fear_trustWhat’s a scary activity your potential clients engage in every day?

They make decisions.

And why is that scary?

Well…how many people do you know who have been demoted or gotten fired because they made a bad decision?

The buying process is filled with decisions. It’s full of risk. And if you’re a potential new vendor for your client you’re asking them to take a big risk.

Lots of them actually.

What if you don’t perform? What if the money they spend on your solution ends up being needed to capitalize on some opportunity?

And if you sell to consumers, they face risks in the buying process too.

Have you ever gotten into a fight with your significant other over a purchase?

Ever felt stupid after you told a peer you bought something?

Sure you have.

When you’re involved in a sales conversation or a selling relationship, you’re asking the buyer to trust you. You’re asking them to take the risk that what you’re promising is really true and that you really will deliver on all the things you’re saying.

And that nothing bad will happen to them personally or professionally.

Your marketing tactics are likely bringing Suspects (or leads) in from a variety of sources – the Web (through your blog posts, social posts,  directories, and more); live events like speaking opportunities, mixers, and industry events; referrals; and other sources.

Buyers come to you at various points in their own buying process and they’re looking for specific types of things at each point in the process.

The buyer probably doesn’t even realize they’re looking for them.

What they want to know is if taking a step closer to learn more about working with you is worth it. Is it safe or are you just like so many others out there – just out for the sale.

They’re looking – either consciously or unconsciously – for proof elements.

Proof elements come in various types but they serve to reduce the buyer’s level of risk and raise their level of trust of you.

There are 7 types of Proof:

Social Proof. These include testimonials and other evidence that your offerings work, that you’re a nice and reliable person (or company), and that you deliver on your promises. The more proof the better. I like to sprinkle social proof throughout a website and throughout the various collateral material in the sales process. I once saw a testimonial from a client who returned a product. He complimented the business on making good on the “no hassle returns” promise and made clear that the produce appeared to be a good one, just not right for him at the present time. That’s a gutsy move but very smart. Talk about reducing risk and increasing trust.

Results-based. This is the sort of proof that’s grounded in the outcomes past clients have gotten. The more specific the results cited, the more believable they are. So don’t round numbers up or down. If the average client sees a 13.67% improvement in X when using your service than say that. The key element here is to have other proof elements (which I’ll explain below) along with the details in order to strengthen the buyer’s confidence. So when you see the picture, read a little blurb about the person, and read about the results she had you’re subconsciously thinking, “if SHE had results like that then I should certainly be able to see improvement in my situation.” This is one of many reasons why staying in touch with clients to monitor their progress is important and also why you’ve got to have results from people who are like those you most want to work with. Because if your clients all appear to be big companies and your Suspect is a small business she may dismiss those results as being impossible for her to duplicate.

Third-Party Endorsement. This is different from a testimonial. It’s when someone who’s not a client says nice things about you. Maybe some guru saw you speak and blogged about how brilliant you are. (You have a Google Alert set up and you take other steps to monitor when you or your organization is mentioned online don’t you?)  That’s a third-party endorsement. When you get one, it’s like basking in the glow of that person’s brand.

Implied Endorsement. This is a subtle one but it can be really effective. Let’s say you speak at an event or you’re on stage at an event. That’s really an implied endorsement of you and your brilliance. I created a sales kit that sold $400,000 worth of new business in 4 months for the region’s largest roofing and siding company. One of the key elements was a document I downloaded and printed out off of a state website. It had the state’s logo and web address. I got permission for my client to use it and we didn’t change it in any way. We were just handing out helpful information to avoid being taken advantage of by home repair contractors. That was an implied endorsement.

Fact-based. If you’re going to make a claim, be sure to have evidence to back it up. This might be a survey or some other type of verifiable evidence that supports your point of view or verifies your statements. Following organizations that are widely respected and that track trends or conduct studies that are related to your industry, your offering, or the impact your work has on a segment of the population can help you stay on top of and use this type of information.

Achievement. This is slightly different than Results-Based. Results had to do with the outcome your clients’ have. Achievement relates to you, your organization, or your staff if you have one. Have you won an award, landed some big client, celebrated some anniversary, or done something else? If what you achieved is relevant for your clients than you want to use this in your marketing pieces.

Visual Proof.  Sure you can say Joe Blow the COO of ABC Company said you guys are the best thing ever but when you have a picture of you and Joe or you have a video of him actually delivering his testimonial and talking about the results they’ve gotten, then by all means use it. Grab a selfie-stick and the next time you’re meeting with a client who loves you, stand next to her and let her start raving. Some of the elements already mentioned get bonus points when you can add a visual element to them.

Credentials. If you’re a doctor, lawyer, or other professional whose clients want to know that you carry a certain credential then make it clear you have it. Certifications are a way to help buyers recognize that someone is competent in some field. So if it’s important in your industry or to your clients, than make it clear that you’ve got the necessary credentials. I’ve got a certification I maintain that nobody has ever asked me about, but it helped me get a freelance job and was an easy way to verify that I must have known something.

Buyers often don’t know how to buy. They don’t understand what’s different between providers and they can easily default to simple-to-understand elements like price.

You don’t want that to happen.

Proof elements help your buyer feel more confident about you and your ability to perform. So the more, the different, and the more elaborate proof you can provide the easier it will be for them to move forward in the buying process.

What types of proof are important to your Prime Suspects? What elements do you plan to focus on adding to your sales process?

About the author 

Winnie Anderson

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