People don’t like people they don’t trust, and they don’t trust people they don’t like. Here’s what’s also true: People won’t buy from you if they don’t trust you, and they probably won’t buy from you if they don’t like you.

Salespeople usually shoot first and then aim. They talk about how great the product is, how long the company has been around, the installer’s formidable skills, and on and on.
Sometimes that works. There are gullible people out there. And salespeople love stupid. Stupid makes for an easy day and a big paycheck, which is why homeowners are wary of salespeople. Think about it. If you asked a hundred people to think of a single word they associate with “salesman,” how many would say honesty? How many would say integrity?

Common Ground

To sell them they must trust you, and trust doesn’t happen as a rote step in a 10-step selling system. As in: “Hey, in this step I’m going to get the customer to like me.”

You establish trust by drawing prospects out so that you can find what you have in common with them. It happens in stages, in the course of time, not instantly. Just because you and I graduated from the same high school or are fans of the same sports team doesn’t mean I’m going to like or trust you. Just because we both play the guitar … well, I might like you a little more, or pay more attention to what you’re saying. Brick by brick, I dismantle the wall that stands between us.

In unsubtle hands, this effort to establish bonds can backfire. That happens when your effort to seem genuine is so obvious that you come across as a phony. And nobody likes or trusts a phony.

Tell the Truth

Your opportunity to create a real connection comes when the prospect asks a trust question. For instance: “I understand this comes with a guarantee, but how do I know you’ll be around to fulfill the terms of that guarantee?” What that question really means is: How do I know I can trust you? When 99% of the salespeople out there get a question like that, they default to selling. “Oh, well we won the Angie’s Super Service Award last year and we …”

In other words, they dodge the question. In fact, the way to answer it is by being absolutely truthful. In this case, tell the prospect you don’t know if the company will be in business in five years or if, at that point, when they call for service, someone will respond immediately. They’ll understand that there are situations that you, the salesperson, have no control over. You’re not God.

They’ll also be relieved that you told them the truth rather than falling back on the standard feel-good palaver about how great the company is. Now may be the point where they begin to trust you – and the point where the real conversation begins. —Sales veteran and trainer Mike Damora has been the sales manager at several large home improvement companies. Reach him at