You Have 7 Seconds to Gain Your Prospect’s Trust

As you walk into your prospect’s office for the first time you have 7 seconds meeting others for the first time to gain their trust. What is your sales strategy? The first barrier to win a sale is the natural distrust a prospect feels toward salespeople.

This natural distrust is called Relationship Tension, and it invades nearly every relationship during the opening stages.  But it’s especially important for a salesperson to work to help the prospect overcome it so both can get on to relieving the second kind of tension that is slowly building, Task Tension: the desire to get something done.

So how do you relieve relationship tension when working with a prospect?  By building trust and credibility.

And how do you build trust and credibility?  By focusing on four main building blocks of credibility:

  • Propriety
  • Competence
  • Commonality
  • Intent

In today’s post, we’ll focus on the first two, propriety and competence.


Propriety is basically the “first impression” you’ve been told is so important.  And it is.

If a salesperson doesn’t “look the part” because he’s dressed too formally, too casually, or in some other way inappropriately, the first impression is going to be negative and trust will remain elusive.

Similarly, if a salesperson’s behavior, manners or speech are such that they detract from his efforts to intelligently discuss the customer’s problems and possible solutions, the impression he makes will keep relationship tension high.

In extreme cases, lack of propriety can even offend and anger prospective customers, destroying your chances of making the sale.  This can especially be a risk when you are selling to individuals in a different land with a different culture and/or language, and where certain gestures, facial expressions, voice inflections or body language can be unwittingly offensive.

The basic gut reaction a prospect gets from your appearance, manner and how you present yourself has to be positive for relationship tension to begin to lessen.

The best way to ensure you understand and follow the basic guidelines that constitute propriety in the industry, culture or geographic area you’re going to sell in, especially if it’s your first foray into that realm, is to have a mentor.  Someone who’s been there and knows what your prospects expect as to propriety. This mentor might be your sales manager or a peer.

If it’s not possible to find a mentor who has your best interests at heart, at the very least do your due diligence:  make brief phone calls to people in your prospect’s industry to glean useful information from them.  Your connections and/or groups in LinkedIn are good places to start.

Another approach is to conduct research via the Internet. This could include doing a Google search on individual you’re about to meet and/or accessing Hoover’s report on the company.


Even if your manner, language and appearance are spot-on, if the prospect feels that you’re not capable of doing what you’re suggesting, or that you simply don’t understand their problems, you’re not going to make the sale.

You must be able to demonstrate competence through your words and actions or the prospect will never feel comfortable entrusting the resolution of a problem to you and your product or service.

To demonstrate your competence, you can discuss your personal and organizational background as it relates to the prospect’s company or industry.  This is especially effective if you have specific experience you can highlight of success you’ve enjoyed working with similar issues.

For instance, as you are discussing a particular problem the prospect is facing, you could say something like, “yes, I know what you mean.  Just last month I was working with ABC Corporation on a similar issue, and here’s what we were able to do for them.”

Share your knowledge on the subject without stepping over into making educated guesses or arrogant claims.

In the next post about in the series Sales Techniques-Relating (STS) we’ll discuss the last two building blocks of credibility: commonality and intent .

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