One of the main challenges manufacturers and retailers have is establishing credibility with the customer. According to research, the consumer is more likely to trust information received via their own research, on the web or from friends, than from a salesperson. Some industries have an easier job of getting the credibility message across than others, for example a vet is likely to be more trusted and credible than a second-hand car salesperson in the consumers mind.
Whatever industry you are in the important rule of the game is to get the credibility message across quickly as the consumer has not got the time to wait and do the research on you to provide them with the confidence they need. So what are customers looking for in the credibility stakes? This is my list of essential attributes for the credible salesperson:
First impression is based on what you wear
I have heard sales people say that it does not matter what they wear when dealing with the customer as it is their knowledge that is important. We live in a society that, for better or worse, judges people on first impressions. What you wear does matter. There is a dress code for nearly every job – some of those codes may be quite strict with little leeway, while others may be looser, but a code still exists. You cannot get away with wearing Bermuda shorts if you are a bank manager, outside of Bermuda. The consumer will judge you on what you wea – you have to play by their rules, not yours.
Watch the body language
The consumer will believe you if they feel you are confident about what you are talking about. That means you need to watch your body language. Use positive, not negative, body language when dealing with the client. This means that facial expressions are as important as having an open body stance. We pick up the little clues at a subconscious level when talking to each other. You need to show you are confident in what you are saying. How you say it is as important as what you are saying.
Have a business card handy
It still amazes me when I am presenting conferences and ask for people’s business cards, the number of people who tell me they have left them at home. Business cards are an important tool in your armoury and should be with you all the time. When you cannot present a business card your credibility declines in the customer’s mind straight away.
Use open questions to start the conversation
To gain credibility with the consumer you have to start the conversation in the right way to obtain the information you require to gain the credibility. Open questions, those that start with how, when, where and why allow the consumer to explain where they are in the process, what information they already have and what information is missing in their mind. This allows you to fill in the gaps for them.
Credible people are listeners. Not only do they listen, but they show that they are listening. Perfect those listening skills and the customer will be more open with you and more trusting of you. Do not butt in at the wrong time or interrupt and finish the conversation for the customer. The golden rule in a successful transaction is that you talk for about 30% of the time and listen for about 70% of the time.
Tell your team what is happening
Listen to the customer and follow up in the correct manner. I am in the process of changing my car with a reputable car company. I have agreed a format for our dealings with them. In the last week I have had letters from at least four people in the organisation asking for details I have already supplied to the salesperson – their credibility is going downhill rapidly. Why do they not communicate with each other in-house before they harass the customer?
Follow up with an agreed timetable
Set out a plan on when and how you will continue the communications journey with the customer and then stick to that plan. We are still waiting for a plumber to phone us from three months ago after he promised he would ring back straight away. Credibility is about agreeing to the ground rules and keeping to them.
Credibility is based on the weakest team member
Remember that you work in a team and the weakest member in the team actually sets the ground rules for the consumer. You will be judged on your weakest performer, not the best performer.
Keep up to date with trends
Keep up to date with the trends that your customer is keeping up with that surround your product. This may mean reading the same magazines. A car salesperson may need to keep up with Top Gear and a garden centre retailer may need to read the fashion magazines to keep up with colour trends.
Consumers are looking for salespeople they can trust and whom they feel are credible. It is your role to make sure that you move past customer service and start building credibility.
John Stanley is the Retail Guru and one of the top ten percent of speakers in the world today. He is an acclaimed retail consultant and Western Australian Entrepreneur of the Year 2009. John is author of several marketing, customer service and retail books including the best seller “Just About Everything a Retail Manager Needs to Know”, his company is Western Australian Small Business Champion 2009 – Education and Training. For more information on how John Stanley can help you, visit his website www.johnstanley.com.au or email firstname.lastname@example.org