I don't know about you, but I sometimes long for the relative
simplicity of the 1970s and 1980s. As a consumer, life seemed more
straightforward. I had a checking account, a money market account,
and a few stocks. As a recent college graduate, I worked for Chase
Manhattan Bank's installment loan department. Personal computers
were introduced during my second year as an employee. The world was
going paperless! It was to be a revolution.
It turns out the real revolution is option overload. Looking back
to the 70s and 80s again, a typical middle class American had a
checking and savings account, life insurance, and maybe some
stocks, bonds, and land. Today, one can own stocks, bonds, 401(k)s,
inherited IRAs, deferred and defined benefits programs, charitable
trusts, dozens of other trusts, annuities (variable and otherwise),
nonqualified deferred compensation, thousands of mutual funds, and
more. An executive at a major financial services company confessed
to me recently that he cannot stay current on trusts, his area of
expertise. If he can't do it, how can the rest of us understand
trusts and our several thousand other options?
The truth is we can't fully understand all of our choices, and
we'll drive ourselves crazy if we try. This carries over to the
training and development field, as well, particularly when we are
trying to sell services or training ideas.
Our customers, knowing they cannot understand all of their options,
must choose the most trustworthy and seemingly competent person, or
choose no one at all. Even in an age of email, websites, blogging,
and social networking, many choices are based on personal
recommendations. In short, today's buyers cannot choose among all
of the products and services they need nor can they research all of
the firms that offer them. What they can do is choose among
I recently won a solid training and coaching contract after my
client said to me, "You seem like a good and honest person who
knows what she is talking about. And you come highly recommended.
That's good enough for me."
Connecting through people-whispering
Have you ever noticed that the more we like a person, the more
capable that person seems? Let's face it - your product or service
had better be good and you had better create value. But that's not
enough anymore. People do business with people they know, like, and
trust. And we know, like, and trust people who connect with us.
Connecting is defined as simultaneously being your unique self and
crossing into another person's world. Once someone feels heard and
understood, they will feel comfortable partnering with you for
I like to call this subtle skill the art of people-whispering, and
it has four straightforward steps:
- Know your own unique gifts and talents and the ways in which
you perceive the world. What strengths and potential blind spots do
you bring to the table in the sales relationship? Know thyself
- Be able to read the other person from a loving, serving intent.
Identify their strengths and preferred ways of communication to
effectively connect with them at each stage of the sales process.
- Communicate with your prospective or established customer in
his language to cross the bridge into their world.
- Partner with your customer going forward because trust and
rapport are facilitated by people-whispering.
Gaining trust and credibility
So what are some simple ways to establish trust and credibility to
ensure you are the person your prospect chooses? Delivering a
high-quality product or service is a baseline expectation, but
assuming you're competing against others who can also deliver, you
need to set yourself apart from the pack.
First, know what you're talking about. Be competent and deliver on
your promises. Stay as current as you can. Like the financial
services executive, you likely can't know everything about your
field, but you can still know a lot. Better yet, you can be an
You can listen intently to what your customers really need,
regardless of whether you're dealing with internal or external
clients. Once you listen for what's really being said and what's
important to that buyer, you can state that back to them in
language they understand so they know they've been heard. It's then
relatively easy to tailor a solution to meet their needs.
Just remember: Even in our fast-paced, Internet-savvy world of
overwhelming options and choices, selling is still about serving
our customers, forging relationships, and building trust.