Build Trust Early.  Agree “Rules of Engagement” Early!

Build Trust Early. Agree “Rules of Engagement” Early!

It’s exciting to return from a first visit to a prospect that was hot-to-trot.

It’s frightening to see how many of these hot prospects fall into the abyss of “chase” mode and, ultimately, die a slow death.

Come on, we’ve all had the experience.  You follow-up with a call to your soon-to-be-newest client, and her assistant does an Oscar-winning job of sighing over the boss’s vicious travel schedule.  Or the prospect herself replies with a vague email citing back-to-back meetings leading up to the annual management retreat.  “Love your stuff.  Let’s talk at the end of the month.  Thanks for comin’ by.”

It’s bad enough losing business that you thought was a sure shot.  What’s worse, though, is the hours you spend trying to nail down the next step or trying to get a response to a proposal.

Time is our most valuable resource.  Chasing disingenuous buyers can suck the productivity right out of salespeople – and the profitability right out of Brave New World start-ups.

“How can buyers be so heartless?” some ask.

Because many buyers believe that once most salespeople get in the door, they’re going to push every button they can to close a deal.  And many times, they’re right.

Selling in the Brave New World is about changing your mindset and, thus, changing your tactics.  SBNW requires transparency and, to some degree, paying it forward.  But it also requires being politely firm and, thus being seen as an equal… and not as a sales dog!

Here’s a great tool for gaining respect – and trust – from your prospect right up front, while saving yourself the disappointment of false expectations gone real.

Open with “Rules of Engagement (and Disengagement)” early!

Depending on the style of the prospect, I might say it like this… sometimes within two minutes after we’re first engaged, and always at some point during a first meeting:

“I’m a big boy, Joe.  I learned to live with ‘no’ a long time ago.  So if something about my style, proposed solution or anything else doesn’t work for you, you have every right to opt out.  Just tell me.  I might ask you a last question or two to ensure there hasn’t been a misunderstanding, or to see how I can do better, but that’ll be it.  We’ll both feel better about our relationship, and we’ll both save time.  Deal?”

Find your own words, but put a quid-pro-quo understanding into your toolkit.  Be courageous about disengagement, and your terms of engagement may become stronger than ever.

It can have an incredibly positive impact on your prospect’s perception of you… and on the relationship.

  1. The prospect will see you as confident, and as a “straight shooter.”
  2. The prospect will see you as a professional who values your own time.
  3. The prospect will see that you value his/her time.
  4. The prospect will see that you won’t play manipulative, traditonal sales games.
  5. By making it easier to say “no,” the prospect will drop his guard and be more comfortable in speaking frankly.
  6. Add ’em all up, and the buyer will trust you!

Whereas time is our most valuable resource, trust is the most valued quality in the buyer-seller relationship.  “Rules of Dis/Engagement” can put you way ahead of your competitiors.

Perhaps the most innovative concept auto giant General Motors ever developed had nothing to do with the design, manufacturing or mechanics of a car, but rather the brand promise around the Saturn line.  Saturn advertised a quid-pro-quo agreement between their dealers and car buyers.

Too bad GM screwed up at the corporate level and could no longer finance this niche brand, because the “Rules of Engagement” concept is something the Saturn marketing team got totally right.  And now other dealers are copying Saturn’s mojo.

Here was Saturn’s promise:  “Visit our showroom and… we’ll leave you alone!  Feel free to ask us anything, and we’re more than happy to help.  If you want your space again, we’ll leave you alone again!”

Yep.  Walk in to a Saturn showroom and all you got from the salespeople was a friendly, “G’mornin’.”  They didn’t hound you.  They didn’t play manipulative games.  Sure, if you had any questions or, well, needed help buying a car, that’s what the salespeople were there for.  But they honored the “right to engage/disengage” agreement.  Car buyers gained so much trust that they often found themselves chasing the salesperson.

And wouldn’t that be an excitingposition to find yourself in?

Photo by Li-Hua Lan / The Post Standard, Syracuse NY 2009