People buy from people they know and trust. But sometimes they don’t know any of the vendors who respond to the RFP (which does happen, more in some markets than others) or they’ve had bad experiences with the vendors they do know.
Trust is a complicated thing. You don’t achieve trustworthiness by claiming it (as in stating that you are a “trusted supplier” or anything similar). You don’t achieve trustworthiness by sincerely feeling that you are trustworthy, or through commitment or intent. In a seller/customer relationship, trust must be earned. Here are some ways to earn a customer’s trust that you can build your win strategies around:
- Knowing each other for long enough that the customer has seen that you deliver on you promises
- Methods or processes that are transparent, verifiable, and reliable
- A track record or history that is verifiable (and not simply claimed)
- Covering all contingencies
- Being up front about risks and having a credible approach to mitigating them (instead of just saying that you will)
- Details (having a plan is better than having a plan to have a plan)
- Warranties and guarantees
- Making things quantifiable
- Making things tangible
- Writing the proposal from the customer’s perspective instead of making it all about you
- Avoiding things that work against trust
Things that work against trust:
- Unsubstantiated claims
- Failing to deliver on promises
- Having a bad reputation (or negative performance record)
- Making it up as you go along
- Being opaque or closed instead of transparent
- Leaving things unquantifiable
- Leaving things intangible
- Talking about yourself instead of showing concern for the customer
You should think about trust on at least four different levels:
- The sales person/customer relationship. Without credibility and trust, the sale will not close.
- Project staff/customer relationship. In services markets, the staff who will do the work often matter more than the company that delivers them. And your customers often know it.
- Performance. It comes down to delivering as you promise and meeting expectations.
- Proposal. When you don’t have a prior relationship with the customer, all they have to decide whether to trust you is what’s in your proposal. Cynical customers know that some vendors will say anything in a proposal. Trustworthiness must be proven in order to be earned in writing. If it is possible at all…
Win strategies based on trust come down to:
- What you need to say
- What you need to do
- What you need to deliver
If they aren’t in synch, it works against trust.
Stealing a contract away from a customer that already has a relationship with another vendor isn’t about getting them to like you more. It’s about getting them to trust you more.
Achieving this means avoiding all things that work against trust. And thoroughly delivering on all things that build trust, before, during, and after the proposal.