The moment that a stranger sees you, his or her brain makes millions of assumptions about who you are at the speed of light.
Are you a friend or an enemy? Do you have power and respect? Are you trustworthy or should you be avoided? These tiny and quick calculations are what build a stranger's perception of you– all within the first seven seconds of seeing you.
In business interactions, particularly in sales, first impressions are imperative to one's success. While we can't stop strangers from making wrongful assumptions about us, we must know and understand that the human brain is hardwired this way and that there are decisions we can make to work in our favor.
An initial meeting with a potential client will be deemed successful or a failure based on the following criteria: eye contact, handshake, body language, a genuine smile and facial expressions, what you say and more importantly, how you say it.
Within these seven seconds of interaction, your door for business will either swing wide open or slam shut. Yet, today face time has widely been replaced with impersonal emails, text messages, video-conferencing, and even instant messaging. How does one establish trust without ever seeing the individual you are selling to?
Trust achieved through written words is possible, but is far more difficult to establish. To win one's trust entirely, you really need to show them your worth, which will require face-to-face interaction. Through written words, you can write a strong message to your potential client up front, which will help set the building blocks to earn trust. Your message will need to catch their attention and point to a pain or pleasure scenario that the client is familiar with. You can then follow-up with a proposition that will address a solution to their problem.
Building trust over the phone is done in a very similar process. Within the first seven seconds, you must say something intriguing that will keep your listener listening. Sales trainers often call this the "big fat statement." What you say is important to keep the conversation going, but also how you say it. Tone of voice is a big make or break in sales calls. Once you've got their attention, you will need to zero in on your sales pitch, which will address the pain or desire of that client, prompting them to learn more about how you can address their needs.
Another way to achieve trust comes from others selling who you are. If someone is respected and they refer another person there tends to be immediate trust, which is secured but needs to be maintained through action.
A salesperson's biggest reason for failure is that once trust is established, they fail to deliver on their promises or ensure that their client is still happy with the service. Some people will give second chances if the effort to perform was there, but if promises were made and not followed through– trust evaporates.
Ideally, a face-to-face meeting is the best approach for strangers to instill trust in you. To many, this is considered an "old school" approach, but nothing beats a personal touch. Video-conferencing is the next best thing if for whatever reason you are unable to meet your client face-to-face.
Without trust, your chances of closing a deal decrease and the ability to create a long-term relationship with a client are greatly diminished. You might be able to sell one time, but you will not develop the kind of relationship that will garner long-term sales plus referrals.
-- Hans Hansson, Starboard Commercial/TCN Worldwide