Telling Isn't Selling

Neil Mahoney

Listening is far more important than talking and schmoozing when you want to earn the respect and trust of your prospects – especially in the first meeting and the early stages of the business relationship. Even if you’re responding to a prospect’s inquiry, it’s important to remember that prospects must first respect and trust you and your company before they’ll be comfortable buying from you.

Don’t just launch into the wonders of your product and all the benefits they’ll get from it. Try to learn their opinion of your product and your company. Ask them if they’ve had experience with the type of product you’re selling and whether or not they’ve been satisfied. Next, determine if they’ve ever used your brand. If the answer is positive on both counts, that’s great. If it isn’t, now’s the chance to discuss the ways your company has improved things.

After the call, follow up with a brief e-mail thanking the prospects for their time and promise to send a letter that recaps the meeting. Then promptly follow up on that letter to see if there are any questions or comments. These demonstrations of “prompt response to needs and requests” help you in the first stage of earning those essentials to sales success: respect and trust.

Earning Respect

There are many cases where the fact that you’re part of an illustrious company automatically gains you respect. Giant organizations often do that. So do smaller companies with great names: Rolls Royce, Ritz Carlton, and Maxime’s of Paris are but a few examples.

More often than not, you’re going to be representing a company that doesn’t have that degree of cachet. Either way, here are some things you should do to earn the respect of your customers and prospects:

  1. Know your product or service very well.
  2. Know the markets you’re selling to.
  3. Know the wants and needs of your prospects and customers.
  4. Be able to express and demonstrate how well your product or service satisfies those wants and needs.
  5. Know your competition and how to express your superiority over them without being disrespectful to them
  6. Be respectful of the time and attention your customer or prospect is giving you
  7. Conduct yourself professionally, in accordance with the prospect’s behavior
  8. Be a good listener. Try to learn as much as you realistically can about the prospect’s business
  9. Take good notes, and in most cases follow the session up with a complete conference report that’s free of errors in grammar and spelling
  10. Remember: “prompt response to needs and requests” is second in importance only to low price when all else is equal
  11. Also remember: Don’t decline to tour the prospect’s facilities if asked. That’s like refusing to look at pictures of their kids.
  12. Develop trust between you, the customer or prospect, and other important buying influences – both direct or indirect

Developing Trust

Trust is everything in a sales relationship. This cannot be overemphasized. Earning someone’s trust does not happen overnight. There’s a simple formula for trust: Trust = Truth + Time:

  1. Trust is earned by telling the truth and keeping your word.
  2. Keeping your word includes being there when you say you will, and doing what you said you’d do when you said you’d do it.
  3. Don’t promise more than you can deliver.

Always remember: trust is fragile – and it’s easily broken.

Neil Mahoney has more than 30 years of experience in sales and marketing. His website is