Trust is a critical element in the sales process, particularly if you want customers to stick around. But cultivating trust requires planning and above all, transparency.

To make sure you're being as straightforward and clear as possible, we asked 13 entrepreneurs from the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) what one thing you should do during the sales process to ensure you're managing your customer's expectations. Their best answers are below.

1. Identify their pain point(s).

Everyone knows to focus on benefits instead of features already, but take that to the next step. Identify what pain point you solve so that everyone can agree on whether your product is the right fit. If the customer is looking to solve a different problem, you risk being an imperfect fit, which will just cause headaches in the implementation and renewal or rebuy phase.--John Rood, Next Step Test Preparation

2. Give cold hard facts, but keep your cards close to your chest.

You never want to exaggerate the benefits of your product, but you don't want to give away all of the secrets in the first go. Make sure you boil down what your product does in three to five cold hard facts, then entice them with the promise of learning more once they sign up. They'll be intrigued, and you could even offer your contact info for them to ask you more questions before they make a decision.--Rob Fulton, Exponential Black

3. Be upfront.

You have to be 100 percent upfront about your product or service. Be bold about what you will do and what you will not do. Explain, and try to get the customer to recap everything so that you know they get it. This has helped us have what we do and don't do engrained in their mind. Next, go above that and start paying attention to what people want, and do it.--John Rampton, Host

4. Encourage the customer to ask tough questions.

While you might offer a standard set of services, every customer's needs are different. In order to make sure you are communicating your services clearly, encourage your potential customer to ask you tough questions. How can you solve their problem? What expertise do you bring to the table? Honest answers to questions like these will go a long way in communicating your offering clearly.--Brian Honigman, BrianHonigman.com

5. Make sure your product team has signed off on your pitch.

In most cases where I've seen salespeople misrepresent their product, it isn't intentional. These misunderstandings typically stem from a lack of communication between the product and sales teams. Salespeople are eager to sell, and if they don't have a clear understanding of the technical limitations of the product, they'll sell through features that can't be executed.--Jared Feldman, Mashwork

6. Demo it!

When selling to a prospective client, it is critical to set the right expectations for what your product or service provides. A demo is the best way to clearly show and educate prospects on what they can expect from your offering. Not only does a demo help drive sales forward, but it is also the best way to match client expectations and ensure that they understand what they are purchasing.--Doreen Bloch, Poshly Inc.

7. Educate the customer.

When selling video production services, I try to put myself in the customers' shoes and tell them about the process, equipment and labor, educating them about what's involved. This generally leaves people with a sense of comfort and the right knowledge to understand what needs to be done, how it will be done and what to expect along each step of the way.--Stanley Meytin, True Film Production

8. Get straight to the point when telling your story.

Don't over-promise and under-deliver. If you're confident in your product, tell the story. Explain why you're the best at what you do and why you'll bring success to their business. Then, close the deal with confidence and make sure everything you noted will not only happen, but happen with excellence. -Mark Samuel, Fitmark

9. Make them part of the experience.

Let them take your product for a spin and show them the good, the bad and the ugly. Show the solution and road map, and make them feel like a part of the building process and your team. Your customers' voice is priceless.--Sam Bahreini, VoloForce

10. Provide customer reviews.

It's great to have reviews from past customers that detail their experience working with you. Also, allowing leads to speak with existing clients is useful, as they can ask tough questions and get a better sense of the value that you provide.--Randy Rayess, VenturePact

11. Be honest from the start.

If you oversell and get hired, the client will quickly discover that you were full of it. I talk my company up on sales calls, but I'm careful not to over-promise. When creating infographics for PR purposes, we don't guarantee they'll get picked up by The Huffington Post or Mashable. Instead, we promise that we'll put forth our best effort to make that happen.--Justin Beegel, Infographic World, Inc.

12. Create a shared definition of success.

When closing a deal with a new customer, ask specific questions to clearly understand their objectives. What problems do they want to solve using your product or service? What goals do they want to achieve? How exactly will they measure success? Collaborate with them to create a clear definition of the outcome they expect, and you can realistically help them achieve.--Steli Efti, Close.io

13. Set the right price.

If you set your price too low, your product or service will look cheap. But if you set it too high, you may set unrealistic expectations.--Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance

Published on: Jan 5, 2015