Forming new relationships with prospects that convert to customers is the lifeblood of any successful company. One way to strengthen new connections is to build trust and value, which isn't always easy. Here's how you can better understand the differences and build both strategically.
Possibility-based selling is an approach that focuses on benefitting the customer with possibilities throughout the sales process and earning their trust through several mutual commitments.
Imagine walking into a supermarket after work one day. It's busy, so you grab just the necessities: milk, eggs, bread, and of course, coffee. You are waiting in the checkout line, and you notice the person behind you has a button on their jacket with the local sports team logo. You give a nod of recognition. The man nods back and takes stock of your cart. You then exchange greetings and comments on how you both have enough coffee to serve an army, smirking at how long days and kids equals a high dose of caffeine.
The checkout line has barely moved, so you continue to make idle small talk with him, and you learn that you have many similarities: kids, sports, living on the same side of the city, etc.
Then, just when you are about ready to pay, you turn to the man you now know as Fred and say, "Hey Fred, we just had a couple of friends back out of a trip next week with us to Sweden. Their tickets are nonrefundable but transferable, and I can get you at least 75% off retail if you're interested." Fred declines quickly.
Let’s say you didn't ask Fred to join you on a trip to Sweden because you're a sane person. A few weeks go by, and you push Fred out of your mind. You have your child's soccer game to focus on tonight. You are cheering in the bleachers when you recognize a familiar face. There's Fred from the supermarket again.
He catches your eye as you greet your child at halftime. His child is also on the team. You smile and say hello, acknowledging him and his family. After the game, most of the team takes the kids to the local ice cream shop, so you toss out the invite. "Hey, a bunch of us are taking the kids for ice cream. You all are welcome to join us." Fred and his family oblige.
As the season progresses, you and Fred continue to run into each other at your kids’ soccer game. You always say hi and occasionally even sit next to each other. During one of the games, you and Fred get into a pretty serious business conversation, and you offer to meet him for coffee to help him think through some options.
Later that same week, Fred messages you that he's having a get-together for the kids’ team and their parents at his place tonight after the game. He invites you to join, and you agree.
It turns out that you and Fred's family have a lot in common and enjoy similar things. Your spouses get along, and even your children seem to be close.
Everyone is having a fun evening, and many great stories and ideas are flowing. One topic of everyone's interest is travel. As the night comes to a close, you ask Fred and his wife if they want to grab dinner sometime at the new steakhouse that recently opened up.
As the year rolls on, Fred, the man you met at the supermarket, is now a friend. So you present to Fred and his spouse that you have an incredible opportunity to stay at some iconic places in Sweden. You ask if he and his spouse would like to join, but they have to pay their way.
Without hesitation, they say yes.
Imagine you're Fred. How would you respond if the value of "a severely discounted trip to Sweden" was presented by a stranger at the supermarket? Like most people, you’d probably be very skeptical and reply with a firm "no thank you."
Why? Because it didn't align with any level of trust.
If you think about your life, you've probably been in similar situations at one point or another where you've given a quick no or a hesitant yes.
So if you're Fred and you're presented with a trip to Sweden at a total price, why would you say yes without hesitation a year later?
As the story unfolds, you start to see that trust was built on every interaction with Fred. It aligned with smaller commitments. You weren't a fool at the games, no matter how many blown calls there were. You invited them to an ice cream social, you had coffee together where you provided each other some insights, your families got together, everyone got along and neither party overstayed their welcome, and you enjoyed dinner at a fun restaurant.
With every interaction, something is happening in the relationship. Think of it like a bank account. Each interaction is either a positive relationship deposit or a withdrawal in trust. But unfortunately, you know how trust can be lost in one meeting, and building trust quickly is rare.
There was a small ask and a mutual agreement from each person during all of those interactions. Over the year, these smaller commitments compounded, allowing for more trust to be built.
You can agree that 75% off a trip to Sweden is a great value, right? I've played this exact scenario out thousands of times with leaders and salespeople. Only on a few infrequent occasions will someone say, “Yes, let's go!” So yes, a few people are very trusting or can't say no to a great deal. But the vast majority of people will instantly turn down the offer.
So what does this silly story have to do with selling? Fair question.
When was the last time you lost a deal or got rejected quickly in sales? I bet your prospect was thinking that you were trying to present them a sweet deal to Sweden when all they wanted was a cup of coffee to learn more.
Possibility Selling is about aligning value with trust and providing people options along the way. Any strong relationship is built on a foundation of mutual trust. Try slowing down and earning more trust with smaller, more mutually agreeable commitments that make significant value. Then, when the prospect agrees to hear your offer, there will be no surprises, and it will be quickly agreed upon … except for that one rare occasion because there's always one!