I recently sat in on a client presentation for a prospective customer.
The sales person was intelligent, articulate, and his presentation was flawless.
The rep was well trained on describing how the product solved our prospect’s problem.
However, when the prospect asked specific questions about the examples shared during the presentation, the salesperson stumbled and offered only vague generalities.
It was clear the salesperson had little knowledge of anything occurring in the ‘real’ world.
In that moment, credibility was lost and the prospect stopped listening.
Most people have experienced being directed to a restaurant only to learn their ‘recommendation’ was based on a review rather than personal experience.
Apparently it’s also ok to recommend movies you haven’t seen (or in some case haven’t even been released.)
Why they don’t trust you
Most sales people have never held the role or position of their prospect. Similarly, they lack first hand experience with what happens after the contract is signed
Why should I believe you if you have never ‘walked a mile in my shoes?’
How can you build trust if you have never witnessed first hand what the PowerPoint slides say we do?
In a scene from Goodwill Hunting, Robin Williams ridicules Matt Damon for his ‘pseudo knowledge.’
“If I asked you about art, you’d probably give me the skinny on every art book ever written. Michelangelo, you know a lot about him. Life’s work, political aspirations, him and the pope, sexual orientations, the whole works, right? But I’ll bet you can’t tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel. You’ve never actually stood there and looked up at that beautiful ceiling.”
“If I ask you about women, you’d probably give me a syllabus about your personal favorites. You may have even been laid a few times. But you can’t tell me what it feels like to wake up next to a woman and feel truly happy.”
“And if I’d ask you about war, you’d probably throw Shakespeare at me, right, “once more unto the breach dear friends.” But you’ve never been near one. You’ve never held your best friend’s head in your lap, watch him gasp his last breath looking to you for help.”
An Uncomfortable Truth
Solution selling is based on understanding the prospect’s need first and then presenting a solution to address that need.
What happens to credibility if the salesperson cannot truly understand the prospect’s need because they have never sat in their chair?
How can the salesperson create trust when they don’t really know the solution will work because they have never seen that happen?
It is impractical to field a team of reps with experience equal to or even similar to your prospects.
Similarly, it is unlikely you can provide sales people sufficient exposure to implementation of your product or service.
Stories are the solution:
Michael Bosworth (one of the founding fathers of Solution Selling) has long advocated using storytelling as a way of transferring credibility and trust from your company as a whole to even your most junior associate.
Ask a salesperson on your team to share an example of how your company helped a customer solve a problem they were facing.
If they can share an anecdote, consider the degree to which you find yourself trusting whether or not they believe the story they are sharing.
It is impossible to equip every member of your team with sufficient experience to match our prospect’s knowledge.
That said, to earn our prospect’s trust, we cannot simply read from the cue cards.
Credibility can, however, be conveyed through stories that are real, detailed, and believed by the storyteller.