She made the telephone call, scheduled the appointment and everything seemed to go well.

She wrote a thank-you note after the appointment and after that, made a follow-up telephone call to the client.

The client wanted a demo. The demo was a success. The client asked for a proposal. Wow. Time to celebrate.

But then something unexpected happened.

A competitor came in and offered the same product for a lower price. The client bought from the competitor.

What happened? How could this have been prevented?

The Missing Elements

First: It is critical to start - from the beginning - building trust and value - value, value and more value. Value is defined as "quality relative to price." Quality includes all non-price attributes involved - both attributes of the product and associated customer service.

Value is a critical way of differentiating your company from competitors. The challenge is to convince prospects that they will be getting VALUE that is greater than the price they are paying.

One definition of trust: "Firm reliance on the integrity, ability or character of a person or thing."

Four Ways to Build Trust

(1.) Create realistic client expectations - Help the client to understand exactly what you will do for him or her. What will create extra charges? How and when will you be billing the client? Living up to the expectations you create helps your clients feel they can trust you..

(2.) Help the client to understand the process - If s/he understands how you and your office works s/he can then know what to expect and when to expect it.

(3.) Never over promise - It is tempting to promise whatever the client requests without consulting a schedule or finding out if it is doable. Over promising often causes broken agreements and thus broken trust. Better to under promise and over deliver.

(4.) Don’t allow interruptions at meetings - If you take interruptions during meetings with clients it makes them feel they are not important to you. (One sales rep who left her cell phone on during a meeting actually answered a call from another client during the meeting. Not a smart thing to do.) Eventually you erode the good will and trust that you had with them.

Why Opportunities Can Be Missed

The reason sales people miss the opportunity to build trust with their clients is simple: many sales reps feel conflicted about selling. In some cases, our parents looked down on salespeople, so we feel vaguely guilty when we have to sell. There is that vision of the used car salesman wearing the purple jacket and the yellow tie with the green shirt and asking: “What do I have to do to get you into this car?”

Why Hard Selling Has Gotten Harder

The goal of the sales process is to close deals—isn’t it? Not if you want to build trust. The focus of trust-based selling isn’t the transaction, but the relationship.

The salesperson looking for that first phone-call sale may be disappointed and/or not successful in the long run. Building a good relationship is critical, if you want to keep the customer. The customer must feel s/he can trust the salesperson and most consumers do not want to buy when high-pressure sales tactics are used.

The truth is that clients want to trust us—to believe that we care about them and their interests. They want to believe we are trustworthy.

How can you PROVE you are trustworthy and provide value?

TESTIMONIALS written by real people at well-known businesses prove that your company can be trusted and that you provide real value FASTER than anything you can tell the prospect.
When you say something about yourself or your product, it’s not nearly as effective as when other people say it. When others say or write positive statements about you or your product, it’s proof. That is the essence of the testimonial. And it’s okay to prompt customers about what you want them to say – IF what you want them to say is the truth.

You can ask for testimonial letters from happy customers, but in order to speed up the process, send a testimonial request letter (or email with permission) and fax-back form. You can download (copy and paste) one free at

The principles of building trust starts with the knowledge that if we consistently behave with the best interests of the client and the relationship, we will get more than our share of sales because we are fulfilling the highest desire of a client—to find an expert who can be trusted.

If this is not truly your attitude—that you really want to help people with the product or service you provide, be prepared to lose clients to your competitors.

By Ann Barr

Author's Bio: 

Born and educated in Virginia, Ann spent 10 years in the Court Reporting business in Washington, D.C. before beginning a successful sales career in 1980 for an office equipment dealership in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

In 1993 Ann started, a consulting and sales training business in Virginia Beach. She develops and presents workshops and sales seminars for the office equipment industry.

International sponsors of her sales seminars include Toshiba America Business Solutions, The Ricoh Corporation, Gestetner, Savin, the Business Technology Association, The International Imaging Technology Council, Densigraphix and IKON Office Solutions.

Ann Barr's seminars are known for helping participants increase sales by up to 50%.

Ann writes a monthly column for ENX Magazine and publishes Weekly Sales Tips, an e-mail newsletter serving subscribers in more than 100 countries.

Ann has written eight books on sales and marketing, available at