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Sales Ethics: 3 Steps To Overcome Buyer Distrust
Blog / For Sales Pros / Apr 24, 2018 / Posted by Shawn Karol Sandy / 5644

Sales Ethics: 3 Steps To Overcome Buyer Distrust


Why does the sales profession get a bad rap? What’s the number one reason many people don’t want to be approached by a seller?

Is it that we think they’re too pushy? Is it that we don’t want to be confronted with a choice or have to reject someone? Is it because we think they’re only out to close a deal? Yes, to all, maybe.

I’d say, mostly, it’s because of prior experiences where the end result of our decision left us feeling mislead by the capabilities OR we regret that we put our faith in someone that clearly didn’t have OUR best interest in mind (a matter of sales ethics). Those experiences have contributed to the collective DISTRUST of sales people.

Being burned when we trusted someone creates deep psychological and emotional craters in our relationship landscape that are difficult to bridge. Broken trust in personal relationships can be emotionally crippling. Deceit or misrepresentation stemming from professional choices can damage credibility or integrity. Regret stings and feeling we were made a fool of is a lasting shame that burns every time you remember what brought you to that end.

So, it’s human nature to be wary of someone that we EXPECT has their own best interests at the forefront of their objective. Really, we all KNOW what sales people are tasked to do, right? Even when the title is masked to try to “hide” the fact that we’re being sold to – by an “Account Executive”, “Business Development Representative”, “Customer Advisor”, or “Business Owner” – we know what their end game is.

All these breaks in bonds or trust have NOTHING to do with how honest or trustworthy YOU may be, however, when you show up to sell, you are facing the fallout of your buyers’ personal trust experiences. DISTRUST exists to protect us and the fallout from crappy sales practitioners that have gone before you is that buyers are unwilling to be complicit co-conspirators in their own exploitation.

So, presumably, people still need to buy “stuff” and despite some emerging popular opinions, as consumers, we still WANT to buy from PEOPLE. We want the options to do our own research to be educated about purchases and we outsource others experiences to gain insights so we’re well armed and not easily mislead. Our buying process has changed tremendously over the last 10 years, empowering us as buyers to be less dependent on sellers to inform and educate us. At the end of the day, however, we still seek our personal emotional connections with other humans and that is why we will still buy from real live humans that sell products, solutions, and services.

To sell, however, you must still cross that “TRUST” chasm.

To sell, we have to earn the OPPORTUNITY to demonstrate and build trust.

When we show up to sell, not only is trust not presumed, DISTRUST is already present.

So how do you overcome the “DISTRUST Factor”?

Here is a 3 Step Guide To Overcoming Buyer Distrust:

First – Create continuity of experience. Nothing smells more like seller’s desperation than having multiple personalities. Salespeople tend to be high energy and friendly in nature but when those are features that are “turned on” for the job, it creates an incongruent experience if your true personality shows up outside of work or really, fails to show up anywhere else buyers are looking at/for you.

Check your digital footprint– If you’ve shown up at an event to network and you’ve been in sales for 10 years, yet, your LinkedIn profile is sparsely populated and missing a photo of you, that “LEAD” you met, probably lost interest the minute they searched your profile. Your knowledge, humor, and friendliness don’t translate into your digital reputation. It’s ALL part of your reputation and credibility now. Fix it. Immediately. Give your buyers a reason to want to connect, know more, and take your call.

Your network is your net worth. People talk. People review, and people ask for referrals and resources throughout all their networks. Yelp, Angie’s List, Rotten Tomatoes, Glass Door . . . these review sites demonstrate how we outsource others opinions and experiences. What do your customers say about you? What would your customers say about you if they were asked? Would their description match who a prospective buyer meets in person? Can they accurately describe the results you produce? Would their description reflect the awesomeness your digital profiles suggest?

If you’re not working a referral plan, you’re missing out on a tremendous opportunity to reach primed and warmed leads who already EXPECT you to be fantastic. They trust their peers or reviews and all you have to do is show up to prove them RIGHT! Referrals are a tremendous way to leap rog buyers’ initial distrust hurdles that have you at arm’s length. When you’re referred by a customer, you’ve just fast tracked credibility and skipped to the head of the line to be the next supplier or provider.

Second – Build Personal Emotional Connections. We’ve all received phone calls or emails as cold as a penguin’s lunch or about as personal as an IRS form letter. Cold, yes, in that they arrive out of the blue with no prior relationship, but also COLD, as in ROBOTIC or generic – totally impersonal.

Be Authentic – Selling doesn’t mean you put on a fake “professional persona”. Jargon riddled, fast talking, or stiff and robot-like speech is an immediate trigger for distrust. Whether meeting someone in person, on the phone, or via LinkedIn mail – be you. I hear so many sales people seize up over the phone and become these stiff robots delivering memorized lines I can almost HEAR buyers rolling their eyeballs back inside their heads on the other end of the phone. If they could say it, they’d tell you, “I am much more willing to talk to someone that sounds like a real person with a real reason for calling me.” Be authentic. Lead with the real you – friendly, personable, warm . . . not a fake or rigid Autobot who tries to deliver their 4 line script before taking a breath or getting hung up on.

Be Transparent – The other day I received an email from a new acquaintance where she started out by thanking me for the insights and information I offered to a group of business owners. She mentioned how much she learned and then asked if we could meet for coffee because she “would really love to learn more about my business”. Flattering, right? Until I see her title at the end of the email. She is a business development executive for a local organization. My distrust alarm went off and I immediately discounted all the compliments for being “buttered up” and mislead. “Oh, she wants to meet to talk to me about a membership”, is the conclusion I came to. I’d much rather she’d been transparent about why she’d like to meet, why I should meet, and why she thought this would be a valuable use of my time. Transparency is appreciated and can help your potential buyer lower their guard to be receptive to what you have to offer. Dressing up your intention with compliments or disguising your purpose will only come back to bite you in the behind. Be Transparent. Get to the point. Don’t waste your time or your prospective customers’ by mucking up the value you are trying to deliver.

Be Interested. The only way to show you are interested in someone else is to ask them questions about themselves – NOT about their budget, their buying timeline, their decision-making authority . . . about them. When you’re focused on the individual in front of you – not his/her company or title, you can create Personal Emotional Connections – a very memorable experience. THAT translates to how you quickly make your buyer or audience feel about you. Knowing that your buyers are preconditioned to distrust, a memorable experience is achieved when you demonstrate that you are NOT like other sales people and solely self-interested in your own objective. You have the opportunity to create a personal emotional connection by showing up interested in this potential customers’ job, their day, their challenges, their work life . . . the details of that are unique and meaningful to them.

Third – Give individual attention to INDIVIDUALS. Perhaps nothing irks me more on the buyer side than when I’m a number in an auto dial system, the lucky sales rep asks for me and then proceeds to plow through his/her sales scripts with marvelous ignorance (bless their hearts). Again, nothing sets off those alarm bells that scream “Hang up, this is a waste of time” than blind questions and uninformed guesses as to whether you are a good fit to buy.

Do your homework. There is NO EXCUSE for not knowing who you are calling or speaking to. I’m just going to leave this right here. Internet. Google. Social Media. NO EXCUSES! It takes exactly 3 seconds to pop open a browser tab and type a name into LinkedIn or a business into Google. Some CRM’s pull that information into your system for you. Hubspot has a Chrome extension that sits on your browser and with one tap; you can pull up financial and operational information about a company when you’re on their site. Try to know at least 3 relevant and specific things about your prospect before you speak/write/meet with them so you can relate to them on their own terms and they will feel less like the piñata you’re wildly swinging at with a bat while blindfolded.

Don’t set the wedding date yet. Again, from my own experiences on the buyer side, depending on MY OWN timeline and comfort level of knowledge and research, I may want to take a decision slowly. I might be researching my options or thinking about how a software application would fit into my potential client’s solution but when the sales person connects with me from my inquiry they’re all “assuming I want to get married” and I’m still not sure I’m interested enough to go out on a date yet. If you’ve ever had someone misinterpret your intentions (or timeline), you’re familiar with that “WHOA” feeling and pumping the brakes on the relationship. Your buyers will come to a grinding halt if they think you’re trying to press them into a decision or the next steps of your sales process because that’s what you’re supposed to do. Buyers will imagine you’re only working in your own self-interest and shut down the information highway and perhaps never reopen it for you. Like any relationship, it takes time and small, incremental measures of trust to achieve stable and meaningful credibility. Be prepared to meet your buyers where they are in their decision and have value to offer them at each stage of their process.

You may have heard the sales adage, “People buy from people they know, like, and trust” and that’s probably generally true but I think as sellers, we assume buyers are all willing and open to knowing us, liking us, and trusting us. Often overlooked is this prior hurdle of distrust. It’s extremely powerful, deeply rooted in experiences and our own filters. We have to first earn those opportunities to get to trust and credibility by smartly and strategically overcoming buyers’ DISTRUST.

Until next time, stop hoping, start SELLING!

Pipeliner CRM empowers salespeople to build trust. Get your free trial of Pipeliner CRM now.


About Author

Shawn founded The Selling Agency after a successful sales career working on building solutions for Small Businesses. Shawn's titles include: Market Director, Sales Director, Marketing Director, Development Director, and Entrepreneur. She focuses on organizational selling and strategies.


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