How to Convince Strangers to Trust You Enough to Buy From You


trustJohn Gottman laid in bed alone one night. He was close the end of his mystery novel.

He wanted to find out who the killer was, but before he finished he walked into the bathroom and saw his wife's face in the mirror.

She looked sad, and in that moment, John had a choice.

He could go back to finishing his book and say to himself, hey, I don't want to deal with this right now.

Or he could go up to his wife and ask what was wrong...

Strangers come into your business's website every day or call you on the phone, but most of them won't buy from you. And it's not because they don't have a need for your services, though that's true in some cases.

For the people who have a need, they aren't converting because, frankly, they don't trust you to deliver the service they need.

For example, I was on the phone with 3 different potential clients recently.

  • One didn't buy
  • Another scheduled a follow-up call after speaking for a bit and ended up buying later on after I gave him a "service slice" (more about that later on)
  • The third bought on the spot

What was the difference between the conversation that lead to a purchase and the two that didn't?

I can't say it was all trust, obviously price is a factor too since it's not like we're selling a $1 bottle of Poland Spring.

However, the people who bought from us on the spot were moved from a point of being neutral to a point of feeling confident that we could get the work done for them.

For the client that bought on the spot, she had been following our newsletter and blog for sometime, and she had read up in detail on each of the services we had to offer. So it wasn't a hard sell at all.

The person who rescheduled for a follow-up phone call, he'd been burned by another provider in the past so he needed some more time and convincing before his trust was raised to the level of confidence.

But, tactically speaking, how do you actually build trust with someone -- in your writing on your website or in a one-to-one conversation?

The ability to do so effectively means the difference between closing the sale and not.

Below I've put together a list of my 5 best tips to help answer this question.

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Tip #1 - Keep your senses tuned in to your client's emotions

That story I started to tell at the beginning of this article?

John Gottman, in that moment where he observed his wife in the mirror, made the choice to approach her and ask why she looked sad.

He did this in part because he is a relationship researcher. He knew that by purposefully ignoring the site of his wife being sad it would destroy trust and slightly erode their relationship. This is because trust is not just about loyalty, as Gottman explains in a video below.

Trust is about attention to the emotions and the ideas that someone is communicating indirectly, in their voice and in their body language.

Gottman defines this as "attunement."


The focus of my tip here is on the "A" and the "T" which stands for awareness and turning toward, respectively, in the Gottman's ATTUNE acronym, pictured above.

For example, I was on a call with a client yesterday. She was hesitant to make an additional investment into her project since the final price was larger than she initially anticipated.

She was asking me questions about what was included, but still, I could sense something was there below the surface. Some deeper reason for her hesitation.

In the moment, I acknowledged this observation (awareness). So I paused and asked (turning toward) her "I sense some hesitation, is there any question that I'm not addressing for you?"

I think she was surprised at how direct I was, but I could tell she appreciated me taking note of how she felt in that moment, without her having to say anything. We're scheduled to have a follow-up call later this month.

Tip #2 - Understand and empathize (with stories)

This is a continuation of Gottman's ATTUNE method from Tip #1.

When you're speaking with someone on the phone in an effort to make a sale, you're goal should not be to only "make a sale." That's a "win-lose" approach because it puts your needs above the client's.

Instead, think of your conversation as an effort to first tune-in to each other like two radios trying to find the same frequency to communicate over.


Making small talk can lead into this by relating over something small ("How's the weather by you? Heard you guys were snowed in last week."), but small talk alone doesn't work to build the level of trust you're ultimately looking to get to.

Small talk, instead, works to get everyone's defenses down so the real conversation can begin (i.e. open communication, everyone isn't afraid to express their true needs, questions, and concerns that have to be met before the transaction occurs).

For example, I was on a call with a client last week where we started off the conversation with me asking questions about him and how he got started in business. We followed-up that call this week to discuss a more detailed plan of action based on his goals.

He explained to me that he was an "easy sell as long as the value is there and perceived risk was low." But the problem for him was that he wanted to know AutoGrow would be reliable for him as far as getting the work done with a high level of confidence that a result would be produced for his business.

I stopped talking to listen some more. This was me working to understand his point of view and his needs.

After he finished, I described the hiring process I go through for on-boarding new team members at AutoGrow. This was me relating to him and his part efforts to find a reliable service provider to help him market his website.

By telling him that story of the hiring process I went through, I showed him that I understood from personal experience what he was saying and the frustration he had experienced in the past.

After that candid point in the conversation, it felt like we were communicating on the "same frequency."

He has since signed-up with us to help him grow his email list.

Tip #3 - Be super specific with examples, deliverables and benefits

When you're offering a service, if you're not 100% clear on what a client is going to get from you after they pay $X then the sale probably won't occur.

When you're selling to first-time buyers, you have to put yourself in their shoes. They need to know what it is they are getting for their money.

  • What are the specific benefits I get from your service?
  • What's the plan for implementation?
  • Can you show me similar examples from the past that you've worked on?
  • What's the end result I can expect?
  • What's produced that I will own at the end of this process, if anything?

Take for example two pitches from a service professional who offers public speaking lessons and coaching.

  1. "I will teach you how to speak in front of a large audience with confidence. Lessons are once a week at my office." ... Versus...
  2. "Right now, if I asked you to get on stage in front of 1,000 people and say something inspiring for 20 minutes straight, without pausing, studdering, or looking nervous--could you do it? Probably not, but once we're done going through my 10 week 'Speak with Confidence' introductory program, that's what you'll be able to do. You'll be able to engage your audience, speak clearly, and look damn confident doing it. It's just one lesson per week and the course is completed in under three months. You also get my interactive course book to go with the lessons and help you stay on track from one lesson to the next. Register now, because I can only helped a limited number of people become great public speakers each month."

Obviously, that second (hypothetical) example is more clear, hits on the key benefits and a few features (course book), and explains the results as well.

Important thing to note here: you want to keep tips #1 and #2 in mind because the examples, benefits, and deliverables you discuss about should fit within the context of the conversation, and what the prospect's feelings and objections are in that moment. If what you're saying isn't in context of what the prospect wants, then their level of trust in you is not rising.

If you're applying this tip to your sales copy on your website, the specific examples and benefits you give should make sense based on what you know about who your target customer is and their most common needs.

Want to go beyond building trust on your website? Download a copy of our free, 33 Point Perfect Landing Page Checklist today for more ideas on how to build trust and drive more online conversions, leads, and sales.

Tip #4 - Quote statistics and cite the sources

You know what people--myself included--find difficult to argue with? Numbers and facts that come from credible third party sources.

For example, one of the services we specialize in at AutoGrow is landing page design.

So if I'm talking with a client and they're deciding between ordering 2 landing pages or 4, I might say this:

stats-landing-pages"You would actually benefit more from having us implement more landing pages for you than less. This is because, according to the research institute Marketing Sherpa and Hubspot, businesses with 31 to 30 landing pages get 7 times more leads than those with only 1 to 5 landing pages. And businesses with over 40 landing pages get 12 times more leads than those with only 1 to 5 landing pages. So you can see there's a direct relationship between the number of landing pages you have and the ROI for your business."

As far as writing sales copy on your website, you can strengthen your pitch by referencing those same stats on the page.

If you want to make a more persuasive pitch for your products or services, don't expect people to simply "take your word for it."

Instead use numbers combined with research and case studies from credible third parties.

Tip #5 - Ask questions and anticipate common objections

It's common that you'll hit a "brick wall" when trying to make a sale with a new client -- either in conversation or if you're following up via email autoresponder.

And here's what I mean by a brick wall. This is when the prospect isn't giving few answers or hints as to what they need to feel comfortable moving forward. It's like the "radio frequency" analogy I talked about above where your radio and the prospect's radio are communicating on different wavelengths.

When this happens, you want to ask questions and make sure they still understand: this is about them, this is for their benefit. It's ok if your services aren't a match for them, but you want to understand why so you can make a recommendation regarding alternative provider that's a better fit.

And make sure to pause after you ask the question, and let another pause sneak there right after their response as well. This will help to fish out additional other thoughts, questions, or concerns that might be on their mind.

You can also take a more direct approach as I did in an example in tip #1 discussed above. This is where you explicitly acknowledge the apprehension you seem to be sensing on their part, and ask them to clarify what's holding them back. "What will it take for us to do this deal and move forward today?" This is more of a last resort though since some people may be put off by it.

In terms of an email autoresponder, it looks a little different. The strategy there can be to reengage them in a question-based format simmilar to how you would in an actual conversion. However I recommend taking the proactive approach, which is to take common objections and address each of them:

  • This won't work for me
  • The price is too high
  • I don't understand what's included
  • Who else has this worked for (with examples)

Again, whether you're talking to someone one-on-one, or you're trying to make a sale via an email autoresponder, you want to go back to tip #1 and try to get "in tune" with what your prospect is thinking or feeling.

Once you understand the mental roadblocks he or she is putting up, then you're able to address those objections one at a time, or make recommendations for an alternative solution.

Bonus Tip - Accept distrust, and propose a smart alternative

We live in a cynical world. But that fact is completely understandable when you consider that most products and services offer a mediocre or just satisfactory experience.

And it's because of that fact that sometimes, you simply can't build trust any other way than by proving that you and your company can be trusted to deliver results.

But how to deliver your services without lowering your prices and hurting your value perception?

The answer is a product splinter, or, in the case of a service business you could call it a "service slice."

This is where you offer a "slice" of your total service package and at a lower price point. This is enough to show the potential client he will get some benefit from working with you (and now you can prove it). Plus, the perceived financial risk is substantially lowered.

This is the exact strategy I used to get a working relationship started when I consulted with a new client the other day who was initially on the fence.


Want to go beyond building trust on your website? Download a copy of our free, 33 Point Perfect Landing Page Checklist today for more ideas on how to build trust and drive more online conversions, leads, and sales.

To review:

  • Keep your senses tuned in to your client's emotions
  • Tune-in & turn into the emotion to address it
  • Tell stories from experience in order to relate to the prospect
  • Get super specific on deliverables and key benefits
  • Quote statistics and cite the sources
  • Ask questions and anticipate common objections

Part of my motivation for researching and writing this article comes from my desire to "better learn" the things I already know (if you know what I mean by that). I also wanted to do this also because right now AutoGrow is gearing up for 2015 by implementing plans to productize our marketing services.

This will essentially turn our website in to a vending machine for our services. So, by reviewing how to build trust with our audience (and strangers) when it comes to our services, the lessons learned here will come in handy as we take our business model to the next level.

To give you a sense of what we're going for, here's a sneak preview:


That's one way we'll be apply these tips, how about you?

What are you doing right now to build trust with new prospects, whether they be visitors on your website or via person to person conversations?

Leave a comment below and let me know. And if you found this article valuable and useful, please share it for the benefit of other on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+.


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