What better way to kick off winter in the northern hemisphere than with something a little tropical?
Specifically, a tropical thought experiment.
Now, I know it’s not as exciting as the giveaway for an all-expenses-paid trip to some exotic locale that you were hoping for — but stick with me.
Here’s the scene: You’re lying on a pristine beachfront in a secluded cove, and there’s everything you’ll need for an extended stay: bottled water, all the BelVita Biscuits you’d ever want and luxurious life-raft tents.
That’s right — your plane has crash-landed on a deserted, tropical island.
Don’t worry; everyone’s fine. The only problem is the limited resources and the captain, who disappeared in the night.
Who do you put in charge?
The lawyer? Maybe the nurse or the college history professor. You might even think the folk singer has what it takes to lead you to safety — but how many would choose the salesperson?
I’m willing to bet the salesperson is not the first choice.
You’d be forgiven for thinking, “Wait, what does this have to do with reaching prospects again?”
Short answer: Everything — especially in a predominantly virtual world.
The Virtual Selling Behaviors that Matter
Historically, sales has not been viewed from the outside as a high-trust profession. We’re seen as slick talkers, not the credible and driven problem-solvers that we are.
While B2B purchases may not be a survival scenario, like our thought experiment, they can have profound consequences for the buyer — and no one puts their career’s health in the hands of someone they do not trust, like or believe is credible.
Our recent research supports this. We surveyed 464 sales training decision-makers to identify what matters most at each stage of the buyer journey. Here’s what we found:
Stage 1: Engaging with prospects
- 61% of sales leaders rate “establishing credibility and trustworthiness” as the top skill.
Stage 2: Qualifying leads
- 56% of respondents agreed that effective lead qualification is driven by “asking good questions/actively listening.”
Stage 3: Negotiating
- 48% of respondents believe the most important behavior for negotiating is a seller’s ability to “maintain rapport with buyers.”
Stage 4: Closing Deals
- 56% of respondents view “maintaining relationships with existing customers” as the essential sales behavior for closing deals.
Closing sales always comes down to human-to-human connection, and the most impactful connections are built on a foundation of trust, credibility and rapport, so how can sellers lay that foundation?
Building Trust, Credibility and Rapport
You’re introduced to a professional contact. Where do you go if you want to learn more about this person and if they’re a trustworthy individual?
A quick search on LinkedIn is often step one, which is why sellers must maintain a well-curated and authentic online brand. In fact, a study by LinkedIn showed that no social selling action had a greater impact on sales success than the completeness of a seller’s LinkedIn profile.
I had a sales manager that used to say, “Show me that you know me.” And that’s advice that never goes out of style.
To sell to executives, salespeople have to prove that they know the prospect’s business and challenges that they’re likely facing. That begins with targeted research on the person’s role, the industry they’re operating in and the company itself.
One of the most influential and succinct ways to present this research is a value-based story. It’s a 30-second opener that explains how a seller and their company has helped individuals like the prospect in the past — and when done well, it’s a sure-fire way to pique interest and establish credibility from the very beginning.
Yes, it’s helpful if you went to the same college as the prospect or both root for the same basketball team, but that only gets you so far.
You know what’s more impactful? Asking good questions that further a high-level business conversation — and actively listening to the prospect’s responses.
While conversational intelligence tools free sellers from detailed note-taking, it is essential to record the highlights from every conversation in your CRM. After all, every conversation is an opportunity to learn more and align your solution with this particular individual's personal and professional motivations.
If you want to dive deeper into our latest research and learn actionable tips for developing trust, credibility and rapport, check out:
- Our upcoming webinar: “Measuring the Virtual Sales Skills that Matter”
- “The Skills Sales Leaders Care Most About – And How to Measure Them” in the LinkedIn Sales Blog
- My latest in Forbes: “The Whole Recipe For Sales Training Success”
Until next time, happy selling,