Like any sales strategy, the goal with a website is to eliminate any resistance between the customer and the decision to buy your product. For the most part, this a simple proposition. A good product will all but sell itself. You only need to explain what its value is, which is just a simple act of communication.
But sometimes you have a perfectly qualified lead that doesn’t buy. The value of your product is clearly laid out in unmistakable terms, yet its not enough. There is some sort of resistance there. This isn’t something to do with the product you’re selling. What the customer isn’t buying is you, the seller. Simply put, they don’t trust you. And they shouldn’t trust you --- until you’ve given them a reason to.
Everything you’re telling them is probably exactly what they need to hear about your product. The problem is, they know you want their money. They also know that you know what they need to hear about your product. So even if your pitch makes perfect sense, the prospect doesn’t know if its all real.
Think about it. There’s multiple things that could go wrong. Maybe you’re a liar. You know you’re not, but how does anybody else? Or maybe you mean everything you say, but you’re just incompetent. You know you’re not, but how does a buyer know that you’re going to deliver on every little promise? Maybe you have every desire to fulfill your end of a bargain, but you’re disorganized, or lazy, or just don’t operate with the same sense of urgency that your buyer needs.
All these things could cost him money. Maybe the support that is supposed to come with the product isn’t going to be there. How would he know? Until he knows you, you’re just a person who wants his money. The buyer has no reason to trust you. And if you don’t volunteer one, they have even less reason to trust you.
The burden of building trust --- of earning it --- is on you, as the seller. You need to cover the basic things the buyer needs to know about you in order to feel comfortable doing business with you. You’ve heard it before: in sales, you’re selling yourself. So how do you do that, in the context of a website?
Elements of trust
Building trust is quite simple, once you acknowledge the need for it. The buyer needs to know who you are, but they only need the relevant aspects of it. They want to know a few key things:
1. why you’re in the business, ie why you created this product.
You can view this question as an opportunity. Your product solves a problem that the buyer has. This is a problem that you’re both familiar with. Maybe its a problem you’ve experienced yourself, and that’s why you came up with the solution. This is good ground for building a little peer-to-peer respect --- the kind of connection that comes from understanding the struggle of another person. Your personal experience with the problem goes a long way, even if its only a single sentence expressing the same frustration that your customers know all too well.
2.How you created the product
What can really sell them here is an explanation of what sets your wonderful product apart from the rest. If its so great, why isn’t somebody else doing it? How is it that you can offer such a great value? Don’t make it overly technical, don’t make it long winded, and don’t make it boastful. You’re trying to build credibility and trust, not impress them or bore them.
All they really need is the short version of what your company does that makes your product so valuable. Example:“ fastest delivery service in the industry” is a boast. Also, even if its true, its too vague to be of much use. They’ll need to know what you mean by that --- and what it means for them. So be specific. An improvement would be to say “we use an automated order fulfillment system to ensure that your shipment is pulled within 1 hour of purchase”. Its a bit longer, but its still short, and its infinitely more useful.
3. What is at stake for you, as the seller?
It goes without saying that you’re in it to make money. But what do you have to lose if the customer islet down? They need to know that you have skin in the game. You can explain this with some insight into your business model, or your vision for the future.
To build on the above example, you could say something like “delivery within 24 hours or its 30%off”. That shows you’re willing to put your money where your mouth is. You’re betting half the farm on your ability to deliver fast, because that’s the business model.
In another example, a demonstration of your commitment to long term relationships with your customers goes a long ways. “Your growth is our business ”tells B2B customers that you hang your hat on helping them make more money off their business. If your vision is to grow, and growth relies on repeat customers, talk about your vision. “We’re trying to be the most popular vendor in the industry in the next 10 years” shows that you’re not in it to make a quick buck at any cost. You’re trying to build something respectable, something of value, and you understand that providing value is the best way to do that.
Putting it all together
These three elements fit nicely into a short and sweet story about your business and your product. Telling a story helps the buyer make sense of how exactly this amazing opportunity happened to originate and present itself. This makes it feel real.
Make sure to add the human element to your story. Its easier to trust a team of people working to develop a solution than it is trust a mysterious organization represented only by a logo. Short biographies of team members, with pictures, go a long way. Some businesses neglect putting bio pics on their site, because they think its pointless, or immodest, or a distraction from the product. But not having them looks like you’re hiding. Its a missed opportunity to establish a person to person connection.
The relevant details are the ones that explain a team member’s involvement in bringing value to thecustomer. Here is an example bio of a company founder. Notice the conspicuous absence of his new boat, and his 14 year old’s Little League W-L record.
“Robert was tired of wasting time and money talking to unhelpful sales reps after struggling to troubleshoot their products. So he founded R. Co, whose main selling point is a commitment to support over the life of the product. The first step was building a sales team of members that could build relationships through responsiveness and communication. He knew that if they handled this part, and had a competitive product, they could dominate the local market. After 8 years of service in the area,90% of all users are choosing R. Co. for our on-site, quick response technical support.”
And here is a corresponding example bio for the sales team manager:
“Lisa had been in sales for a decade, but more and more, she was feeling stifled by the sales manager’s disproportionate focus on opening new accounts. She had customers she had worked with for years that trusted her and were ready to expand their accounts, but the company was too obsessed with capturing more market share to nurture these relationships. This made her ready for new opportunities, and a great fit for R Co. She helped to build our initial customer base of 5 accounts in the first year. All 5 of these customers have expanded their business with us by at least 200% since and are still with us to this day.”
Of course, these examples are simplified and generic. But they tell a story that explains to the customer exactly why they should buy from the company, and how it came to be good at what it does. The reader feels they can trust the people mentioned, because they understand that R. Co. has made its success on recurring sales and ongoing support.
The rest of the details, like Lisa’s rain garden and Bob’s trophy bass, can be covered over a casual business lunch down the road, after you’ve built a strong relationship over good business. Some tasteful discretion like this can actually help to build the customer’s trust in your competence; you’re keeping it about value, instead of trying to score points on personal interest. The relationship is about good business, first and foremost.
The goal is to build trust by helping the people who visit your site to feel that they know who you are and what you stand for. The best way to do this is to tell the story of how the product they’re looking at originated.
Of course, not everybody will need to know your story to feel comfortable trusting you. Some people tend to trust others easier. The point of sharing your company story is to reach out to those people who have a lower tolerance for trusting strangers --- to show them that you’re here, you’re accessible, and you understand the importance of letting people get to know who they’re dealing with. Don’t present yourself as a mysterious business looking to enact transactions; be a living, growing organization, run by flesh and blood human beings.