How to Establish Credibility with Customers

Selling Skills | Building Relationships | Call Planning

Inevitably at some point during a sales call, the customer will ask, “Who else have you done this for?” What they’re really asking is why they should believe or trust you.

This is why it’s essential that early in the sales process, you establish credibility.

Establishing your credibility is different from building rapport, where you try to increase your “likeability” with the customer so that they are more open to you and your solution. By contrast, establishing credibility helps overcome the customer’s natural skepticism. You can do this by demonstrating your depth of knowledge (“I get it”), together with your experience (“I’ve done it”). This helps establish your credibility when you tell the key executive, “I can help you.”

Before meeting a customer, prepare to discuss your knowledge and experience across the following dimensions:

  • Industry: The fastest way to establish your credibility with a customer is to be highly knowledgeable about their industry. Ideally, you can share your experience in helping other customers in that specific industry. During your pre-call planning, identify the case studies or client success stories that you want to share that demonstrate your industry expertise.
  • Problem: If you don’t have direct experience in the customer’s industry, focus on their business problems. Demonstrate that you understand their business, goals, or problems and how you’ve helped other customers solve similar problems. In other words, show the customer that while you may not be an expert in their industry, you’re an expert in their problem. Here, you want to build their confidence that your expertise is transferable to their industry.
  • Organization: Sometimes your industry experience or knowledge of the customer’s problem takes a back seat to their particular organizational issues. In those cases, it’s more important to demonstrate that you and your company have the requisite experience and resources to help customers of a similar size or geographical diversity. For example, have you deployed similar solutions for large, global companies? If so, scale and knowledge of doing business in foreign countries may trump specific industry expertise.

Establishing your credibility with the customer early in the sales process is an essential step to building trust. You should prepare to do this as early as possible. That means taking extra time to plan how you will build your credibility, so the customer knows that trusting you and your solution is the right course of action.

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About David Jacoby

As a Managing Director at Sales Readiness Group, David helps large B2B sales organizations improve sales performance. Previously, David was a Principal at Linear Partners, a sales consulting firm providing sales strategy, sales operations, talent management, and interim management services to emerging growth companies. In the past, David has served as Vice President of Business Affairs of Xylo, Inc., where he was responsible for the Company's business development, sales operations, legal affairs, and financing activities.