Show, don’t tell. Ask, don’t assume.
It may be ‘til death do us part for marriage, but business relationships are dissolved as soon as there’s reason for doubt. As Inc. magazine observes, trust is what fuels a successful relationship.
There’s an intentional and strategic way to relate to clients – especially property managers and HOAs – and the tactics revolve around making it easier to do business. You’ve got to prove you’re capable. Here’s how.
Are you listening?
Impact, a New Haven-based marketing agency, observes that a common complaint from buyers is that vendors just don’t understand them. They caution vendors not to assume you know the biggest challenge a prospect faces just because you have other customers just like them.
Part of selling is the process of discovery. Demonstrating that you truly understand the problem your prospect is trying to solve. It may be different than it looks. Ask questions that prompt buyers to explain problems and then ask them to cite specific examples of the problem. This will uncover whether and how you can help.
Active listening gives you another advantage. Buyers want assurance that you can meet specific needs – and in the case of property management or an HOA, those needs are coming from residents or business occupants. You’ll get the contract because you can deliver. You’ll deepen the relationship when you’re able to help the buyer see the overall impact that working with you will have.
All of this is a process of discovery. Blame it on all the nonprofessionals who came before you, but most buyers are going to assume that you’re going to offer the minimum viable product or service. They have what sales consultant Force Management calls “seller deficit disorder.” It’s an irritating affliction (from the vendor point of view) where the prospect has already decided that you don’t understand what they need and you’re not going to listen to them.
How are we doing?
It’s likely that a customer will make future purchasing decisions based on the business relationship they have with you. A TrustRadius study shows that 62 percent of those surveyed said a vendor played a tactical role in the purchasing process. The organization quotes a Marketo research survey that shows buyers want partner-like relationships with vendors where they feel understood.
How can you establish this “partner-like relationship” with a client? TrustRadius recommends encouraging robust feedback. It’s a powerful way to combat the current statistics which show that 84% of organizations feel they’ve got a deep understanding of how buyers want to be engaged – yet only 62% of buyers feel it’s true.
Feedback requires a response. Wal-Mart founder and CEO Sam Walton had an ingenuous approach to responsiveness. He called it his “Sundown rule.” It dictated that all requests made from buyers received a response on the same day they were received. Keep in mind that this was his rule long before the advent of email. Wal-Mart was founded in 1962.
A rule similar to Walton’s proactively signals to your clients that you value their input and want to be a true partner.
People buy from people they like
This statement is at the core of an excellent book about successful trust-building by psychologist Dr. Robert Cialdini. In his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Cialdini offers key principles that help you establish and maintain trust through influence.
Trust, Cialdini writes throughout his book, is established because of things that often happen at a subconscious level. One example he gives is using what’s known as mirroring and matching to develop rapport. He says that neurologists call the natural tendency for people to like people who are like themselves, “neural synchronization.” It’s easier for us to develop a professional bond with someone just like us.
Cialdini recommends mirroring and matching techniques such as matching a buyer’s body language, and the pace and volume of their speech. You’re sending the subconscious message that you are paying attention.
Another technique that creates and deepens buyer trust is your generous demonstration of expertise. We’ve already hit on seller deficit disorder, and nobody likes a know-it-all. What unique knowledge or insight based on your experience can you share with a buyer that shows you can be a trusted extension that adds value and builds on their reputation?
Are you building, or eroding trust?
Research giant Gartner says that trust drives the buying cycle. While the organization’s focus is on technology, the process is the same for any vendor-buyer relationship. The development of trust is easier to deepen and control once the relationship is underway.
Once you make an agreement with the buyer, you’ll have less to worry about from external influences in the way of competitors attempting to steal the business. But you will have to pay even more attention of the customer experience – and remember that this will be driven by residents and business occupants. Your challenge is to make it easy for buyers to address issues and avoid complaints. They want to look good, and that requires your help. Fail to meet this challenge and you will lose your client’s trust. Soon after, you’ll probably lose their business. Vendorsmart can make you more visible to property managers and HOAs by presenting you as a properly screened and vetted vendor. Learn how.