TSB-Trust-Based-Selling

TSB Book Club: Trust-based Selling—Chapters One through Seven

I spent my weekend at the SOBCon conference in Chicago, so I am woefully behind on my reading of the first book from The Sales Blog Book Club, Trust-based Selling by Charles Green.

I couldn’t be happier with the choice of book. For a long time, I have kept a list of required reading for business-to-business salespeople. Trust-based Selling will join that list, and in a very high position; it is that important to success in sales.

I have never spent much time thinking about trust, honesty, or integrity. For me, it seemed that all of these attributes are simply table stakes; without them, you don’t even get considered. If you are trustworthy and honest, you are so as a matter of course; it isn’t something that gets much of your attention. But it should.

Trust is one of the primary consideration buyers make.

Ideas and Questions

In Trust-based Selling, Charlie Green lays out the buying process into two phases, the screening process and the selection process. In the screening phase, the buyer looks at our credentials, in the selection phase they look at us.

These are some of my key takeaways. Add yours to the comments!

Chapter One

“People come to trust you by seeing you in action, by giving them samples of your work. This is what wins selection.”

Q1. If this statement is true (and I believe it is), what actions does this mean that the salesperson must take during the sales process? What could you add or subtract from your planned sales dialogues and your sales process.

Chapter Two

“The relationship itself—an interlocking web of personal commitments, existing over time, conducted with transparency, and founded on respect for each other as ends in themselves—is the source of value. In Trust-based Selling, ‘customer focus’ means the relationship is the customer.”

Q2. What does “the relationship is the customer” mean? What does it mean that “people buy the relationship and pay for it in product?”

Chapter Three

“When customers have your interests at heart, and you theirs, things are fundamentally different.”

Q3. This chapter includes a killer list of the business value of trust for both buyers and sellers. But sometimes your client doesn’t have your interests it heart. As much as we want to collaborate and create larger pie, sometimes clients are adversarial, act in way that assumes a zero sum game, and ignore the value of trust and relationships.

How do you behave and encourage trust when our client doesn’t reciprocate?

Chapter 4

“The biggest reason sellers are not seen as trustworthy is very simple: they’re not. They don’t have the buyer’s best interests at heart. They believe that their objective is to get the sales—as opposed to helping the buyer.”

Q4. I believe many—if not most—salespeople are trustworthy under this test. What is your experience?

Under Reasons We Resist Collaboration With Customers, number 8 is “Fear of sharing our economic model.”

Q5. Why do we as sellers fear sharing our economic model with our clients? Why do some clients insist on seeing our economic model? Is it ever for any reason other than establishing a lower price? How do you manage to share this kind of information when so much of the decision to purchase is price-driven, even in non-commodity sales?

Chapter 5

“. . . Trust-based Selling is about human processes, not business processes. It is business process neutral. Almost all failures of trust creation are human interaction problems, not business process failure problems.”

Q6. How much of your sales process is centered on business process ideas? Is trust-building embedded in your sales process? Does it underlie all of the stages of the process? How do you include trust as an outcome of your sales interactions? What do you have to do to build trust at each stage?

Chapter 6

Under Ten Ways to Adopt a Medium to Long-Term Perspective, number 5 says: “Accept that you have total control over your sales effectiveness—and very little control over its timing. Sales closed on trust are sales closed on the customer’s calendar, not yours.”

Q7. If the statement above is true, what does that mean you have to be able do to reach your quarterly goals and your quota? If there is no shortcut for building trust, how do sell according to these ideas and manage the timing of sales?

Chapter 7

“To properly evaluate expertise, the buyer would have to possess the very expertise he is trying to acquire. Not surprisingly, buyers prefer to screen on acceptable levels of expertise, then base final decisions on trust. They prefer to assess trust not by qualifications, but by sampling: selling by doing.”

Q8. I believe this is true. How do the buyers processes, like requests for proposal, and our selling processes, like presentations and proposals, sometimes work against our ability to sell by doing?

Your Thoughts and Ideas

Please add your thoughts, ideas, and key takeaways in the comments. Also, please share with me if these prompts and questions work for you, or if you have some other ideas about how we might share our ideas and pursue a dialogue; I am up for some exploration about how we best share and learn from each other.


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Comments

comments

  • http://bizdevsamurai.com Damian Thompson

    Anthony, firstly thanks for putting our little reading group together. If we wanted a more interactive discussion later, we could always try a twitter chat #TSBBC (the sales blog book club) maybe?

    • Anonymous

      That’s not a bad idea, Damian. Wonder how many we could get on for chat?

      • http://bizdevsamurai.com Damian Thompson

        If I am reading your email correctly, you had 50something people sign up? I reckon we could get 30% to participate at a given time, enough people for a decent conversation maybe…

      • Krassimir Alexiev

        Hi guys I am also in if you do not mind people from overseas taking part in this exciting discussion. Incidentally, I am following the Sales blogg – great staff really. Thanks a lot.

    • Anonymous

      Damian I think that’s a great idea, and I’d love to participate as well. I recently joined my first twitter chat on a life insurance subject matter, and it was great; lots of good interaction with, in that case, only about 10 people, so if Damian’s right, you shouldn’t have much trouble getting critical mass.

      By the way, I’m loving this conversation.

  • Doug Rice

    Here are my thoughts ok the first 7 chapters. I am probably unique in this conversation in that I work in a very specific industry of b2b sales–the automotive sales industry. That being said, I cannot think of a more fitting book for a car salesman to read! The ideas in here are utterly paradigm shifting if not a little idealistic for my industry. Here are my takeaways:

    • On page 11 Charlie mentions the Acid-test of trust in selling. I realize that referring a customer to a competitor is a last resort and I also realize that it would be a vivid indicator of me truly having the customer’s interests at heart. However, how do possibly justify such a practice to management. Maybe it’s because of the specific buying process/cycle of my industry, but I can’t imagine in my wildest dreams my manager putting a rubber stamp on sending a customer somewhere else. If we can’t help the customer, isn’t it our job in sales to convince the customer that we can–regardless of what they say?

    • On page 26, Charlie writes what I think is the most profound statement of the book: “the relationship is the customer.” It does something psychologically to me as a salesman to see the customer as an end rather than the means. I don’t know how effective this is in actually producing results in my industry quite yet but, as I’ve put it into practice, it sure makes me feel better about myself. I’ve been hammered, since starting in sales, to drive toward closure. That agenda has now taken on new meaning. The sale is not the close. It is a means to the close. The long-term relationship I have with the customer is the close. This is a downright revolutionary thought for me. I now find myself calling and following up with people who didn’t buy from me because I care about our relationship and still want to know how satisfied they were even if I didn’t sell them. This is a great and much-appreciated thought.

    • On page 45, Charlie discusses the trust-equation. I’ve read other books on trust that have included credibility, reliability, and (by other names) intimacy, but the notion of self-orientation seems new to me. Here’s the equation: Trust = Credibility + Reliability + Intimacy / Self-orientation. Thus, self-orientation is the denominator. If I am the most competent, knowledgeable, personable salesperson in the business, it doesn’t mean anything if the customer can see that I am in it for myself. This is so true. I believe that true customer-focus, the opposite of self-orientation, is everything Charlie says it is. My question is, “How can I break the stereotype?” How can I get a customer to see me as anything but self-interested? Sometimes, it seems as if there is nothing I can do to change the denominator. What are your thoughts?

    • At the very end of page 65, Charlie gives a short list of practices that indicate a lack of collaboration with the customer. Number 5 on that list I find to be all too true: “You discuss with your team what the customer really wants, rather than asking the client directly.” I cannot count how many times I’ve personally fallen into this trap. When the customer leaves or gets off the phone, I start venting to the salesperson next to me–coming up with all kinds of assumptions about why the customer behaved the way they did. When I should be qualifying the customer, I am often qualifying another salesperson about the customer! I think that the reason for this, though, is my own fear. I’m afraid to ask the customer questions. I’m afraid of the answers I may get. Yet, I realize that this fear forces me into being combative rather than collaborative. When I talk with other salespeople, it’s like I’m conspiring against the customer. If I just pick up the phone and call, I am sending a signal to both myself and the customer that we are on the same team.

    Those are the key takeaways that I noted as I was reading. Of course, it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Trust-based Selling is full of cool stuff! I am delighted and priveleged to be introduced to such a potentially life-altering work. Trust (especially in my industry) should never be considered an afterthought. It is foundational. This book is a spectacular reminder of that fact.

    • Doug Rice

      An editorial remark…..I am in “b2c” sales, not b2b” sales. :)

    • http://www.thesalesblog.com S. Anthony Iannarino

      Best car salesman I ever encountered told me that he couldn’t sell me the car at the price I wanted, and that I should try to find someone else who might be able to. It is the ultimate trust-genrating move.

      I bought five cars from him.

      Killer insights, Doug! Thanks for sharing them here where they will surely help others as much as you and I!

    • http://www.trustedadvisor.com/trustmatters Charles H. Green

      Doug, terrific insights. I want to comment on a couple of them.

      First, congrats for having the wisdom and the courage to read these kinds of ideas in your b2c business–one of those that is often stereotyped as being the poster child for non-trustworthy businesses.

      I actually think that works for you. Someone who sells from a basis of trust is going to stand out like gold in a sea of, well, not gold.

      I recall reading somewhere about the US all-time champion car sales guy, who sold thousands of cars per year. Guess what his “secret” was? No secret at all; he worked real hard at keeping personal track of all his customers. He personally wrote postcards to people–no CRM-generated notes, real honest caring. And it’s really no surprise–no one’s ever seen a car salesman do that, and guess who you’d rather buy a car from? No doubt.

      Doug you mention the difficulty of convincing your bosses of certain of these ideas. One of the chapters in my upcoming book The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook is precisely on “Justifying Trust.” The two biggest arguments people make against it are that it takes too much time, and incurs too much risk. Both are flawed arguments: the truth is trust saves a whole lot of time (though in some cases you do need to make some upfront investment). As far as risk, the truth is that’s the only way to create trust: if you sit around waiting for everything to be risk-less, you’ll never get it.

      But back to your bosses: the best way to prove you’re right is to sell more cars. For the most part, that is within your control. You may not be able to do every one of the suggestions in the book, but the vast majority of them don’t require approval. They consist of things like really really listening–not to do a brainsuck to find out data, but to really connect. Or to get over yourself.

      I had to chuckle about your concern for the Acid Test, referring a competitor. You don’t actually have to do that: you just have to be willing to do that if it were the right thing to do. For example, if you’re selling Chevy’s and someone wants a car with specs that only the Audi A4 are going to match, it’s a no-brainer to say, “Honestly, we don’t have anything on the lot that does that–you’re describing an Audi A4.” Would that get you fired? I hope not. But you have to be the judge of that. It’s more about mindset than actually doing anything. By the way, one of the role models for that idea (and I can’t remember if I put it in the book) is the Christmas movie Miracle on 34th Street, where Santa Claus gets a job as a Santa at Macy’s, and recommends to a mom looking for a specific toy for her son that Macy’s is out of that toy, but that she can get it across the street at Gimbels’. In the movie, the supervisor of Santas wants to can his ass for doing that, but the CEO totally gets it–he starts saying, “why if we actually told customers the truth, including where to find things at Gimbels, then they’d believe us, and prefer to shop here; don’t you dare fire that Santa!” So maybe you could rent the DVD for your boss, eh?

      Doug, I love how you got the idea of “the relationship is the customer.” And you do get it, I can see. I struggled with that phrase, trying to make sure it was clear. I’m glad it was, at least to you.

      May you trust, and be trusted,
      Charlie Green

  • http://www.trustedadvisor.com/trustmatters Charles H. Green

    Anthony, I am of course delighted you are doing this great job of facilitating a discussion about Trust-based selling. More to the point, you’re doing a great job of it.

    Love your comments! Love Doug Rice’s comments! Keep it up. I’ll do what I can to publicize this most excellent dialogue as well.

    Thanks for doing this, keep up the great work!

    Charlie Green

  • http://twitter.com/Robinson_Jeremy Jeremy Robinson

    I also agree that seeing us in action and giving samples of our work is a must-do in the trust based selling „process“. By giving samples, opening up to giving away the knowledge we have on the buyers’ terms enables us to gain the buyers trust. By doing this we stop focusing only on our perspective as sales people and demonstrate the will to create value for our customers.
    What we can learn from this is to focus on ways how we can demonstrate our expertise in clear examples for our customers. Why not demonstrate our products or service in action more often?
    A change of the sales process (during a presentation) could be to focus on the sample and keeping everything else as backup. Create precise value and then backing up the newly gained openness and acceptance with the classic presentation. I’m sure buyers will view everything from a completely different perspective.

    “the relationship is the customer” – how true. I experience this all the time. The longer the sales process and the bigger the investment for a service/ product the more the relationship will be a winning factor – not so much the features. The relationship you build over this period of time, being open to offering insights and expertise on all all kinds of areas – not strictly just around your product – will get you the sale. Again: trust.
    “As much as we want to collaborate and create larger pie, sometimes clients are adversarial, act in way that assumes a zero sum game, and ignore the value of trust and relationships.
    How do you behave and encourage trust when our client doesn’t reciprocate?”

    Be honest about how you feel about the situation. Be direct about your feelings. There is nothing to lose. Must clients respect your openness enough to either let you know there is no chance for a trusted relationship or open up themselves!
    ““The biggest reason sellers are not seen as trustworthy is very simple: they’re not. They don’t have the buyer’s best interests at heart. They believe that their objective is to get the sales—as opposed to helping the buyer.”
    Q4. I believe many—if not most—salespeople are trustworthy under this test. What is your experience?“

    I agree – but what I think is that a lot of salespeople focus a lot on the product which gives buyers the impression that they just want the sale. Focusing mainly on the product itself has many reasons – e.g. stability/ safety.

    “Under Reasons We Resist Collaboration With Customers, number 8 is “Fear of sharing our economic model.”
    Q5. Why do we as sellers fear sharing our economic model with our clients? Why do some clients insist on seeing our economic model? Is it ever for any reason other than establishing a lower price? How do you manage to share this kind of information when so much of the decision to purchase is price-driven, even in non-commodity sales?”

    Probably because we often feel like we have to show all the benefits before we talk about price. We fear that if the buyer knows the price at an early stage of the sales process – we will lose the opportunity. I fully agree to Charles about talking about price at an early stage – be open and transparent. It can only raise the level of trust. I myself would feel a lot better a seller would actively tell me about the economic model of his product or service.

    More feedback to come.



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