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Rebuilding Trust: The Broken State of the Sales Industry

As part of Solutions Review’s Contributed Content Seriesa collection of contributed articles written by our enterprise tech thought leader community—Nikolaus Kimla, the founder and CEO of Pipeliner CRM, talks about how the sales industry can start rebuilding trustworthy relationships with their audience.

Sales as a brand is broken. Traditional sales tactics are failing. Generically speaking, salespeople have earned a bad reputation over the years—often undeserved due to the actions of a subset of salespeople and the negative portrayals in popular culture. One study found that only 32 percent of buyers view sales as a “trustworthy profession.” The salesperson stereotype is often considered pushy and dishonest, and many feel salespeople are disingenuous and don’t understand their priorities or problems. A lot of this comes down to a perception of authenticity.

In addition, the modern consumer is savvier than ever and experiencing information overload. When you factor in the slow erosion of brand loyalty and an increased reliance on online reviews, a favorable sales/brand perception is more challenging to obtain than ever, whether you’re B2B or B2C. All it takes is one bad review going viral to sink years of hard work behind the scenes.

So, how can sales professionals overcome the industry’s negative brand perception? By putting in the work to restore the reputation over time, one customer at a time, through authentic relationships.

The Way It’s Always Been Done

Despite the evolution of sales, especially with the rise of the digital era, many foundational principles and tactics of traditional sales are still deployed today. Take sales at its core, for instance. Sales have always been about one thing: personal interactions between a salesperson and a customer that result in the purchase of a product or good.

Historically, before cell phones, email, social media, and video calls, the salesperson went door-to-door and relied on sales presentations and demos to sell their goods. If we want to take it back even further, sales began with the simple bartering of goods and, potentially, a good haggle. As society advanced, we added new methods to broaden our potential audience, like flyers and paper ads. With the invention of the telephone, sales professionals added cold calls to their toolbelt. Television and radio added commercials and infomercials.

With every new invention, sales professionals overcome a different challenge: limited marketplace reach, scalability, or inconsistent messaging. However, no matter the method, sales professionals have always relied on their strong communication skills, negotiation abilities, power of persuasion, and persistence. Where did the system break down?

Symptoms of a Broken Sales Brand

Though certainly the result of a few, and not all, sales professionals over time, the industry’s reputation has undeniably shifted. It started with those who deployed high-pressure sales tactics, overpromised and underdelivered, or even misled or deceived customers. Cue the “pushy car salesman” stereotype.

Early on, word of mouth was the only way for a bad reputation to spread. With the rise of new communication methods like the telephone and email, it’s become easier for word to spread after a bad sales experience. Look at social media. All it takes is one viral post from an unhappy customer to topple a company’s reputation if handled poorly.

While not every business will feel the adverse effects of the modern sales perception, there are signs a company might have a broken reputation that needs repairing, such as a decrease in or lack of trust and credibility from prospects and customers, negative reviews, or a decline in sales performance metrics.

Taking it Back to Basics: Relationships

How does one fix a broken sales reputation? By taking it back to basics. Sales have always been about building relationships, understanding customer needs, and closing deals. With the pressure to meet key performance metrics, it’s regrettably easy to lose sight of this when trying to churn out win after win.

Headed into the quieter summer season, now is a great time to revisit our relationships and focus on what the modern consumer wants—authenticity. When selling, genuine enthusiasm for the service or product shows. That passion is more likely to get the prospective customer more invested. In addition, when you start a new customer relationship, identify the buyer’s real unmet need and help them understand how your product or service is the solution. What advantages do they stand to get if they decide to buy? If the interest isn’t there, don’t push. Instead, continue to nurture the relationship so that you’re top-of-mind when someone asks for a recommendation or they’re finally ready to make a purchase.

CRM technology can also help us manage those authentic relationships, serving as a critical tool when building and tracking the sales pipeline. CRM platforms assist with customer data capture, personalized communication, maintaining consistency across touchpoints, ensuring timely follow-ups, and, ultimately, managing those authentic relationships long-term. Your CRM system should enable you to understand better, engage with, and serve your customers while easing your burden of managing the day-to-day cycle. Better yet, because of all the data it captures along the way, it can provide valuable insights into what’s working and what’s not so you can update your approach in real-time.

Finding the Right CRM Solution

To ensure your CRM has the tools to put the ‘R’ back into CRM, look for a solution that keeps the pipeline in one place, from lead generation to communication tracking to closing the sale and customer feedback. This will reduce unnecessary distractions so you can focus on relationship building. It also helps eliminate incorrect or duplicate data to ensure you work with the latest customer insights.

In addition, look for a solution that integrates the power of generative AI into your CRM toolkit. The right CRM should help you craft masterful communication, change the tone of voice a message uses, write emails faster, without error, and from talk-to-text, and shorten or lengthen any message instantly across multiple languages. Quality communication is critical when growing authentic relationships and rebuilding the sales brand.

Over the years, the sales industry’s brand has slowly eroded. With time and modern technology, however, it can be fixed through authenticity. While it’s a big challenge, modern CRM technology can help change consumer sentiment by helping sales professionals rebuild the brand one relationship at a time.

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