Imagine your hot water heater breaks down unexpectedly just a few days before your big holiday get-together. The repairman says the appliance can’t be fixed, but he can sell you a new one and install it tomorrow. The only model available on short notice is nearly twice as expensive as your first choice. You can’t help but wonder if he’s just taking advantage of your situation, or if he really has your best interests in mind.
This isn’t much different from the way HCM sales prospects view payroll sales reps when they start the sales process.
A salesperson will always be viewed with suspicion first, even when they’re looking out for their customers. The most successful HCM sales reps know how to defuse that suspicion and establish trust and rapport as early as possible.
More and more studies show that B2B customers don’t purchase based on reason and logic. They purchase based on emotion, and they use logic and reason to justify their decisions. That makes it critical to appeal to your prospects’ emotions throughout the sales process.
We don’t advocate being manipulative, but being relational. The most human company wins, and the most relational sales rep gets the bigger contracts. Get to know your customers as people rather than as accounts, and you’ll close more sales with bigger deals.
Here are some proven ways to establish trust and rapport with your customers.
People like the people who like them, and a genuine compliment goes a long way toward building rapport and trust. But a compliment must be authentic. Your prospects will be wary of mere sweet talk, and empty flattery is likely to backfire. They will assume you aren’t genuine from the start, because they know you’re trying to make a sale.
Some guidelines to follow:
- Don’t be over the top. Simple compliments can make a big difference. Don’t embellish or make something small into a big deal.
- Avoid vague compliments. Be specific about what you appreciate, and give examples of times you’ve seen it.
- Focus on character rather than appearance.
Listen Better Than the Competition
People are great at talking, but very few are good at listening. Most people think about what they want to say next when they should be listening. When someone really listens to you, it stands out and makes a big impression. People want to feel important, and there are few things that communicate someone’s value more than paying attention to what they have to say.
Follow these best practices for active listening:
- Do your homework ahead of time. Anticipate the basic types of questions and objections you’re likely to encounter and be sure you know your position on those topics.
- Listen to what your customer is saying. Don’t think about your response, but listen to understand. Watch for the key words they use that are at the center of their comments or questions. Also listen to what isn’t being said — the details you would expect them to mention. This may indicate that they haven’t thought through everything, or there may be tension on the team that they’re avoiding. Notice body language and pick up on the subtext — even if you’re meeting virtually (this is a good reason to turn cameras on).
- Be aware of your body language. Show that you’re paying attention, that you’re receptive and willing to hear criticisms. Communicate interest in your prospect. Use eye contact. In a virtual meeting, look into the camera lens, not the screen — it’s a subtle but noticeable difference.
- Rephrase the question or comment in your own words. This is called reflective listening, and it’s helpful to get clarification and to show that you are listening to them. If your customer used emotionally charged language, rephrase it in neutral terms to help defuse the emotions in the room. Ask if you heard them correctly. This step also gives you time to formulate your response.
- Respond to their question or comment. Don’t be afraid to spend a moment in thought, if you need it — the short silence is more uncomfortable for you than for them. If you don’t know the answer, tell them you’ll research the question and get back to them. Never resort to the red herring fallacy — using the art of distraction to avoid giving an answer. This can destroy trust. Whenever possible, finish your reply with a statement that communicates a benefit or value to them.
Provide Unexpected Value
Most salespeople attempt to show value to their clients. But few sales reps provide value that doesn’t benefit themselves. When your customers see you offering help that doesn’t benefit you, it shows that you care about them even if they don’t buy from you. It communicates that you see them as individuals, and not as an account or a commission.
Notice the small things:
- Sarah has a newborn and isn’t getting enough sleep.
- David’s company is going through an onerous compliance certification.
- Mike wishes his teenager was wiser with spending money.
- Emily is having a hard time finding a qualified job applicant.
Take note of the side comments and small talk, and find opportunities to provide unexpected value. Share an article on the topic. Refer them to an expert you know. Point them to a service provider that you’ve used in the past.
Providing value in this way builds trust and shows that you’ve listened to them and understand what they’re going through.
Manage the Handoff
If you’ve spent a lot of time with a customer, the handoff to your implementation team can be as important as the sales process. If you make a quick exit with no communication between you and implementation, it can feel like you were just there for the sale from the beginning and faked your interest.
Make sure the handoff is as seamless as possible. Communicate what your customer should expect, and make sure the implementation team has all of the relevant information they need.
There are a lot of HCM options available to your prospects. If a customer isn’t happy and they feel like you’re just trying to close a deal, they can go to the next vendor on the list. But when you do business human to human, your company becomes the only one they’ll want to deal with. Not only will you win more sales, you’ll be more likely to get bigger deals as well.