As a general rule, customers won't buy from you unless they trust you. Unfortunately, many companies (and the people who sell for them) make fundamental errors that create immediate distrust. Here are the four most common:

1. You began the relationship with a lie.

Thousands of sales letters and emails begin with something like "I was just flipping through my contacts and thought I'd call..." or "I'm sorry to hear that you're unhappy with your current vendor."

Customers aren't stupid. They know that sales emails are mostly boilerplate and that you're delighted the other vendor screwed up. When you spout obvious BS, customer downwardly adjust their opinion of your trustworthiness.

Fix: Just tell the truth. Example: "I'm actively looking for new customers" or "I won't pretend that I'm not pleased to hear you're unhappy with your current vendor." More importantly: why lie anyway? You've got nothing to be ashamed of.

2. You made unbelievable claims.

It's amazing how many companies claim to have "the highest quality and the lowest price." While that's theoretically possible (if your competitors are conspiring to keep prices artificially high) but in practice it's almost never the case.

Even on those rare occasions when such a statement might actually be true, customers are naturally skeptical. And rightly so. The Internet tends to make pricing transparent and (surprise) most customer have an Internet connection.

Fix: Find what's unique about your product and communicate what that uniqueness means to the customer, preferably in financial terms. If you don't have the lowest price, show how the extra cost, if any, is more than worth it.

3. You relied on opinions not facts.

You may wholeheartedly believe your company and products are excellent, but that's only your opinion. And as one boss pointed out to me a while back, everybody in the world has two things: a sphincter and an opinion.

Customers are suspicious when they hear a string of self-serving superlatives and clams that don't seem to be tied to verifiable, quantitative facts. They rightly assume that lofty talk conceals some less-than-palatable truths.

Fix: Never praise your own offerings. If you feel you must include a glowing opinion, get some existing, highly-satisfied customer to provide the praise for you--on the record. Warning: customers know that anonymous testimonials are pure BS.

4. You focused on closing the deal.

Customers sense it, and resent it, when your sole motivation is making a sale. Even if you or your firm really need the revenue, you must keep the customer's interests at the forefront. Otherwise you're seen as a user and manipulator.

Don't get me wrong. Customers expect you to want to make a sale. However, they also expect you to put your needs aside and tell the truth when it's not in their interest to buy from you... even though it means that you'll lose a sale.

Fix: Think of every customer contact as a long-term investment rather than a short term opportunity. There's no better way to prove you're trustworthy--and build a relationship--than telling a customer that this isn't the right time to buy.

Like this post? If so, sign up for the free Sales Source newsletter.

Published on: Jan 17, 2013
Like this column? Sign up to subscribe to email alerts and you'll never miss a post.
The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of