5 Ways Sales Reps Can Build Trust Faster [+Templates]


The Critical Element in Sales

Look at the top salespeople at any company and what you’ll find is that they all have one train in common. Despite what you may believe, the best salespeople are not all extroverts; they’re not all highly competitive with a cutthroat, do-anything-to-win mentality; they can’t sell anything to anyone at anytime.

The element that sets the best salespeople apart from the rest is they have a deep understanding of the human element in sales. People who are attuned to this human element are able to build stronger relationships, gain trust quicker and sell more.

We only buy from people we trust (click to tweet). Don’t underestimate the task at hand. Buyers have all been burned before by empty promises and defective products, making it an uphill battle to building relationships and gain their trust.

5 Shortcuts to Building Relationships

“Outbound messaging impacts the trust foundation, the most powerful force multiplier in sales. SDRs who craft personalized messaging, identify trust milestones, and implement an authentic, flexible contact plan can increase trust as part of their efforts to accelerates sales,” explains Chris Ortolano, Conversation Systems Analyst at ExecVision.

We can shortcut the path to building relationships and sell more products by leveraging certain behavioral psychology principles called cognitive biases and heuristics. This is what the most talented sales reps do subconsciously.

Cognitive biases and heuristics are mental models (sometimes irrational or flawed) used to reduce the time or energy for a task when making judgments. While there are over 100 cognitive biases and heuristics, I want to focus specifically on ones that give you the ability to build relationships quickly, and thus sell more effectively.

Here are five cognitive biases and heuristics that will help you build trust faster at each point of the sales funnel. I’ve also included some actionable examples so you can start implementing today.


1) Getting in the door with the Ingroup Bias

Most effective: Top of funnel

Think about the last prospect you were researching only to discover you two are from the same hometown or went to the same college. Didn’t you automatically feel a bond and and trust him/her, even though you knew nothing about that person?

This in the ingroup bias at work. Simply stated, the ingroup bias tells us that we like and trust people who we perceive as being similar to us, leading to an instant relational bond.

It’s human nature to seek out individuals who are like us. This similarity is the perfect place to start a relationship because it lends itself to instant trust.

Affinity can come in many forms to be effective. Having similar backgrounds, such as birthplace or alma mater, will form an instant bond and engender feelings of safety and liking. Shared experiences, like serving in the same branch of the military or playing the same sport, paves a path for trust. Identical philosophies in religion and politics will give newfound companions more credence.

When you find these points of affinity, down go the defenses, because we don’t take advantage of those who we like.

Sales Application

How can you build a better relationship using affinity and the ingroup bias?

When you’re prospecting, look for similarity, which will give you an immediate strong starting point for the relationship. Learn more advanced techniques for prospecting on LinkedIn. Beyond LinkedIn, visit your prospect’s other social media profile pages and see what they’re talking about.

Some of the best bonds of affinity are:

  • Alma Matre
  • Hometown
  • Mutual connection (a mutual friend is a stronger connection than a colleague)
  • Fraternity (group, associations, clubs, etc.)
  • Hobby
  • Sports team
  • Recent event

A cold email using the ingroup bias to start a relationship could look something like this:

Hi {{first name}},

I saw on LinkedIn that we’re connected through {{mutual colleague}}.

{{Write one sentence about why that connection is relevant}}.

Given your position, I think you may be interested in what my company does. {{Give your one to two sentence value proposition}}.

What does your schedule look like in the next few days? I’d love to jump on a quick call and see if it’s something that would be useful for you.

{{your name}}

For more cold email templates, check out the PersistIQ Cold Email Generator.


2) Establishing the Relationship with the Authority Heuristic

Most effective: Top of funnel

When was the last time a doctor gave you a diagnosis and prescribed a medication? Did you do a background and credential check of the doctor, go for a second opinion or price shop the medication? Or did you follow the doctor’s orders, no questions asked?

Any sales rep would die for that kind of compliance. That’s the power of the authority heuristic at work.

Legitimate authorities have usually achieved their positions through superior experience, skill, wisdom or power. When we are unsure or unclear how to act (or buy), we often turn to authorities for guidance (click to tweet).

This shortcut allows us to utilize the knowledge of the expert so we don’t have to do all the hard work.

Sales Application

How can you display your, your product or your company’s authority to your prospect?

Sociologist Max Weber posits that there are three types of authority:

  1. Rational legal authority. This type of authority obtains its persuasive power from formal rules. For example, do you have any additional credentials, such as certifications or training, that display your authority?
  2. Traditional authority. This type of authority obtains its persuasive power from customs and social structures. For example, has your company won any industry awards?
  3. Charismatic authority. This type of authority obtains its persuasive power by demonstrating some type of exemplary trait (such as heroism or strength of character) that turns into respect and devotion for the figure. For example, is your founder a known public figure to your industry?

You can also leverage the power of authority using the power of testimonials. Do any companies or influential individuals with these types of authority use or endorse your product?

You can use these types of authority in a cold email to build relationships by including it in the email body or even in the P.S.

Your signature could a template like this:

{{Your Name}}
{{Your Company}}
{{Industry certification}}

P.S. Did you see we recently won the award for {{award in your industry}}?

Don’t forget to include signs of authority in your social profiles too.

Pro tip. If you include awards in your LinkedIn profile, don’t leave them hiding at the bottom of the page where no one looks. Rearrange the blocks/sections in your profile by hovering over the block when you’re in editing mode, click the arrow and drag it up to prominently display your authority.

top sales rep - authority heuristic in sales


3) Get a Little Closer with the Mere-Exposure Effect

Most effective: Mid-funnel

Have you ever bought a product because you hear or see it everywhere, from Facebook and linkedIn to chatter about around the office? Wherever you turn, there it is… until you have to have one for yourself.

This is the power of the mere-exposure effect. People tend to develop a liking and trust for things familiar. The more you see something, the more familiar it becomes, and the more likely you are to buy it (click to tweet).

Repetition in sales and advertising is only effective when people are not giving you their full attention. A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that repetitive messages increased the persuasiveness of an argument (even a weak argument) but only when low involvement processing occurred.

When your message enters your consumer’s full conscious awareness, you’re argument must be remarkably compelling because addition repetition will diminish the strength of an argument and become pestering.

Messages are below your conscious awareness play an exceptionally powerful role in influencing your thoughts and actions.

Sales Application

How can you expose your prospect to you or your product more frequently?

Sending a good personalized cold email is no longer enough. A sales rep has to get out and become active on social media. The lines between sales and marketing are becoming blurred, and the sales reps who embrace this are reaping the rewards.

Here are the top activities you can engage in to leverage the mere-exposure effect, thus building a solid relationship and healthy pipeline.

  • Regularly write a blog post for your company’s blog
  • Comment on other sales blogs
  • Actively engage prospects on Twitter
  • Contribute to discussions on LinkedIn, Facebook, Quora, etc.
  • Attend events to meet prospects in person and shake their hands

This is another compelling argument to get reps on social. After you connect with them, your valuable content will start showing up in their feeds, giving you more exposure while they’re in a state of low-involvement processing (see above).

Furthermore, if you’re writing and publishing regularly, combine the the authority heuristic and the mere-exposure effect for a powerful additional touch in your outbound campaigns. It could be as simple as this (notice there’s no pitch here):

Hey {{First name}},

Last time we talked, you mentioned one of the challenges you were facing was {{pain point}}. I just wrote a blog that I thought you would be helpful and wanted to pass it along.

{{Title of blog with linked text}}.

Let me know if you have any questions.

{{your name}}


4) Strengthening the Bonds with the Bandwagon Effect

Most effective: Mid-funnel

Have you ever decided which YouTube video to watch based on how many views it has?

You’ve just used the bandwagon effect to help you come to a logical conclusion of which video is the most worthy to watch. This an effective relationship builder because their is safely in numbers (click to tweet).

You say to yourself, “If everyone else is buying brand X, then it must be good.”

When we see a group of people we want to be a part of, social proof kicks in and the innate need to feel a sense of belonging drives us to conformity. We want to be part of the “in crowd.” This effect is so strong that people often ignore or even override their beliefs to fit in.

Sales Application

How can you leverage the collective wisdom of the crowd to get more people to buy in?

Creating the effect (or perception) that everyone trusts you is no easy feat, but if you have already established social proof, don’t neglect its power.

Here are some ways to display your popularity:

  • How many users do you have?
  • How many people have downloaded your app?
  • How many followers do you have on social media?
  • How many five-star review do you have?

Now, work this into your sales communication. Another touchpoint in your cold email campaign could look something like this:

Hey {{first name}},

Did you know that {{specific number}} {{type of person you’re selling to}} just like you are already using {{your company/product}}?

If you’re interested in {{specific benefit}} too, let me know and I’d be happy to show you how it can work for your needs.

Is Wednesday afternoon a good time for you?

Talk soon,
{{your name}}


5) Solidifying the Relationship with the Anti-Inference Bias

Most effective: Mid and bottom of the funnel

Have you ever been flipping through the TV channels late at night, only to stop on an infomercial and see kitchen knives cutting through a plank of wood, piece of rock and a hammer (yes, a hammer!)? Did you immediately want a set? Be honest… did you buy a set?

Seeing is believing. This is the anti-inference bias, and can be one of the fastest ways to build a relationship.

People often question the validity of a claim based on facts, figures and theory, but when empirical evidence is introduced, they are converted to believers. The more dramatic the demonstration, the more awe is inspired, the more people will flock to buy the product.

Hearing something hundreds of times is not nearly as powerful as seeing it once (click to tweet).

However, you have to be careful. Just as quickly as powerful demonstration can build relationships, it can also destroy them, and along with it any chance of making a sale. With only the smallest hint of deception, incompetence or malfeasance, you’ll be banished from the hearts and souls of your prospects forever.

Sales Application

How can you demonstrate your product in such a way that it will shock and awe your audience intro trust?

You may think this responsibility lies on the Account Executive when giving a demo, but sales and business development reps can work with their company’s marketing department to create some awesome collateral to help you demonstrate the power of your product.

  • Case studies
  • Video demos
  • Blog posts
  • Testimonials
  • eBooks and whitepapers

Granted, it’s easier said than done. Planning and executing a good demo of any form is tough. But once you do, you can follow up with your prospects, offering them more value other than, “Just checking in” or “just following up.”

You can say something like:

Hey {{name}},

Many other {{type of person/company you’re selling to}} are using {{your product}} to get {{specific results}}.

In fact, {{case study company and link}} is currently using {{your product}}. You can see exactly how they’re implementing it in this case study.

Let’s schedule a 10-minute call so I can determine if you can get the same results. When works best for you?

{{your name}}

Trust isn’t being given freely like it once was. The chances of a sales rep building a relationship with a prospect is harder than is use to be. A saturation of marketing messages and sales pitches have made everyone more sensitive to this communication. Now you, the sales rep, must step up your game if you want to stay ahead in sales.

Armed with the knowledge of these psychological triggers, you can get in the door, build relationships and close more deals.

Stay tuned for more of the latest in outbound sales best practices and methods.

This post was brought to you by PersistIQ.  Our software empowers salespeople to easily convert prospects into a qualified pipeline and create personalized outbound campaigns at scale.  See how PersistIQ can help you make your own sales efforts more effective today.

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