Building trust and likability are the two key elements on becoming a trusted sales advisor.

In fact if you look at the top paid salespeople in the country—politicians, lawyers and TV preachers—you’ll find they all share the traits of building your trust and likability first. Once they have that they can move you toward what they are trying to sell.

Unfortunately those professions are looked at as ones you expect to lie to you and, even more unfortunate is us salespeople fit in there as well.

What inspired me to write this column was a TV show where a pawn store owner was trying to buy an item. About the time a price was about to be determined, the seller said, “I almost convinced you it was worth more.”

Then the pawn guy said, “Yeah, but I know you’re a car salesman, so I knew what you were up to.” They both laughed like it was a secret code amongst thieves. It hit me that their particular level of conviction was at a much lower level than the average buyer would prefer—conviction being the difference between right and wrong.

We all have our own set of beliefs that sets our conviction level. In my case I decided a long time ago if I was going to stay in a profession that was generally looked at as one of low convictions, I would have to work hard to first gain that “higher level” of trust and likability.

Thing is, I wanted it to be real and earned. That attitude led me to write my first product knowledge training manual, “Selling Clean In Retail Flooring,” the opposite of “Selling Dirty.” I knew that most salespeople started out with good ethics and then learned the way the world works and had to decide to go along with it or get out.

Well, I’m here to tell you that you can stay in sales and keep your ethics intact. There is no question selling clean is harder than quick, slick selling. But when done with skill, it pays bigger in the long run. If you want to make a lifetime career in any business it takes big repeat and refferal buyers.

The other route is the turn ’em and burn ’em method. That’s the guys who bombard the airways with buy one get two free and use any method necessary to fool an ignorant buying public. They don’t ever count on repeat/referral buyers because they know the next sucker is born with each new week’s commercial.

One of the hardest things to develop as a trusted sales advisor is how to achieve calmness. When I first started public speaking for flooring associations and training classes, a very respected speaker gave me some great advice: “The art of being listened to is achieved by a certain calmness. Calmness is about knowing you are the most knowledgeable person in the room about the subject you’re speaking about. Then always speak to a crowd like you want them to be your friend.”

That advice was words to live and sell by to me.

Knowing that I know much more than my customer about my products and how they can help my buyers is calming to me. Wanting to gain the friendship and trust of my customer is even more calming and not having to swindle a buyer lets my customers be calm themselves.

I like the term, “A whisper can be much louder than a shout.” My form of creating calmness with a new client is to never sell anything. When salespeople greet a new, potential customer then go directly into showing the items on sale or the most expensive item in the store they create the distrust their buyer is expecting.

Let that person get to know you as a person first. Open the conversation with anything other than selling. Find common grounds—even if it’s something small like talking about yesterday’s hailstorm. As an example: “Did you guys get hit buy that hailstorm?” Or, “I take it you’re a Broncos fan like I am (because of their jersey or hat).”

Start every new conversation on anything that you can find in common. Who doesn’t like a person they can talk fishing or sports or a common problem with? Today my fishing buddy is a former customer.

When you prove to a customer that you are out for her best interests, that’s confidence. When your product knowledge allows her to make a wise decision on a purchase, that’s confidence. When you have proven your conviction and ethics are at your buyer’s level, that builds the ultimate confidence.

Last year I had a couple come in that were in the first stages of building a new home. Even though this possible sale was more than six months out, I took them step-by-step and educated them well enough to make some comfortable product choices.

About an hour after they left, the lady called back and said, “Kelly, I think I may have lost my mother’s antique wedding ring, and I think it might be in your parking lot.”

My first thought was, that’s a long shot, but I still went out to where they had parked and actually found it. When I called her back I heard a loud gasp and a big thank you. Interestingly, it was kind of like she was pleasantly surprised that I would give it back. Which took me by surprise.

Then she said, “I guess we’ll have to buy from you now.”

My first response was, “No, of course not, isn’t that what a person is supposed to do?

She then said, “When we left your store we had already decided that we had found the right person, the ring just solidified our first opinion.” I loved hearing that and it reminded me how we often have to prove our ethics, and that we really do want what is in the best interests of our buyers.

In short, stop selling, work to become a trusted friend and that’s how you become the person from whom they want to buy. Thanks for reading.