One of my favorite LinkedIn blog posts from last year was the State of Sales Report. I really enjoy reading about how my own experiences compare with those of fellow sales professionals. Lately, I’ve been thinking about that report a lot, because it was written long before the COVID-19 crisis, and I wonder how much of those findings still ring true in our current environment. So much has changed for my organization – learning how others are navigating this change is both valuable and comforting.
One factoid that sticks in my mind from that report is the importance of “trust” in closing deals. It was ranked #1, even more important that ROI and price. Respondents also identified it as the most important factor that decision makers look for in a salesperson. Personally, I’d bet that those findings are even more true today.
Within the security industry, many of the companies we serve are implementing changing business models and facing unprecedented security challenges. Budgets in some markets are tight with no room for error, in others new opportunities have come to light. In any case, customers must have total confidence that the security solution provider they hire will get it right the first time, within budget, and that their solutions will deliver as promised. How do we establish that trust with customers and prospects, now that COVID restrictions have made that critical human-to-human relationships so much harder to develop?
Here are four areas that salespeople can focus on to help build trust:
I get it…”branding” is one of those buzzwords that’s usually the domain of your marketing team. As a salesperson, that’s just not something you’re overly concerned with on a day-to-day basis. But during this pandemic, when opportunities to personally interact with prospects and customers are limited, every single touchpoint – your emails, website, social media posts and profiles, presentation decks, proposals – take on greater significance. They form a cumulative impression of what you, and your company, are like to work with. And why they should trust you.
Each of these vehicles are an opportunity to offer consistency in branding. The more that you remain consistent and true to brand, the more trustworthy you and your company appear. This is so important right now, because you want your customers to understand that even if you are currently working remotely, and they’re zooming with you instead of meeting with you in person, you are still fully and accurately representing your organization as a whole. They will still benefit from the full power of your team.
Consistency in branding is best accomplished by providing salespeople with a complete template for your proposal document and making sure they understand how to use it. There must be enough opportunity for flexibility in company information selectable for presentation and customization so that communications are personal and opportunity-appropriate, while preserving the aesthetics and over-arching messaging that defines your company’s brand. Software can help with this, particularly if sales and marketing communications are managed through a centralized sales management software platform. Such sales software can keep individuals from over-riding certain font styles, images, verbiage and settings, require inclusion of company defined text, avoid editing or exclusion of company legal terms and conditions, all reducing the likelihood that a sales person will “go rogue,” bypassing the use of company templates in favor of their own, off-brand design. Simultaneously, the definition of a proposal document containing a menu of pre-defined graphically pleasing, brand specific pages, containing company information, service definitions, exclusions, clarifications and legal terms and conditions, saves tons of time for salespeople, making it much easier and more efficient to get proposals into the hands of prospects and customers. (For more on what your branding is saying to your customers, click here.)
Transparency Regarding COVID-19 Precautions and Policies
You sell security and life safety systems. It stands to reason that customers may want to understand what steps your company is taking to keep them safe, and to keep your employees safe. They may even choose to emulate some of what you’re doing.
Lead by example. Clearly define your COVID-19 policies and best practices and put them in writing. Share policies on your website. In email communications. On social media. And as part of your proposal materials. For example, have you increased your remote support capabilities? How does your company handle cleanliness and distancing concerns during installations? What is your policy regarding masks or other PPE? Are you leveraging technology to help with health-related security measures?
More so than for many other products and services, selling security and life safety system involves selling “trust.” Openly displaying your concern for health and safety, as well as your expertise in executing effective policies, can help earn it.
At first it may have been more of a novelty, but webinar meetings and screen sharing capabilities, have proven to be a technology tool we will continue to lean on long after the pandemic has passed. Truth be told, when it comes to discussing and presenting sales options, virtual get-togethers can be every bit as effective as in-person meetings. There are fewer distractions. You have your customer’s dedicated attention. Virtual meetings save time and money as you can bring together stakeholders from multiple locations and meet more often.
But establishing trust – and rapport – with your customers via this medium requires an understanding of how to leverage webinar technology most effectively. Static power-point presentations and one-way sales dialogue won’t do the trick. Learn how to make your webinars as collaborative and dynamic as possible. For example, have your customer take you on a site walk-through with their camera. Collaborate through a screen share to design the project together using WeSuite’s QuoteAnywhere and Site Survey tool, which simultaneously builds the estimate as you layout devices. Ask lots of questions and listen carefully to the needs expressed. Make sure you can see each other throughout the call. Take advantage of recording capabilities, so that you can easily review the meeting later without having to spend your time together taking copious notes. By reviewing recorded meetings, it’s easy to ensure that all follow up steps are based on 100% accurate direction.
Open conversation and collaborative problem solving, followed by detailed, accurate follow-through, are sure ways to garner trust. (For more on increasing your close ratio with collaborative selling, click here.)
Brandishing Your Digital Tool Chest
As an integrator who sells technology, here’s an opportunity to demonstrate that you also use technology to run your business. Companies that invested pre-pandemic in robust, centralized sales management software, that easily supports your in-office or mobile salesforce, continued to operate with a fully connected sales process spanning a virtual sales environment as well. By allowing seamless connectivity between salespeople and across departments, sharing data and workflows, salespeople are empowered to provide fast, responsive service and accurate quoting to customers in this changing world.
Seven months into this pandemic, with an uncertain end in sight, we’ve gotten used to dealing with atypical work conditions. Customers understand that you may not be able to visit them on site, welcome them to your offices, and that you may be speaking with each other from home. We’re all making compromises but, our current situation should never be an excuse for failing to demonstrate outstanding communication, attention to detail, accurate follow-through, and timely support and service. Connected sales software, with its flexibility and access-from-anywhere interface, makes this possible. When your organization is able to continue delivering top-quality service, not missing a beat where others falter, you’ve given customers one of the most compelling reasons to trust that yours is a company they should choose to work with.
A Welcome Audience
We’re all craving human connection these days. One crazy fact I recently read was about how pollsters are finding that people are much more willing to pick up the phone these days, and once on the phone, they’re much more talkative. I’d like to think that that same receptivity applies to individual’s willingness to talk with salespeople. Afterall, it’s hard to remember a time when our attitudes about conversations have changed so drastically and quickly.
Although it may be harder to leverage techniques of the past when cultivating trust with customers, it can be achieved through practiced and strategic use of communication and technology tools. Now, more than ever, your ability to demonstrate warmth, empathy, professional expertise, and collaborative problem-solving is welcome and key to winning both your customers’ trust, and their business.
What are you doing to build trust with prospects during the sales process?