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Seller to adviser: How to inject trust into your selling strategy

If the old sales adage is correct (and I can tell you now, it is) and ‘customers buy from people they trust’, there won’t be much of a high street banking presence left in Britain the way things are going.

The mis-selling scandal and the financial crisis means that consumer confidence in bankers is at an all-time low. In fact, according to research conducted by consumer group Which?, bankers are less trusted than estate agents.

Which? says that there is an urgent need for a “fundamental change” in banking culture and practice. Banks also face the challenge of restoring their reputation and regaining the trust of skeptical consumers. Spare a thought for Anthony Browne, the new chief executive of the British Bankers’ Association (BBA), who has tasked himself with doing just that.

There is, of course, a reason why an entire sector would focus efforts on restoring trust between itself and the general public: Customers are starting to vote with their feet…

Banks have a big problem on their hands: supermarkets. The family friendly bank is no more, long live the family friendly Tesco or Marks and Spencer where financial services are now readily available. Couple this with the rise of the popular online loan firms like Wonga or Lending Stream, and it becomes fairly obvious why high street banks are having a tough time connecting with their customers.

What this whole debacle does is throw a bright light on the issue of trust, because as a sales professional unless your selling strategy involves becoming a trusted adviser to your prospects and customers, you’re operating in the dark ages.

When it comes to selling in the modern world, transparency, credibility and knowledge are the fundamentals that can make or break a deal. Be honest, do your customers truly trust you? Put a different way, when was the last time a customer or prospect called up and asked you a question related to the product or service you sell and you had a conversation that didn’t necessarily lead to a sale?

When customers trust you, they tend to recommend you.

Here’s a great example of this…

I was in the market to buy a new car last year, so I spent some time wandering around showrooms and flicking through brochures. Not being a massive car fanatic, I knew what I wanted, I just didn’t know where it was. I had a range of experiences with car salesmen, some were very pushy and desperate to sell (immediate exit), while others were simply looking to strike up a conversation and ask me questions that would help them to find the right car for me. One in particular stood out. He asked me what I wanted, what I liked, and the kind of money I wanted to spend. At this point, he could have sold to me, but he chose not to. All he wanted to do was give me all the information I needed to buy the car. He was so incredibly knowledgeable about the cars that he sold that I trusted him completely with the questions I had. To this day, I call him up (direct on his mobile) if I have a question about my car, or any other car for that matter. He is my ‘go-to guy’ and I’ve passed his number on to quite a few other people now too.

Here are a couple of key fundamentals that will help you to become a trusted adviser, and while the high street banks may well be suffering at the hands of the City fat cats, if they want to build that trusted high street presence up once again, they should take note…

Be open and adaptable. How flexible are you?

Breaking down how a product or brand is being perceived is a tough task. At the moment it is fair to say consumers are distrustful of larger financial institutions. This is being shown by the growing trend in supermarket banking. Supermarkets are championing what they are good at, being open and accessible which people respond well too, ultimately because they trust them. As a sales person it is essential to be open and adaptable, providing information about your product to the client in a way that works for them. This also leads to ‘collaboration’, because if you can stop thinking about the seller (one side of the table) and the buyer (the other side of the table) as fighting against each other, you can reach a state of unity. Build your product or service around what it is the customer wants – work with the buyer to reach the ultimate goal, which is a closed deal.

Never forget, ‘knowledge is power’

Coined in 1597 by Sir Francis Bacon this is a power statement that is still totally relevant in wider society as well as the selling environment. With the growth of the internet, knowledge is only a click away. Previously if a customer had an idea of what they wanted they would seek advice from a sales representative, who they would trust as the expert. These kind of opportunities have shrunk and consumers may only come into contact with a sales rep after they have conducted their own personal research. A culture has emerged in which people question the advice they receive, fuelling the success of websites like moneysavingexpert.com. In order to compete as a sales person you need to show you have greater knowledge and personal experience of the product you are selling.

Why not use social media as a channel to connect with your customers and showcase your products? Tap into their networks and become that right-hand man or woman that provides solutions to problems.

As I showed with the car example earlier, even those with no knowledge of a subject (whether it’s miles to the gallon or interest rates) can do their homework online to become an ‘overnight expert’. It’s important for the sales professional to be up to speed all the time.

Getting caught out puts a massive dent in trust. Make people want to come back to you and ask questions about the services you provide or sell, and moreover, make them want to tell their friends!

At Natural Training we understand the value of trust with a client, because we understand that building solid, long-term relationships with prospects is the key to successful selling.

If you want help or advice speak to us here at Natural Training where we can help you use trust to bolster your existing sales techniques. Call the team on 0207 043 1582 or email hello@naturaltraining.com.

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