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Establishing Credibility

by David Brock on February 17th, 2015

In prospecting, one of the most important and difficult things to do is establishing credibility.  But without this, moving forward, trying to get any type of engagement is impossible.

Too often, sales people are oblivious to this—this applies to the really bad sales people who don’t deserve to be selling.  Or they do a really poor job establishing credibility, this applies mostly to mediocre sales people.

The challenge is, how do we establish credibility-or at least enough to get the customer to respond?

The classic mistake sales people make in thinking about establishing credibility, is “We have to talk about ourselves, our company, and our product to establish credibility.”

As a result, we see prospecting emails or phone calls that are all about us–who I am.  “I’m a fantastic guy, you should really be interested in talking to me, I have years of experience, I’ve been assigned to your account…”

Probably this is closely followed by, “Our company is a world leader in, We are the best at, We are humongous with all these revenues……”

Probably closely followed by, “We make these really cool products, They are the best in the world, We are the known innovator, We received these awards.”

You probably recognize the formulaic approach.  A variation of this is in every prospecting email, every prospecting phone call.  Often, the company’s collateral follows at least the last two parts of this.  And, if by some chance, you invited them to propose a solution, the first 80% of the presentation focuses on these three issues.

All in the misguided view that to establish credibility, we have to prove ourselves, focusing on who we are, who our company is, and what we sell.

People who do this, leave it to the customer to connect the dots on whether it has any meaning to them.

Great sales people know that establishing credibility is completely different.  Simultaneously, it has virtually nothing to do about them, their company, their products, but at the same time it is all about them–but in a very different way.

Great sales people establish their credibility by demonstrating their knowledge of the customer–the enterprise and the individual, the issues they are facing or likely to be facing.  They engage by asking about the customer’s business, sharing relevant stories and data about critical business issues.  Their credibility is cemented when the customer thinks, “They really know their stuff, they know about us, they care.”

All this happens before a product is ever mentioned.

Great sales people also know the other things they must do to establish credibility.

They have a strong LinkedIn profile.  They know one of the first things a customer might do is look at their profile.

Likewise, they do their research on the customer–individuals and enterprises, before the initial contact.

They don’t rush the process, though they always have a high sense of urgency.  They recognize, that until the customer views them as credible, the customer won’t engage at the level they should.  They may talk to you, but they are wary or apprehensive.

Great sales people focus on their personal credibility and don’t rely on their organizational credibility.  They know this is important because people buy from people.

Mediocre sales people have to rely on the credibility of the company they work for, because their ability to establish personal credibility isn’t great.

Great sales people know they have to continue to reinforce and build their credibility with the customer, becoming trusted.  They know they never can violate that trust.

Mediocre sales people think the credibility lies in their company and their products.  This is why they continue to focus on pitching their company and products.

But mediocre sales people are forever disadvantaged by the sales person that has established great personal credibility and value to the customer.

What are you doing to establish and reinforce your credibility with every customer engagement?

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  1. Hei Dave!

    I think that great ethos and great pathos leads to great credibility. I learned that from chaper 2 in the book “Communication at work – how to manage, lead and influence. By Wortman and Becker”.

    Short story:
    I printed out 3 of your blog posts yesterday and read them on the way to a very important meating today with a prospect – high officials. Thank you again, because they are going to cut all future cooperation with their suppliers today and do business with Centric Care (I like to use the word us, not me – eventhoug they buy from me).

    Yes, I got the point, I will definitely work on my LinkedIn profile. Thank you!

    Med vennlig hilsen (sincerely/regards),
    Tom Erik Løkken

    • Tom Erik: Thanks for the great note. Congrats on winning the deal! What’s the commission I get for the inspiration I gave you 😉 (Well, I think the nice gifts you sent covers that) Regards, Dave

  2. A friend of mine opined that too often our approach to sales is something like “Mr. Prospect, I’m going to start talking. Stop me when you hear something you like.”

    Many a truth is said in jest. At the end of the day, the fundamental rule of thumb is that our conversations need to be about the customer or prospect, not about ourselves or our company. And no matter how sincere we may be with the “how’s the wife, kids, golf game, mistress, etc.”, presumably we’ll have something important, insightful and valuable to say.

    That’s risky and takes hard work, but it’s the only legit way to build cred with the customer.

    Thanks for the treatment of this important subject.

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