Get to the core of building your sales relationships.

June 28, 2007
Selling is about more than low prices and good jokes.

Question: What do you think is the No. 1 reason your best customers buy from you?

Your prices?
If you've listened to any good sales and marketing expert, you know selling on price alone is an unsustainable business model. Value is more important than price.

Your personality?
You may be charismatic and funny. But if being funny guaranteed sales success, you'd see a lot more jobbers driving around with red noses and clown suits. Being likeable can only carry you so far. It may be why prospects will listen to you. But it's not the core reason they buy from you.

Your product knowledge?
You're getting close. That's actually part of it. Research has shown that the top salespeople have excellent product knowledge. But some of the worst salespeople also have excellent product knowledge. You can't be a successful salesperson without product knowledge, but product knowledge alone is no guarantee of success.

The brand name on your truck?
You're getting hotter. But customers switch brand loyalty every day. The reason most of your best customers buy from you is more basic than brand.

Your best customers buy from you because they trust you.

People will sometimes buy from someone they don't like. They never buy from someone they don't trust. Period.

Customers might forgive you if you're a little rusty on product knowledge. They'll pay you more for personal service and financing. You can even convince them to switch brand loyalty. But they won't become your best customers unless you earn their trust.

Earning trust
The problem is trust is usually built over time. It's based on a series of positive experiences. You trust someone because they've proved themselves trustworthy. But you can't build trust unless a prospect trusts you enough to make that first purchase and become a customer.

So, how can you build instant trust? Let me start with an example of someone who quickly created distrust.

Several months ago, I needed a new muffler. There are more than a dozen muffler shops within a mile or two of my house. So, I drove to the shop that installed my last muffler a few years back. I walked in and stood waiting for a minute while the service writer dawdled with paperwork without looking up. Then he finally acknowledged me.

    "Yeah?" the service writer gruffly greeted me.
    "I need a muffler," I said. "How soon can you get me in?"
    "Depends," he said. After about a minute of looking over my van he proclaimed, "You need a whole new exhaust system."
    "I'm sure," I said, "but not today. How much for just a muffler and tail?"
    "Won't do that," he said. "Don't want to be responsible if something happens to you."
    "Take me off the lift," I said. "Don't do anything. Don't want you to feel responsible."

Despite his protests, I walked. Why didn't I didn't trust this guy? And what can you learn from my experience to help you build trust with new customers?
First, be trustworthy. We live in a small world. Your reputation will precede you. I went to this shop because they treated me right last time. But I later learned the shop had changed ownership. If I'd known that before, I might have gone to the other shop in town that I've used before. I only trusted the shop based on past experience.

Making an impression
Next, remember first impressions are lasting impressions. Practice these four simple habits and you'll build trust faster:

1. Be yourself.
Overly friendly salespeople with forced smiles throw up red flags with prospects. Don't try to be unnaturally upbeat. The flip side of this is my muffler guy. He didn't even attempt to be friendly. He almost seemed to go out of his way to be rude. Try to be nice. Just don't try too hard. Be sincere. Be natural. Relax and be yourself.

2. Don't know? Say so.
One of the worst things you can do if someone asks a question is to fake an answer. Prospects can tell. It's much better to be honest, and tell them you don't know — but you'll find out. Then make a note and get back to them or pick up the phone and get an immediate answer. No one expects you to know every answer. But they're paying you a premium because they expect you to know how to get the answer quickly. Don't bluff to try to look like an expert. Do your homework and be an expert.

3. Deliver what you promise.
If you promise to answer a pre-sale question for a prospect, get back to them right away. Most people expect pre-sale service to match or exceed post-sale service. If you don't appear responsive before the sale, they'll worry you're not going to be responsive to their needs after the sale. People trust dependable people, so be dependable.

4. Care about your prospect.
Prospects can sense if you really care or if you just want the sale. Prospects trust salespeople who are sincere and interested in them. My muffler guy wasn't sincere. He didn't really feel responsible. He just wanted my money. To show you care, spend time getting to know your prospect. Ask questions. Get to know their need.

You are not selling tools, you're solving problems. A little time spent understanding their needs can go a long way towards getting them to spend more with you.

Working hard to build trust with prospects and customers can help you win more of their business. Every meeting with them is a chance to build a deeper level of trust. Remember every customer was a prospect at one time. And your best customers probably took a long time to win over. It's worth the wait.

Phil Sasso is the president of Sasso Marketing Inc., an aftermarket advertising and public relations firm. Phil is also a speaker and a consultant — and has a face any mother would trust. Subscribe to his free marketing tip email at:

About the Author

Phil Sasso

Phil Sasso is president of Sasso Marketing Inc. (, a technical marketing agency providing advertising, public relations and promotional services to tool and equipment marketers. Subscribe to his free marketing tip at

Sponsored Recommendations

Garage Tip: The Value of System Solutions

Learn why inspecting related parts when repairing your vehicle can save you time and money. Avoid future failures and ensure satisfaction! Click to watch now.

Access the Best Learning Resource for Professional Mechanics

Get hands-on tips, updated repair instructions, mounting videos, failure diagnosis, and best practices for professional mechanics. Click to access essential technical info to ...

From the Basics to Innovations - Transmission Technical Training Videos

Explore Schaeffler's portfolio of transmission technical trainings for the LuK brand. Tailored for all skill levels, our modules cover basics to innovations. Click to learn more...

Clutch Release Problems - Diagnosis & Failure Analysis

Explore common clutch release problems and their causes, from hydraulic issues to mechanical faults. Understand diagnostics and solutions for optimal clutch performance.

Voice Your Opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Vehicle Service Pros, create an account today!