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‘To be honest with you…’ – How to sell with authenticity

May 7, 2020

When promoting or even selling your products and services, particularly as a small or start up business, it is tempting to agree to things because you feel like you shouldn’t be walking away from anything.

Even more established organisations can be tempted to say ‘yes (*internal – and we will figure out how later*)’ to secure a contract or sale.
What I have learned (sometimes the hard way) from working in various sales roles & from starting my own business is that honesty is always the best policy.

There are a lot of different reasons for this but the following are 5 simple steps that you can take to build more trust, improve your customer experience and ultimately sell more.

1. Learn to say ‘no’

The sales process is fragile and the easy thing to do when asked about a feature or aspect of your service is to say ‘yes’ to move it along and to keep momentum.  We find ourselves agreeing to things and worrying about it later.

If you want to build trust say ‘no’ – It builds confidence in your service illustrating that you know a) what you are worth (‘I can’t do it for that price’) or b) your product or service well (‘I have been asked that question before and unfortunately I / my product can’t do that’).

2. Always go over the small print

One of best sales I ever witnessed was not actually one I was involved in myself.  It was a number of years ago when I was with a friend who was buying his first car (A BMW – I know!!).  After the sale had been completed and the car had been paid for the salesperson spent at least another 10 minutes explaining to my friend about all of the things he should be doing to maintain his new vehicle.

If we had have left the showroom that day without this input I don’t think we would have noticed but I just remember how impressed I was with the salesperson taking that level of care even after the sale had been closed and the payment had been completed.

3. Get a list of FAQs

Once you have got to grips with your product you might find it helpful to get a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) to support your pitch if you are on a meeting or speaking to someone on the telephone.  The customer may bring something up for which you will then have an answer, or better yet be able to pro-actively bring it up yourself.

This is sometimes called ‘pre-empting the negative’ and could be broached something like ‘One thing that I normally get asked is this…, I just wanted to make sure that you had all of the information you needed before making your decision’.  Using this ‘worts and all’ approach helps build trust and shows that you are not keeping anything from your customer, especially if you know that more than likely it is going to come up later on down the line.

4. If it’s bad news, deliver it early

If you are in a purchasing process and find out that your product or service cannot do something then tell the customer as soon as you can, it is only human to hope that it won’t be a problem or to put it off but by being up front and honest with your customer you are again showing that you have their interests at heart.  Also, if you think something won’t be a big problem, sod's law says that it definitely WILL be for your customer, especially if you don’t tell them when you have the chance.

I can think of a number of occasions where, by being honest, I have had to walk away from a sale.  However, on almost all occasions I have been thanked for my honesty. The key point to remember is that we are all trying to help people and that you don’t need to sell to everyone.  You will save time and money by sticking to your principles rather than going after every piece of business.

5. (Politely) Challenge customers

Alongside trying to be honest with customers you should endeavour to challenge those who are not honest with you.

For example an effective technique within the sales process can be a polite but assertive question.  How many times have you come away from a meeting or a call with ‘I don’t think they were being totally honest with me, I wish I had have said something’.  There is a way to prise out objections from stubborn customers, sometimes questions like ‘I’m not sure you are going for this idea, is there anything getting in the way?’ can help you in to a more meaningful conversation rather than leaving and waiting around for the ‘Dear John…’.

In summary then, these points and techniques are skills to be worked on and developed like any other tool in your arsenal.  My advice to you is to be clear, concise and most of all honest with your customers. By taking these additional steps and this level of pride in your work you will set yourself apart from the competition which will pay itself back in droves.

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