We were about to end the third „Manager’s Guide” miniseries with our last article when suddenly the topic of trust in selling surfaced. Since this topic is so extensive it deserves a separate article, at your request we have developed a bonus post to add to our series! You can read below how to differentiate between relationship-based selling and trust-based selling, how to implement it in your school and why this would urge a student to choose your school even if the course price is higher than competitors.
Selling techniques and philosophy evolve at such a pace that it is difficult to get the hand of what is going on. Everybody knows the universal and deeply-rooted slogans like „customer is king” or „customer’s always right” and some customers are impressively persistent in reminding us of those slogans. The question is whether it is possible to build relationships on such foundations? Unfortunately not; reality is rough at times and we need to face the truth. Customers of this kind are not interested in the school itself, quality of teaching, or how advanced the courses are. In their case, only the price matters. They usually answer vaguely, frequently off-topic, and do not become involved in the conversation; they just present their point of view and expectations. Such people tend to make frequent changes, so regardless of what they are offered they are bound to vanish as soon as a cheaper offer appears insight. You must already know by now (some of you experienced it the hard way) that price negotiations work only for a short time. So what to do? And here enters…
Building relationships in selling
To approach the topic comprehensively, we need to answer the question of what relationship-selling is. In a nutshell, it consists of the initiation of a bond with the buyer resulting in the finalization of a transaction. How a relationship is built is influenced among others by the attitude of the seller, approach of your potential students, communication as well as intentions and expectations. As I wrote in the previous article:
„A credible salesperson, who does not use tricks of the trade but honestly presents the opportunities and benefits, has definitely greater chances to finalize the transaction.”
At training, in the professional literature and – which is the simplest way – in an Internet browser you will find a lot of hints on how relationships should be built. I would like to present to you the 3 most popular habits that prevent relationship building.
1.Tricks of the trade and professional courtesy
Tricks of the trade – all more or less known efforts leading to the finalization of purchase. In other words, good intentions are ill performed. You certainly need to be smiling, kind, and open to conversation but you need to bear in mind the thin line you can easily cross if you are determined to solicit a new customer. Why? Because such behavior is often perceived as artificial, unprofessional and in most cases results in an awkward atmosphere.
Pro tip: Rely on honest conversation and try to find common features and goals with the customer.
2. Selling schemes
Scenarios of how to carry out a conversation step by step are the foundations of selling. Those foundations are good, but only for beginner sellers. They work for trainees and products sold on a mass scale. Unfortunately, some people – and very often also companies – become so attached to the schemes that they look for the source of each failure in any departure from the scheme. It’s all wrong! Very often it is the scheme itself that effectively scares a customer away as those schemes are so universally used that customers are able to predict how the entire conversation will proceed and they feel like they are talking to a kind robot. Unfortunately, their individual needs are pushed into the background in such a situation.
Pro tip: It is worthwhile to focus on making the meeting an honest, partner-like conversation aimed to investigate if your are able to offer a course that meets the needs of this particular student. Be an advisor, as you know your product best, so it is time to learn customer’s needs and offer the matching solution.
3. Focusing on own offer and ignorance of the competition
Knowing the offer of your own school is the absolute basis but you must not limit yourself to the basis. You need to remember there is a wider context, such as the offers and prices in a given market or customer’s financial situation. If you manage to sell a course exceeding customer’s financial capacity, they will be unhappy with the choice they made throughout the entire course and will not stay with you for long.
Pro tip: If it is possible (the data collected before; customers do not come out of nowhere) be prepared before the conversation with each customer. It is worthwhile to know their expectations towards the course or financial resources and have a counter offer up your sleeve. If you know your courses are more expensive than competition’s, be ready to support those higher prices with proper arguments, e.g. they last longer, they offer more material learned within a shorter time.
So why would trust-based selling be better and more sustainable if relationships are so important? And where do opinions come from that relationship-based selling will cease to work?
Trust in selling
The notions of trust and relationship are often mistaken with each other. The simplest difference is that relationships are built while trust is the outcome of what you manage to build. Hence, opinions are increasingly voiced that relationships themselves do not suffice. Why? Let’s provide an example:
Let us assume that we are in the contract finalization stage, but problems surface with the course. If the school helps to solve the problems, does not cheat, and does not stretch the truth, the course eventually takes place on time, and all assumptions and promises are delivered, the outcome of such process is customer’s trust in the school. If other offers of courses appear at that time, even if their prices are more favorable, the customer is going to stay with their first choice because of the trust. We often prefer to pay more and not worry about some unexpected events.
And this is not just about the trust for the seller, but also for the school itself and the value it presents. What influences customer’s trust:
- zero manipulation, credibility,
- keeping promises,
- listing, not shelling with arguments.
- having own opinion, not agreeing with everything a customer says,
- zero criticism of the competition and the superior.
In recapitulation, it is indeed easier to sell when the customer likes you and is fond of you. But in present times, the trust of a customer will be won by a person who is an expert on a given topic, has their own opinion, and at the same time displays emotional intelligence allowing such a person to feel the needs of the customer. And the opinion enjoyed by the school itself matters too. In the times of local forums and Facebook groups, secrets virtually do not exist and you cannot hide certain things. And trust for the brand created by a school is so rare that it starts to be a currency and a significant bargaining chip of the 21st century.
We hope this post has clarified a lot of things for you and each of you will draw the needed conclusions and tips. I can only reveal this is not the last bonus in our series. The next article will be a detailed analysis of how COVID-19 impacted language schools. We will break down schools by numbers of students and present statistics on what May 2019 looked like versus May 2020 and January 2020 versus January 2021 in terms of the number of students. You cannot miss it!