What’s the most important factor in the buying decision?

Quality? No.

Price? It doesn’t even make the top five.

Universities and market-research firms have conducted numerous studies to determine the most important factors for people making major purchases.

Sales consultant Jacques Werth gathered as many of those studies as he could find and did simple correlation analyses to average out the results. Here are the results, in order of importance:

  1. Trust in the salesperson
  2. Respect for the salesperson
  3. Company or product reputation
  4. Features of product or service
  5. Quality and after-sale service
  6. Price

Most salespeople know how to effectively present the last four. And many of them try to handle the two most important by trying to build “rapport” with customers and prospects.

Why rapport is overrated
Of course, it’s good when salespeople and their customers hit it off. But only 3% of buyers rate rapport with the salesperson as an important factor in the buying decision.

Buyers may like you best of all their vendors, yet still give their business to someone else. By the same token, they may buy from you even if they don’t feel personally close to you – as long as they trust you.

Why is trust so important? Because when a sale is significant, the most important obstacle to buying is fear of loss. A salesperson who can’t be trusted could cost the buyer a raise, a promotion, or even his or her job.

No manipulation
The only way to build trust is by establishing an honest relationship with a prospective buyer, with no hint of manipulation.

That may mean rethinking the role of the salesperson. It isn’t to “convince” or “persuade” buyers of anything. It is simply to identify a good fit between what your buyer needs and what you have to offer.

This approach means, for example, that it’s perfectly okay to let a prospect “get away.” In fact, the sooner you cut loose low-probability buyers, the better for all concerned. You’re not wasting their time or yours.

The trust-building question
In his work with sales reps, Werth found one question to be especially effective in establishing trust: “Is that what you want?”

Many salespeople are reluctant to ask. They assume that if the answer is no, the sale is over. In fact, this question advances the sale. If the buyer says “yes,” you’re on your way. If the buyer says “no,” you have the opportunity to discover what he or she does want.

It also shows you’re trustworthy (you’re not trying to manipulate them) and deserving of respect (you’re only willing to spend your time and energy on suitable prospects).

If buyers say no
And if you don’t have what the buyer really wants?

Say so. If the “must haves” are really deal killers, so be it. On to the next sale.

But very often, the story doesn’t end there. Few buyers really expect perfection. Every product or service has limitations. And now you can have an honest exploration for mutually beneficial options:

“Jane, a three-week deadline would cost us overtime and we’d have to charge you more. But we could hold the line on price if we deliver the first half of the order in three weeks, with the rest arriving a week later. Do either of those options work for you?”

Source: Jacques Werth, founder and president of High Probability Selling; www.highprobsell.com.

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