Last week, I traveled to Indiana for a product training session. Before I started my presentation, I already knew I had a big hurdle to overcome: most of the sales managers in the audience also carried my competitors’ products. I was the underdog, and I knew I had to gain their trust. How do you gain the trust of customers in a business setting?
1. Establish the human element.
Rather than begin my speech by talking about my product, I opened with the story of how I founded Equator. I had seen my wife too busy with laundry to go on outings with our family, and was inspired to bring combo washer-dryers to the United States to help us and other families have more free time to spend together. By sharing this story, I gave the sales managers something they could relate to — whether it’s having a family or spending too much time doing household chores!
Showcase the human element when you’re talking with customers, colleagues or staff. This allows them to see you as a person, not just a business executive selling a product for your own gain.
2. Establish your expertise.
Once I gave the audience something they could relate to, I outlined my qualifications so that they knew without a doubt that they could trust my company. I told them that I had spent 20+ years developing these products, and was the inventor who had filed the patent and closely monitored their production. I addressed their hesitations by reassuring them that our products are made in China, but I oversee every aspect of this process. In fact, I had just come back from a trip to the China plant a few weeks ago!
Outline your expertise clearly and in concrete terms for potential customers. This illustrates that others have placed their trust in you, and showcases that you have the expertise to deliver on your promises.
3. Establish your accountability.
Then, the sales managers asked the question people always tend to have for me: What happens if my machine breaks down? Equator prides itself in top-notch appliances, and we have a robust service program to ensure our customers’ needs are met quickly and effectively. But in the rare case that our service division isn’t able to resolve the issue, I tell customers to contact me.
During the training session, I held up my business card to illustrate my accountability. The audience immediately saw that the card only listed one number: my cell phone number. Sure, I sometimes get calls from different time zones (sometimes at 5 a.m. Houston time!) but it’s my role as CEO to be responsible for my customers’ satisfaction. My personal accountability also explains why I often attend these training sessions rather than send a sales team member to lead the presentation.
Stand by your product or service, and make sure you customers know they can hold you accountable if they’re unsatisfied.
After my presentation, I gained a few new sales, and a trip with the group to the RV Hall of Fame (check out the photo above). But the most valuable thing I gained was the trust of people who work in one of the main industries I serve.
The lesson: Business is all about establishing trust. Be authentic, transparent and honest with your customers so that you can develop long-term relationships with them. And as you’re working with these customers, always remember that your goal is to serve them, not rake in the profit.
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