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[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a replay of the OPTIMAL SALES MINDSET Webinar hosted by Fred Diamond, Host of the Sales Game Changers Podcast, on July 27, 2020. It featured “Trusted Advisor” co-author Charles Green,]
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EPISODE 270: Trust-Based Selling Expert Charles Green Explains What You Must Be Doing to Become a More Valued Trusted Advisor During Challenging Times
CHARLES’ TIP TO SALES LEADERS: “If I really had to boil it down (how you could build yourself as a trust-based seller), I would pick “listening” and I know it sounds boring, I know it’s hardly the first time anybody has ever heard this, but it really is powerful. I don’t mean listening to refine the problem statement, I don’t mean listening to hone into the right hypothesis, I mean listening that just pays attention to the other person, that validates them by offering up 100% focus of your mind and your attention on them. It leads to reciprocity. When you start by paying attention to the other person, that creates in them a natural response to them wanting to listen to what you have. And it’s sequential. People have to know that you care and then they naturally become much more willing to listen to what you have to say. Pay attention to people for their purposes, not for yours. It’s how you create trust.”
Fred Diamond: We have the co-author of Trusted Advisor and the author of Trust-Based Selling, Charles Green. Charlie, it’s great to see you again, we’ve had you on the IES stage numerous times. So many times over the last three and a half months, Charlie, as we’ve been doing four webcasts a week, the topic of trust and trusted adviser comes up. First of all, how are you doing?
Charles Green: I’m doing great, Fred, thank you, nice to be back here. I always enjoy your audience in IES so thank you for having me.
Fred Diamond: Let’s get started, people are anxious. One of the reasons we’ve had you on the IES stage so many times is because the concept of trust and being a trusted adviser and trust-based selling I believe is one of the top three things that you need to do for success. We’re four months into COVID or the pandemic. People are having to rethink their relationship with their customer so they can provide more value so let’s get started, let’s talk about what it means to be a trusted adviser today and how you can provide more value to you customers.
Charles Green: By the way, everybody, I’m happy to have you interrupt, interject, as Fred said, send questions onto him. No problem getting interrupted, otherwise I’ll just keep talking so fire those questions, comments in.
How to become a more valued trusted adviser in sales, that’s the subject and here’s what I’m going to suggest we do. I want to talk a little bit about trust because I think it helps set up the sales discussion so get into trust, trusting, being trustworthy, a little bit of data and then talk about some very fundamental implications for sales and selling. Then get into a few specifics, examples, that could go on forever and then Fred asked me in the end, “Is there one big thing that people can walk out of this session today with and have something valuable?” Yes, I do have one big thing you can do so let’s jump in here. I’ll focus mostly on a combination of The Trusted Adviser and Trust-Based Selling today.
Trust and trustworthiness and defining trust. It turns out trust is one of these areas where everybody talks about it and I would argue people actually have a very clear idea of what it means but they don’t have the language to talk about it. More than in a lot of areas it’s actually really useful to take a minute or two and actually define the terms and you might think it’s useful to start with the dictionary, it’s not. The dictionary is not terribly helpful and here’s why, I like the phrase, “I trust my dog with my life but not with my sandwich.”
Fred Diamond: [Laughs]
Charles Green: You’ll notice technically that’s a joke. Fred, thank you for laughing politely, it’s not that good a joke, I get it but technically it is a joke and it depends on people having two different meanings of the word in mind. Let me make that more real now, how often do we see something like this? “Trust in banking is down.” Half the articles out there in the business press are about trust and you see a lot of this sort of thing, I would argue that’s pretty useless. I don’t care how many decimal points the survey drops it down to, it doesn’t distinguish between two critical questions. If you see a headline that trust in banking is down, does that mean that banks become less trustworthy or entirely different, does it mean that people have begun to distrust banks more and more? Those are totally different. If you think about Wells Fargo, for example, the last 4-5 years, I think that’s a case of a bank being less trustworthy, even some headlines just came out yesterday, I think. On the other hand, you think about a different issue like in the United States – this is an empirical fact – the incidents of violent crime over the last 20 years is down, there’s less of it than there was 20 years ago. At the same time over the same 20 years, fear of violent crime has actually increased, that’s not a problem with crime, that’s a problem with the perception of crime like distrusting banks. If all you’re measuring is the end result – trust in banking is down – you don’t know what the problem is, so let me make that much more practical here. What trust problem are we trying to solve? Is it a problem of trusting? Are people paranoid and not willing to trust other people or is it a problem of trustworthiness? Because it’s the interaction between those two things that creates trust.
Let’s talk about interpersonal trust which is mainly what I’m going to talk about. One person has to be willing to take a risk to trust the other one and then the other one has to be trustworthy or not. If the first person takes the risk and the second person is trustworthy, bingo, the level of trust between them just went up. Believe it or not, that simple definition cuts through an awful lot of confusion in discussions about trust. I’m going to focus mostly on trustworthiness here at the beginning and I’ve got a simple equation, format, definition of trustworthiness for you. This is commonsensical, let me suggest that when we say somebody’s trustworthy we mean four things or some mixture of those four things. One of them is credibility meaning I can believe what they say or they’ve got a lot of expertise or I recognize the degree hanging on the wall and that diploma, “Smart guy, I can trust what he says.” Reliability, that one has to do more with actions so if he says he’s going to do it, he’s going to do it. He’s highly dependable, he’s never let me down, he’s got a track record, that one’s fairly clear too.
Those first two are the ones I call rational meaning you can figure out metrics to measure them, you can track them over time and by the way, those are the two most obvious meanings that if you ask people open-ended to come up with for trustworthiness, those are the ones they come up with. The ones in red are very different, they’re more emotional. The first one up in the top line is intimacy which basically means how safe and secure do you feel with this other person? Do you feel safe hearing certain information with them? Are they going to know whether to laugh or not when you tell them? Are they going to spread it to somebody else and if they do, are they going to make sure that they handle your information in just the right kind of way? “Yes, I can trust this person, I feel safe and secure.”
All three of those are in the numerator so obviously if you score high on those, you’re more trustworthy. Then there’s a factor in the denominator that goes the other way, I call it self-orientation and there’s two kinds of self-orientation. The first one is plain old garden variety selfishness, greed. Interestingly enough, in the business world that I deal with which is mostly professional services, consulting firms, Big Four accounting, Accenture, that kind of thing, selfishness isn’t that big a problem, you can spot it a mile away and there are not that many people that are bad at it.
However, the other kind of self-orientation very relevant and definitely for people in sales on this call today, that is not selfishness, it is neurotic self-obsession, all the time worrying about yourself. How am I doing? Are they going to like me? Is she going to go out with me? How come nobody is listening to me? How come everybody is looking at me? How come nobody is looking at me? A thousand forms of just being preoccupied with what’s going on between your two ears and what that does is take you away from being able to just genuinely simply connect with the person in front of you. That one obviously goes the other way. High self-orientation reduces trustworthiness, that’s a simple definition that we came up with when we wrote the book The Trusted Adviser which came out about 20 years ago. Fred, by the way, we’re doing a 20th anniversary edition, Simon & Schuster approached us and said, “Would you be interested?” and we said, “Yes, it’s time” so that’s going to come out next year. The equation will stay the same, that stood the test of time.
Anyway, about 10 years ago it dawned on me, I was actually in a supermarket going through the check-out line and I look at the magazine rack and there was one of what they used to call “women’s magazines” headlined, “20 Questions: Rate your Sex Life” or, “Am I an Alcoholic?” I forget what it was, it was something like that. I thought, “20 Questions: Am I a Trusted Adviser?” that could be cool. I went home, pulled out the book, pulled out five questions for each of the four variables, 5 x 4 = 20 – 20 seemed like a good number – and put it out on the web in the form of a self-assessment tool so everybody could take it. It trickled in the beginning but at this point we have well over a hundred thousand people who have taken it and there are some interesting findings that I want to share with this audience today.
By the way, you can take that thing yourself at trustedadviser.com/tq, stands for Trust Quotient – like IQ, EQ, TQ. It’ll take you about 5 minutes, you get instant results in the form of a PDF file so you can take this yourself. Here’s what it looks like, when we did 70,000 people we did a snapshot and did the analysis, I’m going to share some headlines with you. It’s not a random sample, they were mostly professional services people like I mentioned and about 70% North America, it was even male-female gender distribution. I want to deal with four key questions and those of you listening here, ask yourself what you think the answers to this are. Question #1, do we get more or less trustworthy as we get older? What happens with age? Question #2, who do you think scores more highly, men or women, on the trustworthiness metric? That’s an interesting one.
Third one, and this goes outside our databases but there are some other surveys. Who are the top and the bottom, least and most trusted professions? That’s a survey done every year by a bunch of the big survey companies, Gallup, Yankelovich, Pew and so forth. Finally, of those four components in the trust equation – credibility, reliability, intimacy, self-orientation – if you were to run a regression analysis on the data, which we did, which one do you think turns out to be the most powerful?
Let me dive into that and give you the answers. First one, age, turns out it’s the strongest correlation in there. With every age cohort of 10 years I think it was, the numbers go up and I think that comports with common sense. Ask yourself, “Am I today more or less trustworthy than when I was 19?” I think most of us would say, “Are you kidding? Absolutely I’m more trustworthy now.” As we get older we obviously get more experience, I think we get more wisdom, the hormones slow down, we get less stupid, that kind of thing so that’s not surprising. By the way, almost everybody guesses that one correctly and any of you listening here probably did too. Next one, gender, who’s more trustworthy, men or women? It turns out it’s women.
Fred Diamond: No surprise.
Charles Green: No, no surprise, you’re absolutely right, most people also guessed that one. In fact, I’ve given a talk to groups maybe 300 times and literally 296 out of the 300 I remember all the four exceptions vividly. 296 out of 300, that’s 99% guessed women. On a 100 point scale here, 83.3 versus 82.3, if that doesn’t look like much remember, 70,000 data points on a binary question. On/off, up/down, heads/tails, black/white, male/female. We did not offer varying definitions of gender, it was a forced binary question so that actually is about one and a half degrees of standard significance there. Another question I didn’t throw in there but if you ask yourselves, it turns out that almost all the difference between men and women was driven by women scoring more highly on one of those four factors. Which one do you think it was, credibility, reliability, intimacy or low self-orientation? Fred, do you want to take a guess?
Fred Diamond: Intimacy?
Charles Green: You are absolutely correct and by the way, I think most people also get this one. Somehow intuitively we do understand how this trust stuff works, you can see on the data here that the men and women about equally credible, about equally reliable, men and women are equally neurotic but look at the difference here in intimacy, that’s a big difference. And again, most people say intuitively, “That makes sense, whatever that word means, probably women have it more.” It doesn’t work at the individual level, anybody could be anywhere, men or women but in large numbers you do see that difference. Now I’m going to jump over to the survey data from some of these big survey companies. Ask yourselves before I show you, who do you think reliably shows up at the bottom of these trusted professions list? If we were to go through the chat or open up the mics I’ll tell you what people will say automatically, they would say three things with great unanimity: lawyers, car salesmen and politicians always at the bottom and again, totally unsurprising, that’s what the data shows. One exception to my suggestion that everybody understands this the same way is who’s at the top of the list? This one not nearly as many people get. Fred, do you want to take a shot again?
Fred Diamond: It’s interesting, here we are right smack in the middle of the COVID crisis and healthcare professionals have become so respected, firemen maybe, teachers potentially?
Charles Green: You were warmest on the first one and it’s not doctors, by the way, doctors tend to rank about 5 out of 20. You know who’s #1? It’s nursing. Again, when I say that people go, “Yeah, that makes sense.” In the US for the last 20 years nurses have been at the top of the list 19 out of those 20 years, the one exception was in the year 2002 when it was firemen, your second guess. What was magic about 2002? The year after 9/11, makes total sense. By the way, in Australia firemen make it to the top more often but even there it’s usually nurses and in the US it’s been nurses ever since. Think about it, if you had to guess which of the four attributes of trustworthiness nurses most embody with it, first of all, it’s an 89% female profession but whether it’s male nurses or female it makes no difference, I’ve checked. The key driver to be successful at nursing, which one of those four factors? Fred, you’re doing great, want to make a guess again?
Fred Diamond: I would say intimacy again.
Charles Green: Absolutely, it turns out to be intimacy and when you run the regression analysis on our data, the strongest driver turns out to be intimacy. For the audiences that I work with which are, as I said, mostly professionals, accountants, consultants, that’s kind of depressing because that’s not what they’re good at. They do not tend to score high on intimacy and yet here’s the data, they profess to believe data and here’s the data saying, “Guess what? It’s the soft skills, guys.” So it creates an interesting conundrum for them.
Fred Diamond: Charlie, can I ask you a quick question?
Charles Green: Yes, please.
Fred Diamond: Charlie, one of the big words that we’ve heard on the four webcasts we’re doing a week is empathy. We’ve talked so much about empathy and of course mindset and trust and things like that, but empathy comes up all the time. How do intimacy and empathy play together?
Charles Green: Right smack on top of each other. There’s a couple of other words along with empathy that go together with what I call intimacy here, vulnerability is another concept, emotional intelligence is in the same territory. The empathy thing is smack on because if you experience somebody as high in intimacy meaning you feel safe and secure with them, that’s almost certainly because you sensed that they have the ability to empathize with you. If they don’t have the ability to have empathy then you say, “Not only do they not even care about me, they don’t even understand.” So empathy is right at the heart of intimacy, absolutely right.
Anyway, enough on trust. What’s this got to do with sales? Let’s jump into the sales part which I suspect for many of the people here is a key thing. In the broad world of sales, sales books and sales training and so forth there’s a mixture of mindset and skill set. Over the last 20 years of focusing on this, I’ve come to think that when it comes to sales training we do a little too much on the skill set and not enough on the mindset and if you want to think about trust, think of it, we just finished saying it’s a very emotional thing with stuff like empathy pervading and so forth. I want to talk mostly about mindset. Let me ask this group, answer yourself in your own head, when you were 19, 20, 21, 22, what did you want to be when you grew up?
In my normal audiences when I say, “How many of you wanted to be a salesman?” Nobody raises their hand. In this audience I suspect and hope many more of you did raise your hand but there’s still that hangover image of the used car salesman, all the negativity, that’s out there, that’s not crazy, that’s not real. A lot of us don’t like the S word, many people, the ones I work with prefer a much more passive word like “business development”, it feels nicer and its in the passive voice, it doesn’t even say “develop business”, that would be too aggressive. But in the world in general sale is a four letter word and I mean that literally, you look at the dictionary definition – I won’t read it all off here but read down the list. The further down the list you go, like any dictionary, the more subliminal it gets but in this case the more negative it gets.
Then you start seeing things like cheat, betray, hoax, hustle, sell down the river, sell-out, hard-sell. This is nasty stuff and this is a dictionary whose job it is to reflect how people use the actual word in the real world. In my experience, even salespeople, we’re not immune to this sort of thing, we know there’s something bad about it out there and everybody has to come to grips with their own way of dealing with it. Again, people I deal with, they want to say, “We’re not that, that’s not us, we want to stand for much bigger things, client service and value and professionalism and ethics and integrity.” I suspect everybody in here feels, “Yes, that’s what I want to be known for, too.” So how do you square the circle? How do you integrate those two very different conceptions? I think that’s a really important question and I think I have an answer which I’m excited about so here we go. The answer starts right at the goal’s level, at the fundamental level.
If you think about the goal of traditional selling – I’m going to say something totally unargumentative, I think – the goal of traditional selling is to get better at getting the sale. Why else would you look into selling training or whatever? But that’s not the only goal, the goal of what I call trust-based selling is actually to help the client and that’s not just mushy, fuzzy words, I want to suggest some real differences between those two objectives. The answer in other words is the objective of trust-based selling is to help the buyer do the right thing for the buyer, period, end of sentence, all she wrote. That turns out, as I said, to be not a trivial distinction and let me make the case. I’m not going to give you data, I’m going to ask you to envision something for yourself, true to yourself so imagine if you would that you’re buying something and you’re going to be buying something that’s a complex purchase. It’s complicated, it’s messy, it takes a lot of time, lot of details.
#2, it’s expensive, it’s going to cost a lot, non-trivial amount of money and #3, this thing that you’re buying is important to you, it really matters. #4, the seller knows a heck of a lot more than you. What might be some examples of that? You might say maybe your parents need to get put into an assisted living place or you need to get a new HVAC system and you’re not an engineer or you’re buying a second home property for vacation investment or maybe you have to hire a financial planner and you’ve never done that. All those are complicated, they’re expensive, they’re important to you and the seller knows more than you do so whoever you are, pick one of these examples or something like that because I’d like to ask you some questions, let’s talk about now you imagine the person selling this product or service.
Imagine that the person that you’re dealing with as a seller has your best interest at heart, you really get that sense that they seem to be focusing on what’s right and important for you. Let’s assume that they seek to understand your interest, they’re doing a good job of trying to understand what your interests are, what your stakes are, how this matters to you. Along the way they’re offering advice that is clearly useful to you, not useless information but stuff that really is useful. Let’s imagine further they don’t even seem to be trying to get you to buy, you don’t get that feeling at all from interacting with them. Let’s assume that they’re driven by your calendar, not theirs, no sense that they’re trying to meet a quota for the month, anything like that, they don’t even seem to be wedded to this transaction, they’re just not focused on the transaction. Finally, assume that in everything you see they seem to be completely transparent and honest. All those characteristics of the seller that you’re dealing with, let me ask you a rhetorical question here, isn’t that exactly who you want to buy from? Isn’t it natural to buy from somebody with those characteristics? I’m going to assume that most of you are saying, “Yes, that is who I’d like to buy from.” The obvious challenging question if I can assume the answer is yes is if that how we prefer to buy, shouldn’t that be how we try to sell? If you answered yes to the first one, shouldn’t we be trying to sell in exactly that way?
That’s the paradox of trust-based selling, if you buy what I just suggested to you in a gut common-sense kind of way then what we’re really saying is if you could detach from winning the sale as your objective you’re actually going to get more sales. Bend your head around that one, if you detach from the win as your objective, you will be more successful and the trick is detaching from it because so much of our daily sales life is built around getting the sale and all of our activities. One of the biggest implications of that is it turns out that the best way to get short term results is by behaving in a long term kind of a way, not in a short term kind of a way. Why do I say that’s a big implication? Imagine almost any sales funnel discussion that you’re having in your organization, what happens in those? You’re dealing with a short term time frame, “We’ve got to do this in the next week, the next month, action steps now, go talk to this person next week, send them this, that and the other.” The milestones that you’re putting up into that CRM system, they’re all very soon and you have to ask who you bono, who benefits here? It’s all built around us and if everything’s built around us, why should the buyer assume that it’s not built around you, that it’s built around them? They shouldn’t, because it’s not, because our behaviors are driving us inside to where the real objective is to get the sale and not to help the client.
I’ll share a very quick story, Fred, if I can here. I was giving a talk to an investment bank firm a couple months ago and before this session one of the guys came up to me and he said, “Charlie, I’ve read your book, it’s good, I like the trust stuff, but you should know something. I’m not the only one here, I’m in this business to make money, I make no apologies for it, I want to get rich and the way that I do that is by meeting my quarterly objectives. If they ever change those objectives I change on the dime because I want to maximize my income by meeting those objectives. If they ever turn into monthly I’ll be right there too, just thought you should know.” I said, “Okay, let me ask you does your firm change it’s strategy every quarter?” “No, of course not, that would be stupid.” “But you’re telling me you’re changing your objectives every quarter, what makes you think that the client can’t sense that? How stupid are your clients if they can’t see what you’re doing? If that’s what you’re doing, and it would be stupid to change strategy all the time, why do you think it makes sense for you to keep changing your objectives obviously for the benefit of you? It’s not for the benefit of the client, you just told me it’s for your benefit. Why would people keep buying from you?” The answer is they don’t. A lot of people in this world were operating under a self-delusion that if we manage things short term we will maximize short term results. No, the way you maximize short term results is by continuing to operate in the long term all the time.
Let me go through a few implications of this and we can chat. What about screening and selection, how do you get bought in a competitive bid process, for example? I think one of the biggest reasons that people don’t get selected is they confuse what I call the screening process with the selection process. B to B sales companies which is mostly what I deal with select from a list of 2 or 5 or 7 or 10 potential buyers. They screen them out, that’s a very rational process, somebody gets a spreadsheet and you write down size, selection price, all that stuff, they screen it down to 2 or 3 and the 2 or 3 come in and give a dog and pony show presentation.
The way people typically approach that presentation is they somehow think they’re still in the screening mode and they show up and they say, “Here’s who we are and here’s what we do and here’s why we’re so good and here’s all our testimonials.” No, you already got the interview, you need to stop reading off your resume at that point and quickly engage with the client. Focus 100% on the client’s issues, not on your own. I see that happen a lot, too many sales presentations focused on themselves. How do you do pitching? Again, this is very similar, don’t lead with death by a thousand slides, get two or three slides and tell your audience, “There’s more, if you want to look at it I’ll leave them over here but let’s get onto something focused on you.” That might be a hypothesis, a point of view, a problem statement but ditch most of the slides because it’s not about you, it’s supposed to be about them.
Here’s an idea: one of the most powerful things built into human beings is our instinct to reciprocate. Somebody does you a favor, you owe them a favor. In the old days, remember back when you used to reach out and handshake with somebody and they would shake your hand back? It’s interesting to think what’s going to happen with handshakes when all this gets done, I can’t use it as a metaphor anymore but the idea is the way trust starts off, remember I said at the beginning there’s a truster who takes a risk and a trustee who is trustworthy? If all you do is be trustworthy, that’s the equivalent of aggressively waiting for the phone to ring in the sales area. If you want to kick-start trust, we have to be the ones who take the risk.
A quick metaphor: when you’re invited out to a potential client’s or coworker’s something for dinner, it’s the first time you’ve been to their house, what do you do? You buy a bottle of wine on the way, it’s expected and that’s normal, you don’t even get much credit for it. However, if on the way over instead of just popping in to get a bottle of Cabernet from California you say to yourself, “I think they went to Italy last year on vacation, what if I got them a really nice bottle of Barolo and tied it up with ribbons of the colors of the Italian flag? That might be cool.” There’s a little bit of risk there, #1 they could be alcoholic, you don’t know or #2, maybe you got it wrong, maybe they went to Spain, not Italy. But here’s the thing, it doesn’t matter, you get credit for having taken that little risk. If they are alcoholic, they’re probably likely to say, “Listen, we don’t drink but thank you, that’s very kind of you, we’ll save it for our next friends who do” or if you got the country wrong they’ll laugh it off. You get credit for having taken that little bit of a risk even if you’re wrong because when you take a risk it says, “I don’t need to be 100% risk proof dealing with you, I’m willing to put something of myself out there.”
Translate that into selling directly, what you need to do before you’re meeting people, you’re sending something out, do not send out the 100% bulletproof latest white paper. Instead, send something out that says basically, “We haven’t met with you yet and of course we don’t know a lot of things but we do know some stuff and it occurs to us based on our past experience maybe this X issue might be a really big issue for you. Is that true and if so, could we talk about it?” There’s only two answers to that and they’re both good. The first one is when they say, “Yes, X is a really big issue, anything you got on that we’d like to hear it.” The other one is even better, that’s when they say, “Yeah, everybody thinks X is the problem but no, it’s actually Y” in which case you say, “The minute you said that, I realized of course. Tell me more about Y, what’s that like with you?” and now you’re off to a conversation. Again, it’s triggered by you being willing to take a little bit of a risk so there’s a thought for you about how to approach new potential clients.
Digital marketing, I don’t know how many people listening are getting into this but I can’t tell you how many a week I get, people approaching me on LinkedIn, “I’d like to link in with you” and the first thing you get once you say yes is, “I do this and would you be interested?” Frankly, it’s no different in my opinion than spam, it’s really no different because all there is is features, there’s not even anything about benefits and there’s absolutely nothing about me. LinkedIn is one of god’s gifts to sellers, there’s so much information in there. How much longer would it take for somebody to go in and before sending me a note realize, “He wrote three books” or, “He lives in Boca Raton” or, “He knows somebody this.” Take a few minutes and just say, “What’s the weather like in Boca? What’s it like to write a book?” Something that personalizes it. How much effort does that take? We’ve all gotten lazy and we have assumed that the benefit of technology is to get us better at targeting and we’ve forgotten that the main benefit of technology is to get us better at customizing and people don’t do it. If that’s you, please, think it through. Use all that technology to make it more relevant to the customer, that’s the fundamental.
Let me give you another example of how mindset’s here and how a trust-based approach changes everything. One of the most common things you hear is, “Your price is too high.” Our usual response, the ones I get from all my clients will be something like, “You have to understand the value” or, “Not really but because of this” or, “You’re forgetting that” or, “Here’s some data that says…” None of that really works very well because #1, somebody who says your price is too high, they’re usually presenting as a challenge and we’re reacting the same way. Worse yet, we’re telling them, “No, you’re wrong, here’s what’s really right.” Completely not a trust-based approach, here’s what you might say in return, a trust-based answer.
You might say, “Our price is too high. Help me understand what you mean by that because in my experience I’ve heard several different things. You might mean it’s higher than you expected which can be problematic, or it might mean it’s higher than your budget which is an issue, I get it and we should talk about that. Or, it might mean that’s 30% higher than a quote you got from our competitor, that’s a whole different set of issues. Or sometimes it might even mean you never give into the first price, you like bargaining and so forth. I don’t know what you have in mind by that so tell me, what do you mean when you say our price is too high? Let’s talk about it and maybe some of these things we can do something about, maybe some we can’t but at least we’ll figure it out together.” In that answer or something like it you’ll notice you’re respecting the person by saying, “That’s a fair question” and you’re taking it seriously by saying, “Let’s dig into it and find out what you mean.” #3, you’re completely diffusing all the combativeness and that creates trust. Does it mean you’re going to get the sale? I don’t know, it may or may not but you’re going to have an honest discussion which in the long run, the more honest discussions you have the more sales you are going to win but you have to be willing to not necessarily get this one because your job is not to get this sale, it is to be helpful to the client. The more you do that, the more successful you will be as the numbers go on.
We’ve all got CRM systems and they’re really built very much around the notion of efficiency and an awful lot of discussion is, “How can we quickly cycle them through the system, through the funnel? How can we weed them out, qualify them and not waste our time in areas where nothing’s going to happen?” If you’re discarded early on in the process by somebody who’s focused on efficiencies, how do you think that feels? What does it feel like to be screened out by your system? Conversely, what would it feel like if I call up your company and you quickly determine we’re not for you but instead of kicking me off or ignoring it you were to say, “Listen, you’re not for us, this is not what we do but let me take a minute or two and see if I can help you because it wasn’t crazy that you called us, it made some sense but maybe there’s a couple other places. Tell me a little bit more about your problem.” Maybe you invest 5 or 10 minutes, think of all the PR benefit that does, think of the grateful potential customer that you sent walking away, think of how many people that person is going to talk to about how you treated them. We need to think about a lot of what looks like marketing and think of it as more about sales. Again, long term behaviors result in better short term results than focusing on short term behaviors.
I’ll end up with this one thing here and then we can talk a bit, Fred. There’s a lot of things I could say here about one big thing. If I really had to boil it down, I would pick this one, it’s listening and I know it sounds boring, I know it’s hardly the first time anybody has ever heard listen, but it really is powerful. Let me define the kind of listening I’m talking about, I don’t mean listening to refine the problem statement, I don’t mean listening to hone into the right hypothesis, reject no hypothesis, I mean listening that just pays attention to the other person, that validates them by offering up 100% focus of your mind and your attention on them. Let’s go back to that reciprocity thing, if I really pay attention to you, guess what happens in your mind? You think, “That was really good. You tell me about you”, isn’t that the natural thing? Think about how you go out on a blind date with somebody for the first time as a weird little metaphor here and the person says, “Tell me about yourself” and you do. You’re supposed to because they asked you, it’d be rude not to but here’s the key question, how long do you take telling them about yourself?
Right answer would be 3-5 minutes and that’s probably it, pretty soon in there you need to say, “But enough about me, let’s talk about you.” We all understand how to do this but you start by paying attention to the other person, that creates in them a natural response to them wanting to listen to what you have. Let me repeat an old line that everybody on this call has heard before: people don’t care what you know until they know that you care. It’s a sequential statement, it’s not an issue of which is more important, relationships or content, it’s a sequential statement. First people have to know that you care and then they naturally become much more willing to listen to what you have to say, that’s what I’m talking about by listening. Pay attention to people for their purposes, not for yours, it’s a validating kind of thing and it makes them much more inclined to work with you, it’s how you create trust. Let me stop there, Fred, I want to be respectful of people’s time and see if we’ve got any questions coming in.
Fred Diamond: Charlie, a lot of great content, it’s really interesting right now as well in that we all know that everyone’s dealing with a similar thing for the first time ever, we’re all dealing with how do we respond to COVID or how do we show value to our customers today because everybody is having to respond or pivot or whatever the word is you want to use. Because of COVID either your business was lost or you have a lot of things that you need to rebound about. We have a question here that comes from Louis, Louis is in New York not too far from where you used to be. “How long does it take to build trust? I’m relatively new in sales.” We have a bunch of people here who are senior, we have a whole bunch of people watching today’s webcast who are new in sales. You showed that slide before where people get more trustworthy over age, is this a one year journey, is this a five year journey? How long does it take to build trust or is that a myth that it takes a long time to build trust?
Charles Green: There’s a couple things there. One of the biggest myths of trust, we’ve all heard this one, “Trust takes a long time.” Mostly that’s not true, it is true of reliability, that’s the one area where it absolutely is true because by definition a reliable track record requires repeated experiences over time so that’s true. But if you think about credibility, walk into a doctor’s office, what do you see? You see a white coat, you see a stethoscope, you see a bunch of degrees up on the wall, everything screams credentials and we bow down. That’s an example of very fast credentialing and we internalize it pretty quick. Intimacy could be even more immediate, if somebody says something just the right way, if you react to a feeling, if you interrupt a speech that you’re giving and you’re able to say to somebody, “It looks like that was a little upsetting to you, can you say more about that?” that’s intimacy. That’s you taking a risk to reach out to another person and say, “I just saw something in you there, would you mind speaking about that?”
That happens very quickly and the same with self-orientation, we reveal ourselves very quickly for the most part as to whether we’re highly self-oriented or other-oriented and people read it fast. Let’s not forget, we are all the result of eons of evolution, of finely tuned being able to pick up on other people. The good news is creating trust does not necessarily have to take a long time, it could be done a lot faster than you think and by the way, the other part of that line, “Trust takes a long time”, you often hear, “It takes a long time to create and only a moment to destroy.” That’s not true either, it’s not a question of how much time, it’s a question of how much trust you had to begin with. If you have a deep trusted relationship with someone and you screw up, what are they going to do? They’re going to say, “That’s totally unlike you, how could you do that? Don’t do that again, that’s hurtful.” They’ll cut you some slack. If on the other hand you make that same mistake when you don’t have much trust to begin with, then you’re history but it’s not a function of time, it’s a function of quality and depth. What it takes is not just logging in the hours and the schmoozing time, what it takes is the personal courage for us to reach out and engage on some of these interpersonal ways that we’re talking about here.
Fred Diamond: Charlie, we have time for one more question and it relates to what you were just talking about. One final thought here is we’re talking about building intimacy yet you just alluded to the fact that we can’t really meet with people right now. If we are able to “meet” we have to be six feet away wearing a mask. The other conundrum is everybody is on Zoom or GoToWebinar and people are getting a little bit tired. How do you build some of this intimacy being virtual? I can see everybody from here up, one of the big things we’re spending time with right now in sales is trying to figure out, we can’t see your entire body, we can’t see the room, we see a beautiful picture, we saw the window and you looking out on the beach probably but how do we build this intimacy in this virtual world?
Charles Green: Great question. A couple thoughts on that, #1 the fact that we have less opportunities to create intimacy does not reduce the need for it. In fact, it really puts more stress on the few cases where we have a chance because people need that. If we don’t have that we’re not going to be buying as much or anybody else that can figure out how to get it is going to have much of a leg-up on you. This is a two-dimensional window that you described, do everything you can to maximize that. Invest a little bit, get good lighting, most people have good audio now. A lot of people still don’t have good lighting, it makes a difference, a little mechanics like that. Another one, do your homework. Half the people on this call right now are doing their email on the side, let’s be honest so do your homework ahead of time. Make sure that the time here is high focused.
That doesn’t mean purely content, that doesn’t mean engaged, doesn’t mean don’t engage personally but it means be very conscious of the time. Do your advanced homework, find out something about that person at the other end of the phone. If they’re in Minneapolis, check the weather report for yesterday, ask them how the storm was when it went through. Use something that makes a connection that reads through. When you’re interacting with people remember voice modulation makes a big difference, remember you’ve got room to move in and out in the camera, you can do things like thumbs up, thumbs down, those are some of the interactive. Again, be aware that you’ve got limited time, use it sensibly and do everything you can in advance to find out something about the person, you’ll find a way to let that into the conversation.
Fred Diamond: Charlie Green, thank you so much for all the work that you do with sales and professionals around the world helping them get more intimate and bring more value to their customers. Stay safe through the pandemic. For all the people who joined us today on the webcast, thank you so much.
Charles Green: Thank you, Fred, you’ve got a great group, I love being with you.
Fred Diamond: Take care.
Transcribed by Mariana Badillo