How to Increase Sales Performance by Quickly Building Trust

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Every year, Gartner asks people who make tech purchases for their organizations what they want from the sales process.

And every year, survey respondents say they want trustworthy information from their personal interactions with sales teams (full report available to Gartner clients).

Whether you’re selling computers, cars, or something in between, building trust is essential to sales success. Failing to build trust will tank deals, while building trust makes selling much easier.

How to Increase Sales

Carrie Thompson, facility manager at Affordable Mini Storage, says the most important step for winning a sale is to be honest:

“This is probably the number one thing your clients want from you. People want to make their own decisions, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t appreciative of a little free education—particularly when it saves them money!”

If your product or service is truly the best option for a prospect, Thompson recommends three steps to building trust and winning the sale:

  1. Empathize
  2. Build credibility
  3. Encourage price shopping

In this piece, we’ll dive into each step and take a look at some tips you can apply at your own business.

3 steps to building trust for sales success

1. Empathize to build trust

Demonstrating empathy can be extremely effective when building trust. Who do you trust more: someone who understands where you’re coming from and seems to really care, or someone who either doesn’t get it or does but is ultimately disinterested?

One good place to show empathy is when responding to sales objections. There are many different reasons a prospect might think your product or service isn’t right for them; it’s too expensive, the wrong fit, or the wrong time.

Even if you disagree with the prospect—actually, especially if you disagree—begin your response by acknowledging the prospect’s feelings. It’s a great opportunity to build trust.

“If someone objects to a storage unit being too expensive, I always acknowledge their thoughts and feelings,” Carrie Thompson told me. After all, even a reasonably priced solution can be too expensive for someone with a limited budget.

Cristian Rennella, VP of sales and cofounder of elMejorTrato, has an interesting way to show empathy: Tell clients why they shouldn’t buy from you. This requires that you understand why the prospect might not be a good fit, while showing that you care more about what’s in a client’s best interest than making the sale at any cost.

“After nine years of hard work and having more than 21.5 million clients, I can assure you that the best advice is to share why they should NOT buy,” Rennella told me.

These reasons could include the fact that the client would need to change vendors within two years if your product isn’t developed for long-term use, or if they want a fully developed product when yours is in a constant state of improvement and relies on client-vendor collaboration.

The benefits of this approach? It signals to clients that Rennella isn’t desperate for sales, providing a kind of implied social proof. It also communicates transparency and sincerity, which are key to building trust.


Rennella also recommends adding a short section to your presentation/sales pitch with three reasons why the client shouldn’t buy from you, customized for each buyer.

Michael Tuso—head of business development and enablement at Chili Piper—focuses on tone when building trust. Tuso instructs his sales reps to ask themselves whether they sound trustworthy during calls.

“From coaching hundreds of sales reps from SDR to AE at varying levels of development, I have seen pretty profound effects. Sales professionals who struggled to build empathy and consistently got ‘Can you just send me an email?’ would be having prospects on the phone with them much longer, with much more engaging conversations. The funny part of all this is, few management programs incorporate this sort of trust building into their sales processes or training, at a serious disservice to them, their sales team, and their revenues.”

You can go one step further than asking your sales reps whether they think they sound trustworthy. Have them ask themselves whether they’re demonstrating empathy, which helps build trust. It’s a more specific ask that can yield even better results.

2. Build credibility

Credibility is “the quality of being trusted and believed in.” For maximum success, it’s essential for sales reps to establish, and then convey, this quality.

One great way to do this is to ask the right questions. For example, when a client says they don’t have the budget, it’s a great time to investigate further. Chances are that your client has the budget, they’re just not sure your product is a good fit for them at that price. This is where it helps to truly understand your prospect’s needs to ensure you’re not overselling them.

Carrie Thompson says: “Most people cannot visualize the proper size storage unit in relation to their home size. Even if money is not an issue, I rarely ask what size storage unit someone needs but instead inquire as to the items they are storing.”

By asking good questions, “Not only am I able to help them find a service that fits their needs and budget, I’m able to build rapport and establish a relationship. I’m not just trying to make a sale—I truly care about my prospective customer’s needs and want the best for them.”

Another way to build credibility is to prove your expertise by offering the client free, helpful information they might not be able to find elsewhere. Ross Palmer, a marketing manager at Lab Society, finds extreme depth-of-knowledge in the industry is the most powerful way to build trust with sales prospects. He said:

“Because we sell highly technical (and very expensive) equipment, our customers are looking for sales people who are genuinely experts in the field. By demonstrating extensive experience in the industry (and by staying ahead of industry trends), our sales team can generate incredible rapport with customers quickly.”


Here are a few examples of questions Thompson asks her prospects:

  • Are you moving a home or apartment? How many rooms?
  • Are you just trying to declutter and need to store a couple things?
  • Do you want climate controlled, standard drive-up or mobile storage?

Think up some relevant questions for your industry and prospects, and adjust as needed.

In addition, come up with some data points or advice that will make your prospects’ lives easier. If your sales cycle is long, it might be worthwhile to tailor the data for each prospect. If it’s shorter, come up with a one-pager you can send out that isn’t overly salesy but provides useful information.

Rebecca Gebhardt, a direct sales and cold calling pro, approaches her calls with testimonials and the names of people the client knows who either know Gebhardt or have bought from her.

“If I didn’t have that, I would find something we had in common and listen to their thoughts on that subject,” Gebhardt said. “I would need at least one common subject or name to build trust. The more names and things in common, the faster the rapport was built.”

3. Encourage price shopping

Unless you’re confident your product is the least expensive option on the market, your reps might not be eager to have prospects look for cheaper alternatives. If they’ve asked the right questions, however, they know that your product is the best option for this prospect. If the prospect is still not convinced, why not let them find out for themselves?

Carrie Thompson does just that. “I know there is no one in town who can beat our prices,” especially when you factor in service.

But the prospects don’t know that yet. Sure, you’ve established some trust, but there’s no harm in verification. Not only does Thompson encourage a prospect to visit other facilities, she even arms them with helpful questions to ask.

The storage industry is famous for the dozen or so hidden fees and undisclosed lease stipulations that can leave clients feeling duped.

“Educating [prospects] questions while price shopping let’s them know we’re not hiding anything—our facility has no hidden fees, built-in rate increases, long-term obligations, etc. Not only does that quietly sell our facility’s features, it continues to subtly build credibility.”

To do this correctly, though, you’ve got to be ready to lose the sale. If price is the only thing the prospect can see, “you don’t want them as a client,” Thompson says. “That will be the demanding, non-paying customer you’ll never be able to please. Wait for the client who appreciates your services, and while money might still matter to them, it’s not the focal point of the business relationship.”


One time, a driver pulled his moving truck up to the Affordable Mini Storage office and asked to store their items for two weeks. The problem? The business has a one-month minimum rental term. The prospect tried to bargain by citing another facility’s $1 move-in promotion.

“I told him that was probably a better deal for him considering his short rental needs and encouraged him to use the other facility,” Thompson said. As he began to leave, Thompson suggested that he ask the competitor about the details of that promotion. Specifically, she told him to ask if he had to pay the second and third month’s rent to get the first month for $1.

“He left with a doubtful look on his face, but an hour later returned shaking his head, ‘You were right; I had no idea,’ he said. ‘I guess I’ll take that unit you have, please. Yours is the better deal after all.’ He remained a client for quite a few months.”

If someone balks at your offer when you know it’s a good deal for them, sometimes the best course of action is to encourage them to go find out for themselves what you already know.

It doesn’t hurt to point them in the right direction if you can, like Thompson did by mentioning the hidden costs.

Go forth and build trust

One last tip: When building trust, try to do it quickly.

Rebecca Gebhardt learned over her more than 20 years in sales that establishing trust within the first five minutes had a huge impact on the likelihood of the sale going through.

“If they didn’t trust me or at least begin to like me, I would cut my demonstration short because I knew I wouldn’t get a sale that day. And good sales people can’t waste time with non-buyers. I would follow up with them, but I would have to establish a trusting relationship right away.”

Whether you need to store and share your sales slide decks or one-pagers, record the answers to your questions so you don’t look like you weren’t listening when you talk to the client again, or need to be reminded to follow up on time so you look reliable, CRM software can help.

Capterra’s CRM directory lets you filter by feature and compare options side-by-side. For example, here’s all the CRM software in our directory that has a calendar/reminder system, document storage, and task management capabilities.

Looking for Marketing Automation software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Marketing Automation software solutions.

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About the Author

Cathy Reisenwitz

Cathy Reisenwitz helps B2B software companies with their sales and marketing at Capterra. Her writing has appeared in The Week, Forbes, the Chicago Tribune, The Daily Beast, VICE Motherboard, Reason magazine, Talking Points Memo and other publications. She has been quoted by the New York Times Magazine and has been a columnist at Bitcoin Magazine. Her media appearances include Fox News and Al Jazeera America. If you're a B2B software company looking for more exposure, email Cathy at . To read more of her thoughts, follow her on Twitter.


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