Trust trumps transactions

by Steli Efti

Trust trumps transactions. We really learned this lesson when we were trying to get our first customers for our outsourced sales service.

Nobody will ever buy your product if they don't trust you. Everybody gets that in theory—but few people know how to use that in the sales process to close more deals. When we launched our outsourced sales company, we used fake names. We were in stealth mode and didn't want others to know about our new venture yet.

So we had zero credentials, zero credibility, zero references, nothing but hustle. And we wanted other startups to pay us for selling their product in their name. That requires a lot of trust. How did we do it?

How could we build trust?

How could we get a company's CEO to give us the authority to represent their brand to outsiders?

We thought long and hard about this issue, until we came up with a solution:

Technology can solve this problem! We would operate totally transparent. We would record all our communication with outsiders. We would record our calls and emails, so our future customers could listen in and make sure we'd represent them correctly.

(This is the reason why all Business & Enterprise customers of our sales software now have automatic call recording.)

So whenever we tried to sell our sales service to a startup, trust was indeed an issue. And boy were we ready to tackle that objection

"That's a great point, Mr Prospect! We want to make sure to have your full trust, so we'll operate fully transparent. We'll record every single call, and you can listen to any call recording you want at any time to check that we're doing a good job. Isn't that amazing? Don't you feel a lot better, now that you've heard that all calls are going to be recorded? I'm sure now you can trust us, right?"

Wrong!

They all heard it. They all liked it. Transparency is good. Control is good.

But on an emotional level, it didn't solve the issue they had to begin with. It didn't make them feel any different about our proposal. They still felt apprehensive about it, they still felt like it was too risky to give away their name to an outsourced sales organization to talk to their prospective customers. Even though they knew they could always listen in on these conversations. 

A thousand questions, one issue

We had one specific customer who became our second paying customer, and stayed with us for the longest time, from day one for almost two years.

Our first sales guy pitched them the idea on the phone.

Prospect: "If you could actually deliver on your promise, we'd love it, but ... we can't believe that you're actually going to do a good job, and we're afraid of that."

Our sales guy: "We're going to have transparency, you can listen to all the calls, don't worry."

Prospect: "Well, that sounds awesome ... but we'll still need time to think about it."

questions

Four calls later ... they still couldn't pull the trigger. I was chatting with our sales guy, and he said: "This is crazy! We went through 4,000 questions, I answered all of them, they really, really, really want to do it ... but they just can't get over it. I don't know what to do. Now they sent us another 30 questions."

We looked at all their objections and questions ... and it all boiled down to one thing: trust!

They didn't feel comfortable, they were afraid, they didn't trust us.

So we got them on the phone one more time and said: "Hey, for a moment, let's put aside all these technical questions. If we are honest with each other, you guys simply don't trust us, and you're afraid that it's going to take too much time to coach, train, check and manage us. You're just afraid of all these things. We can argue this back and forth forever. But words will never make you trust us.

Let's do this: Give us one week! We'll study your solution, and in exactly one week, on Tuesday at 9 a.m., we will call you, the CEO, and we will pitch you on your product. We will make a cold call. You'll play a potential customer, we will play your company, and we will pitch you. And your job will be to be the most difficult prospect you could ever think of, ask the most difficult questions ever, and then let our actions speak louder than words.

See how we react, see how we respond. See if we can sell you and convince you on buying your product. Because if we can do that, we can do it with anyone else."

There was a moment of silent thinking from the CEO's end of the line, and then he said: "Ok, let's do it."

A week later we cold called him, sold him their solution and asked him: "How did you feel about this call?"

CEO: "Let's get started. Let's do this. I feel really good about you guys."

That's the power of building personal trust. Use your action to create trust, don't just ask for trust with words.

Trust > transparency

Want to know what's crazy?

These guys, who had such a hard time trusting us in the first place, never listened to a single call recording! Not even one single time. We had the logs. We knew exactly what they were looking at. They looked at the dashboards and our performance, but not even one time did they listen to one of the call recordings we shared with them.

Because the moment we created trust, we had it. And we never lost it. They never felt the need to listen in on one of our conversations.

The product had transparency to build trust. But the personal trust we created totally trumped that.

In fact, in all our history with ElasticSales, we did not even have a single customer who ever listened in to a sales call.

They all liked the idea of transparency. They all liked to have the option to listen in to our calls. But no one ever did. Because they trusted us on a personal level.

The 3 levels of trust

Whenever you are selling a product for a company, you need to build three levels of trust.

You need to make them trust in your product. You need to make them trust in you. And you need to make them trust in your company.

What do you think is the first level of trust you must build in the sales process? 

3levels-of-trust

The personal level! First, they must trust you as a person. That's where you start. With the human being they are interacting with.

Then you create some trust in the product/service/solution you are selling.

And create some trust in the company that is behind the product and the person.

Research on the importance of trust in B2B sales

A 2014 study titled "What's the Future of Sales" commissioned by SAP surveyed 1220 global business buyers. The found that trust is the most important factor in the purchasing decision and that 44% of them place a high emphasis on having "a good personal relationship with the sales person".

Trust always trumps transactions.