With the sales profession suffering from a less-than-rosy image, it’s crucial to take the appropriate steps to establish a level of trust with the customer, writes Furniture Sales Solutions' Adam Hankinson …

In a recent Gallup poll (6th January 2021], nurses topped the ‘most trusted profession’ chart for the 19th year in a row. Respondents were asked to rate the honesty and ethics of 15 different professions as very high, high, average, low, or very low – and nurses remained the undisputed leader, earning a record score of 89% (4 points up on last year). 

Doctors and pharmacists both scored highly and were up on the previous year too. Conversely, at the low end of the poll, politicians and car salespeople tied, at 8%.

A perception problem?

This depressing insight mirrors a Hubspot survey, in which a group of people were asked to imagine that they were shipwrecked on a desert island with 20 strangers from different professions. Where their first task was to vote for a leader, the doctor won comfortably – but the politician, salesperson and lobbyist all drew for last place, with only 1% of the votes each!

So, what steps can salespeople take to build trust?

Seek at first to understand

The old adage is that this is a ‘show’ room, not a ‘tell’ room, so before launching into a big pitch about the product that earns you the most money, ask great questions of your customer that enlighten you to their situation, needs, wants, desires and problems, so you can ‘prescribe’ the right solution – a good doctor would take the time to understand the full nature of your ailments and symptoms before prescribing the right treatment or cure.

Sell from the heart – not the wallet

Empathy is the leading characteristic in nursing – that innate ability to understand how it might feel to be in the patient’s situation. Likewise, the best salespeople have a way of getting inside the mind of their customer to see things from their point of view and their own, which enables the salesperson’s expert knowledge to match the problem with the most appropriate solution.

Be patient

How often has a customer asked you the same question as many other customers? And how have you responded? Each individual customer is genuinely asking that question because they have some type of query or concern that needs answering to their satisfaction before they can proceed in the buying process.

Your bedside manner

In 2000, a programme was launched at Michigan University to help doctors improve communication with their patients. By 2010, claims against the doctors had dropped -36%, and lawsuits by -65%. Special focus was placed on doctors ‘educating’ patients using tonality – especially by lowering their tone, and by the use of humour in their conversations.

Talk with your customers, and educate them on why you’re recommending your products or services.

Listen with rapt attention

The feeling of really being listened to – not just humoured – creates in the other person an inner warmth, the sense that you genuinely care about them. Picture a conversation with the most important person in your life when they were at their most vulnerable, with you ‘being there’ for them.

Quality of contact

Doing all of this is likely to create a deep and meaningful conversation, not just a transaction – a unique interaction between two equally vested parties, the type of interaction that creates both trust and loyalty (trust in you, and loyalty in your brand). 

Trust, then, is the secret to recommendations and referrals, and loyalty the secret to creating customers for life.

This article was published in the March 2021 issue of Furniture News magazine.