As a sales or business development professional, you know the art of the deal is all about building trust. If prospects trust you, they are more likely to buy from you. Trust is the foundation of every sale – if your customer doesn’t trust you, you’ll have trouble getting meetings, trouble getting buy-in on value propositions, and trouble negotiating. So as a salesperson, you work to develop trust in a variety of ways. Maybe you add letters to your name. Maybe you work on improving your small talk, your body language or your knowledge of sports. Or if you’re lucky, in your field, trust is earned on the golf course with clients. As you know, trust is built in a variety of way.

Trust Doesn’t Always Come Easily

Of course, building trust isn’t always easy as a round of golf and a smile. There is a natural tension between customers and salespeople. This tension manifests itself in lots of ways. For example, prospects are often too “busy” to get in touch with sales professionals. Other times, you have strained conversations and difficult negotiations. A salesperson might say “the sky is blue” and because of this natural tension, some prospective customers will be inclined to disagree. When you earn trust, these sales activities are much less difficult.

Marketers Do Their Part

To help the sales team, the marketing department does its part with a variety of tools. Marketers use brands and promote them to build trust. Maybe as a salesperson, you see how you are part of this brand identity. Brand trust can help increase intent to buy, insulate the brand from competition and protect against price increases: all good outcomes. But marketing promises have so often been empty that consumers know brands can’t always be trusted. We all have firsthand knowledge of brands that have let us down. What we really need is an expert to help us know which brands to trust. We need someone that is like us, who knows our needs and can tell us what they learned from experience.

Your Biggest Advocate

Marketers can try to help, but as a salesperson, you know customers are your biggest advocate. When customers learn about your product from other customers, *voila.* Referrals have always been the prize of the sales team.

When customers learn about your product or service from other customers, the salesperson-customer tension falls away. When customers learn about your product from other customers, product education happens naturally. Gone is the enmity that builds resistance to buy. No longer is there a belief that you are trying to “sell.” Customers who learn about your product or service from another customer are allied with mutual interest and similar context. And while you were sleeping, or at least in what feels like a short time, referrals have taken on a new digital identify in the form of consumer reviews.

Understanding Reviews Profiles

Customers are remarkably good at developing informed opinions from each other. That is, of course, provided there are more than a few reviews. And yes, there is skepticism toward reviews, but best practices assuage concerns. Here’s what we know about reviews profiles, and how your business can leverage them to help with new customer acquisition:

When reviews come organically, they are generally polar. First and foremost some reviews are from unhappy customers. This can be so even with superior products or services, as some customers are generally unhappy. Of course, happy customers may also contribute reviews if they’re able to do so quickly and they are feeling generous. Ultimately, reviews profiles have three types.

  1. Customers learn about your company only from angry customers;
  2. Customers learn about your company only from happy customers, or
  3. Customers learn about your company from a large and representative sample of your customers.

We have found the third option to be the most desirable type of review profile. At first glance, you may be tempted to censor negative reviews, or shield future customers from reading them in some way. Be warned, social media has proven this kind of interference with discourse can only make negative sentiment worse, and customers are skeptical of perfect reviews profiles.

You may even be tempted to disable reviews altogether in some way. But again, customers are excellent advocates. So before you count reviews out altogether, remember reviews – even negative reviews – can be an opportunity for business.


Riding the Wave

Fighting digital dialogue about your brand is like fighting the wave, when it would be better to ride it. When brands show a commitment to embracing reviews dialogue, it demonstrates a public commitment to understanding customers. That’s a trust builder. Moreover, finding ways to address negative reviews is akin to sales dialogue; where objections are expected and even welcomed as educational opportunities. When this dialogue takes place in plain view, it addresses skepticism head-on…. another trust builder. This is in fact favorable to trying to maintain a perfect review profile.

Business development should embrace customer feedback in the form of consumer reviews. Specifically, they should be looking to earn reviews beyond the polarized subsets of angry or happy customers. Doing so will drive sales. And that’s not just good for the sales team, it’s good for the entire company.