The When, Why and How of Credibility

A sales meeting is most effective when your prospective client is willing to answer the questions you ask. If they think you’re just another useless salesperson, you won’t get there. Getting to the point where they are ready to answer your questions, is crossing the credibility threshold. Establishing your credibility usually requires you to do some talking. The trick is, once you’ve established yourself, to turn off the talking, and turn on the questioning.

There are a number of ways to cross the credibility threshold.

1) A referral from someone the prospect knows will sometimes get you across, although many people will still confirm on their own that you’re credible before they’re comfortable answering your questions.

2) A discussion of the current marketplace with market knowledge that indicates you know what’s happening, and have insights and ideas that are relevant, will get you across the credibility threshold. Communicating the details of something your prospect has wondered about, like the technical workings of a new product in the market, establishes credibility.

3) Evidence that you have completed a cutting edge transaction in the marketplace. Sometimes a prepared presentation is useful here.

4) The “who you know” game; best played by the senior guard. If you know enough people in the industry that they know and respect, you can usually get over the credibility threshold.

5) Or, you can just assume it, like Gregg Fraley‘s former colleague, Steve.

Once the introductions were made and there was a pause in the small talk, Steve would pose the following question:

“So, what are the major strategic objectives of your company, and how do they impact what you need to accomplish in the next twelve months?”

And then he’d wait.

Still wearing his overcoat, he’d lean back in his chair and glance around the office, occasionally checking back in with the office owner to see if he’s ready to start talking yet. Most times the client would begin talking, because in the end, it’s a really good question. A cogent answer tells you a lot about the organization and the person answering.

It is, admittedly, a tad cheeky.

The bottom line, however, is if you don’t cross the credibility threshold, it’s hard to have a useful conversation. And when you do cross it, stop talking about yourself, and start asking questions. The best way to remain credible is to uncover and reframe their problems, and then offer some ideas to solve them.

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2 Responses to “The When, Why and How of Credibility”

  1. As a sound sales practice, as early as possible, I request a meeting with the top corporate officer who will have the final say……

    This meeting is brief and to the point. My question is two fold, What is it that you want from this acqusition and what is your greatest concern regarding the transaction……..

    In many case, the answers was differant that the line manager with hwo I had regular interface……..

    It also give one liberty to meet the top guy at a later date, having established a direct contact……

  2. Jonathan V says:

    I like the “assume it” response. A favorite approach is to start off by putting the onus on the prospect with a, “why are we here?” Let them tell you what they’re hoping you’ll provide them.

    Although I once witnessed someone asking that in a church environment…turned out to be a very funny few moments of philosophical confusion. But it sure broke the ice!

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