Startup Sales Strategy – The Trust Gap

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Take a moment to consider the trust that exists in your current client relationships. When exactly did this trust emerge? Can you pinpoint a single moment when the light switch was flipped from the uncertainty/skepticism that all salespeople face to a place of trust and added value? Due to a phenomena known as hindsight bias, most people find it challenging to clearly recall what life was like before they gained that trust. Hindsight bias may also lead you to have a false recollection of just how difficult it was to gain your clients’ trust.

So what causes the switch, and when does it happen? When, in your client’s eyes, did you transform from just another sales person trying to sell me something to trusted adviser? It’s unlikely that it happened in your first meeting. In fact it probably wasn’t the result of any single event or action. The trust your client has for you was built in small pieces; like bricks of a building. And guess what? It started even before the first meeting.

A colleague of mine likes to say that we behave our way to trust. In other words: talk is cheap, actions speak louder than words, walk the talk… You’ve heard these idioms before; they’re cliché, but they also happen to be true. So what type of actions build trust? This WikiHow article offers some great suggestions, so I won’t try to re-invent the wheel. I will say this though: make sure to plan thoroughly for each client meeting, and during the meeting make sure to suspend self-interest.

Arguably the most difficult challenge B2B sales people face in acquiring new customers is convincing them that you’re different from the dozens of other sales reps calling and emailing them every day. Once you get the meeting, the way to convince the customer of this and gain their trust is to make it abundantly clear that the meeting is about them; not you. You’re there to discuss their results/goals/challenges. You’re there to learn about them and where their business is headed. And by the way, don’t ask them questions you could have gotten answers to on your own via their website, annual report, blogs/articles, etc.

Do this homework beforehand. Your questions should help them think differently about their business as well as give you the information you need to position your product. Only after one or more conversations about their business results (number of conversations will vary depending on what you sell) can you begin to position your offering in a way that does not appear self-serving. If you lead first with your product and why it’s so great, you’ve done a great job at blending in with the countless other reps who won’t get a second meeting.

Here is another great article on building trust from sales expert, Jill Konrath.

I welcome your reactions and thoughts about building trust. Tweet me @thisisbennett or @sales4_startups or email me at