Making the sale, especially when your small business offers products and services to other businesses, demands more than being good at what you do. It definitely requires building professional relationships. To do that, you must earn your customers’ trust.
There’s no scientific formula for earning trust. It requires time, patience, and honest effort.
Here are some suggestions to help you lay a foundation of trust with your potential customers:
Engage in a conversation, not a sales pitch.
A hard-sell approach can make a bad first impression, so don’t come on too strong at networking events. Show interest in learning about your prospects’ businesses. Demonstrate curiosity—listen to them more than you talk about yourself.
Ask questions and learn about their situations and challenges before jumping in with how wonderful your products and services are. When the time is right, share a simple description of the problems you solve for your customers.
No matter reason you have for meeting with prospects or customers, always prepare in advance to show that you respect their time and demonstrate ways that you care about meeting their needs.
Have their best interests in mind—always.
When proposing solutions to customers, make sure you’re directing them to those that are truly most beneficial to them. If you don’t have a solution at a price point a customer needs, be honest.
Keep your promises.
When you tell your prospects or customers that you’ll do something for them, make sure you deliver on your promises. Finish what you start, follow up when you say you will, meet deadlines, show up on time, and make sure that the solutions you’ve provided meet the expectations you’ve given your customers.
Don’t disrespect your competition.
Badmouthing competitors will likely make you appear unprofessional and petty—and it probably won’t make your products and services seem any more attractive to prospective customers.
Go the extra mile.
You can also earn trust by doing more than just fulfilling your business obligations to your clients. Whether emailing them a link to a blog post that touches on a topic you were discussing with them at your last meeting, writing recommendations for them on LinkedIn, or referring a potential customer to them, you can show you genuinely care about their success.
The common thread in all of these trust-earning tips is putting the customer first. By approaching your interactions with an authentic effort to help rather than sell, you can build goodwill and gain the trust needed to make your business relationships a win-win.
As you’re developing your sales strategy, reach out to SCORE to connect with a mentor. SCORE mentors can guide you and provide feedback. With expertise in all aspects of starting and growing a small business, SCORE mentoring is a valuable —and free! — resource that can help you succeed.