Before prospects will buy from you, and especially when it comes to major account business to business (B2B) sales, they need to trust you. Many entrepreneurs face special challenges establishing trust because they don’t have the track records that more established companies have.
You decided to start your business with noble intentions, but prospects don’t know you. With no track record, it’s hard to establish your credibility. One thing in particular I always tell my start-up clients is to really know your industry’s perception by prospective clients.
As an example, you did a great job with SEO for the company you worked for, and have now decided to start your very own SEO firm. You’re probably thinking, “I have done such a great job for my employer, I can do this same type of service for others.” Even if you’re great at what you do and you offer a valuable B2B service, it’s important to understand your industry’s overall reputation and to empathize with the experiences that your prospects might have had before with your competitors.
You need to build trust in any sales relationship, and especially in ones where there is a chance that your decision maker has previously had a bad experience. This goes for many B2B verticals, including PR, or even lead generation, the industry that I’m in. While you weren’t personally responsible for this, it probably left a certain level of distrust amongst your decision makers for “vendors like you.” There are lots of sales people out there who will promise that Kim Kardashian will wear your jewelry, or that they can put your company website on the first page of Google, or that they can generate lots of easy sales leads coming your way.
The reality is, as an entrepreneur, you’re not just competing on your own merits, you’re competing against lots of aggressive promises and (sometimes, unfortunately) disreputable business practices that cause your customers to distrust people from your industry. A survey from Wallaroo Media showed that 18 percent of decision makers thought that SEO companies are a scam. If you are selling SEO services, you need to be aware of this.
Here are a few key concepts to keep in mind when building trust with new prospective clients:
1. Share real success stories.
One of the most important ways to build trust with new clients is to use “social proof” by creating case studies and testimonials to show the real stories of real people who have hired you before. According to a survey from TechValidate, 54 percent of B2B marketers said that sharing stories of their customers and experience using “unbiased 3rd party customer evidence” was rated as “extremely effective.”
Even if your company is new, if you have a well-established track record of success in your previous career (and in the combined expertise of your leadership team and board), you can build trust by reminding customers of your other experience.
2. Don’t make guarantees.
If you start making guarantees, you start sounding like their previous vendor. Most experienced decision makers know that in a service based industry, like marketing, it’s nearly impossible to make an exact guarantee.
Instead of making guarantees about specific results, be radically transparent about your process. Show your clients – starting with your website, blog articles and case studies – how your firm works and how you approach problems for your clients.
3. Don’t charge low prices.
Many entrepreneurs believe that if they charge below standard pricing, they will get the business. While that does work with some decision makers, others see a red flag. Why is your pricing so low? According to a study from McKinsey, price is not the most important consideration for buyers of B2B services. In fact, the McKinsey study found that “low prices” ranked last out of 13 brand themes that B2B companies use to market their products and services. Low prices actually had a negative correlation to B2B buyers’ perception of the B2B companies’ brand strength.
Remember to know your industry, and any perceptions in the marketplace. This will help you to better formulate your sales process, and ultimately close more deals.