There is a never-ending sequence of tasks, milestones, steps, and processes that represent the day in the life of any sales rep, regardless of what you sell, whether it’s a product, service, consumable, capital good, etc.

Each offering will have a different sales cycle and audience. Some will require you to be face-to-face while others are facilitated from the “inside”.

But no matter what you sell, for every salesperson there is only one true role that governs what you do every day. You must create and maintain the perception that your customer (or prospective customer) has of YOU.

But Why Is Their Perception of You So Important?

Generally, based on human nature, most people are “risk adverse”. They will often choose to buy, and even pay more, from those they “feel” and perceive will meet their needs with the lowest amount of risk to them, and at a cost they deem reasonable. This is true whether you are selling them software, life insurance, computers, machinery, or even a lawn mowing service.

An example of this would be the feeling people have towards a Mercedes Benz. Very few of those wanting or considering buying this brand of car truly know that mechanically or structurally a Mercedes Benz is better than a Kia. But, for most of us, our perception or belief is so strong, thanks to the marketing efforts, that we not only would prefer to buy a Mercedes, we would do so at a significant cost premium.

Is that premium warranted? Few of us actually know, but most people defend their expensive brand-name purchases as being better than the alternative. We want to justify our decisions.

An even more relevant example would be a Real Estate Agent or Financial/Insurance Broker. How is it that some agents make millions each year, while others barely break even? Is it because one knows more about mortgages, insurance, or stocks than the other? Not likely! One has a greater ability to create the perception of confidence and trust.

Ask yourself:

  • Will your Real Estate Agent’s great attitude and warm personality really increase your odds of finding the home of your dreams and at the right price?
  • Are you assured your financial portfolio will deliver a higher return if you choose the planner who looks professional, arrives on time, and comes prepared?
  • Does your Insurance Broker’s persistence and level of organization mean they know more about which insurance products are best for you?

The answer… maybe or maybe not!

Simply put, the quality of their salesmanship has little bearing on the eventual outcome for the customer. They may find you the home of your dreams or they may not. They may be the best financial planner or they may not. They may have tremendous knowledge of what insurance options are best for you or they may not.

Since we often cannot make a first-time buying decision knowing what the real result will be, what are we basing our decisions on? The answer goes back to how that salesperson made us feel during the buying process. All we know for sure is that the one who got your business was better at creating the right impression and perception. Therefore, they were the better salesperson.

It’s also true that we, as the customer, will only truly know if we made the right decision afterwards, at which point the reality, not the perception, will show its face. If the results were “as advertised”, the sales rep can expect the relationship to strengthen and future sales to come from that customer. If not, the relationship will end.

So How Do You Create and Influence Their Perception of You?

The first step is to understand that there are three levels of trust that you, as a salesperson, can establish with your customer. The higher the trust, the greater your odds of winning the sale.

  1. Company Trust: The trust that your customer has in the company you represent. The larger and more well-known the company, the more this has already been and continues to be done for you via the company’s history, reputation, marketing efforts, etc. (e.g. Sony, Mercedes Benz, IBM).
  2. The Product/Service/Brand Trust: The trust that your customer has in the products or services you represent. For example, customers are more likely to inherently trust “Cheerios” over a private label version.
  3. Personal Trust: The trust that your customer has in you as a person.

Now that you understand the different levels of trust, next is to realize that the only level you as a salesperson can directly influence and have control over is building trust at the personal level.

Remember, they likely would NOT have bought from your company the first time if not for how YOU made them feel throughout that initial buying process. As a result, the power to create that “feeling” is in your hands and, for any sales rep, this is their primary role.

The second step is to ensure the perception you are trying to create is authentic. It must be truly who you are, otherwise it will not come through and is unsustainable.

Next, ask yourself – what do I want my audience to think of me? What feeling and perception must I create for them to want to buy from me? How can I get them to believe I am:

  • Knowledgeable about my product/service?
  • Very trustworthy and reliable?
  • A good listener? Empathetic?
  • Organized?
  • Committed?
  • Someone with their best interests in mind?
  • A fair and honest person?
  • Responsive?
  • Confident? In control?
  • Friendly and warm?

The last and most important step is to realize that you alone have the ability to directly influence their perception. Once you realize that, you will take great care, detail, and responsibility to plan your actions accordingly.

This realization is what this entire guide is all about. This realization is power; it takes the onus away from factors you cannot control and puts them firmly on your shoulders. Certainly, good marketing material, a strong website, and a fancy presentation will help. But, the best salespeople know that these tools are only there as support. Ultimately, success rests squarely in their own actions.


Focus is your ongoing partner for totally integrated Sales Management, including strategy, process, CRM, forecasting, metrics, reporting, coaching, and recruitment. Get in touch with us today!

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Darren Rabie

About Darren Rabie

Darren Rabie (HBA, Ivey School of Business, University of Western Ontario) is the Founder and President of Focus. As the President of Focus, Darren’s primary role is that of “chief sales strategist” for clients. He also continues to travel throughout North America delivering speeches, workshops and sales/sales management training for both private and public audiences.