fix the problem. When you own up, trust and credibility go up.

• Follow up and follow through.

Do what you say you’re going to do.

Here’s a quick quiz: Review your calendar and look at promises made to colleagues, clients or prospects. Did you follow through on your commitments? Or did someone have to remind you to do so?

Top salespeople are reliable and responsible. Both qualities help build trust because people know they can count on you.

When you decide to be a salesperson, you make a commitment to do consistent business-development activities. There are CRM tools to help you manage sales activities. Sales managers design a proven roadmap for success. And yet, sales managers’ No. 1 complaint is inconsistent business-development efforts.

Think about it. If you’re not willing to honor your word to your sales manager, there’s a good chance you’re not honoring your word in your personal and professional lives.

Follow up and follow through. That builds trust and credibility.

Be the real deal, eliminate excuses and honor your word. These three characteristics build trust in a doubtful sales world.

Good Selling!

Colleen Stanley

Permission is granted to reprint this article in print or electronically as long as the paragraph above is included and contact information is provided to Thank you.  Click here to download as a PDF.

Colleen Stanley is president of SalesLeadership Inc., a business development consulting firm specializing in sales and sales management training. The company provides programs in prospecting, referral strategies, consultative sales training, sales management training, emotional intelligence and hiring/selection. She is the author of “Emotional Intelligence For Sales Success,” can be reached at or 303-708-1128 .