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     The term "trusted advisor" has been advocated for some time that if a sales person would like to build mutually beneficial relationships with customers over the long run.


    The question then is, how do you build trust with customers, especially with new customers whom you barely know, and whom barely knows you?


     We'll find out in this month's topics:

  1. How to Build Trust with Someone You Barely Know... ...Such as Your Customer?; and

  2. Motivating Middle Performers


     This issue's main article is on  "How to Build Trust with Someone You Barely Know... ...Such as Your Customer?", and we discover some possible ways that you can build trust and credibility with customers, old and new.


    In brief:

  • Customers don't just want to deal with with honest sales people, they want to be served by sales people who can deliver solutions that work too;

  • While many sales people understand the importance of thinking in the customers' shoes, most simply state the benefits of their products and services, without letting the customer understand what could be the possible risks of buying;

  • While some sales people may want to side-step sticky customer concerns and close the sale whenever there's an opportunity, doing so actually increases the chances of buyer remorse, and could haunt the sales person in the near future.  Read on... ...  


     To read the rest of this newsletter, pls. click here (


     Now, even when the economy could be coming to a stand-still, there are ways to develop the leadership capabilities of your team in a comprehensive and affordable way. Click here to find out more, or e-mail for more details..

How to Build Trust with Someone You Barely Know... ...Such as Your Customer?

by c.j. Ng


     With customers cutting budgets and postponing purchases, Billy found it harder and harder to get customers to buy.  In fact, he had missed his sales targets, and his job is at risk if he does not close a sale soon.


     Billy eventually found a customer who seems to be seriously interested in Billy's products and services.  The customer was currently buying from Billy's competitor, but they are not happy with the results and are looking for a substitute supplier who could be the new supplier.  Throughout Billy's conversations with this prospective customer, everything seems to be going smoothly.  The customer tested on the samples, got their financial people to evaluate the financial analysis, and even their CEO seems to be supportive of switching to buying from Billy.


     However, when it came to the point of closing the deal and signing the contract, the client started to give objections, such as the price being too high, and the maintenance contract not meeting expectations.  Billy did all he could to give the best price and service, while at the same time pushing the customer to lock in the sale as soon as possible if they were to enjoy such price discounts and service levels.


     Eventually, the customer told Billy that they are not ready to make the switch yet, and would like to evaluate future possibilities, probably next year.  Billy was devastated.  Despite all his hard work for the past 6 months with a very promising customer, they still could not make the commitment.


     In retrospect, Billy was just wondering what he could have done differently so that he could have gotten a different and better result.


Selling with Trust

     If the above scenario sounds familiar, you are definitely not alone.  And it's all likely to happen to you again.  And before we delve deeper into what could be the solution for Billy (and yourself), let's take a step backwards and relook into some customer psychology here:
     As such, customers need to trust you, before they even consider buying from you.  Even when they had bought from you, you will still need to foster that trust so that they continue to buy from you, or refer someone else in their organisation to buy from you.

How to Build Trust with Customers, Especially New Customers


     If trust is so important in the sales process, how then do we build trust with someone we barely know... ...such as our customers?  How can we build trust with our customers (esp. new ones) within a short span of time?

     Before we proceed further, we will have to look into the concept of trust.  Does it mean that customers will trust honest sales people who will not lie to them?  Actually, being honest is not enough, there are 2 aspects of trust that customers expect of sales people:
  1. Trust in your integrity; and

  2. Trust in your capability


     Therefore, in order to build trust with customers whom you barely (and barely know you too), you will need to do the following (in order of importance):


  1. Be proactive to show you care for your customer;

  2. Provide sensible solutions that work; and

  3. Be honest and truthful


     The most important factor here is being "proactive to show you care for your customer".  Specifically, it means not just selling your products, but also help customers mitigate any risks of buying from you.  In short, it means avoiding or reducing asking the following questions at the beginning of your sales cycle:

  • What is your budget?

  • When can you make a decision?

  • How much quantity do you need?

  • How often do you buy?


     The problem with the above questions is that they focus on your agenda, and not your customer's.  If the customer has decided to seriously consider buying from you, asking the above questions is probably necessary to work out a sensible proposal.  However, if the customer has not felt comfortable enough to seriously consider you, asking such questions could actually upset them.


     Instead, you could ask more of the following questions:

  • Which aspects do you like about us?

  • What are some of your biggest concerns if you want to buy something like this?

  • What are some of your concerns if you were to choose us or our products?


     These questions engage the customers to share more about what they think and feel.  If there are any customer concerns, such questions make the customer feel comfortable to come forth with his/ her views.


     While some sales people may feel uneasy asking customers what their concerns (or objections) are when they did not mention any, the key thing here is if the customer indeed has some objections or concerns, it is best that they raise those concerns so that you can address them.  The bigger danger for sales people is to assume customers have no objections when they did not mention any.


Listen to What Your Customers Did NOT Say


      Sometimes, customers might be giving a lot of different unspoken signals about what they think and feel.  One way of making customers talk more is to:

  • Ask them clarifying questions to clarify any information that may be too general or vague.  Clarifying questions, when asked properly, can make the customer feel you are really interested in what they are saying;

  • Summarise and paraphrase what they had just said, especially after they had shared lots of information with you.  Summarising what they had just said can make them feel you have filly understood what they told you


     Sometimes, you simply just need to focus on the customer intently, and really listen to what they did NOT say.  At the end of a conversation with a customer, ask yourself:

  • What is his/ her overall emotion and mood?

  • What are options or choices that he/ she is unaware?

  • What assumptions or subjective judgement did he/ she make to arrive at the conclusion?

  • What important things that he/ she did NOT say?

  • What do you think will be his/ her next steps?


     You will be surprised as to how much non-verbal information you can get from your customer, even if you haven't been practicing such listening skills ever before.  We had conducted such role play execises with telephone customer care professionals, and we had them paired up and seated back-to-back to simulate a phone call situation.  In most cases, they got 4-5 questions right on the first try.


     Need help in building trust with customers whom you barely know, or whom barely know you?  Simply e-mail or or call +86-136 7190 2505 or Skype: cydj001 and arrange to buy me a mocha.  All information shall be kept in confidence.


Power Breakfast Hour: 15 Nov 2012

How to Build Trust with Someone You Barely Know... ...Such as Your Customer?

  • Why building trust with customers is essential to your sales success, especially in turbulent times like these;
  • Why being honest and truthful is NOT enough to win the trust of customers, and what aother aspects should you work on to win their trust;
  • How you can build trust with customers whom you barely know by being proactively show you care for them, and also by listening to what they did NOT say as well

VENUE:  Crowne Plaza Shanghai • 400 Panyu Road (near Fahuazhen Road) • 上海银星皇冠酒店 •  番禺路 400 号 (靠法华镇路)

DATE: Thursday, 15 Nov 2012

TIME: 08:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m.



     To make this a more conducive discussion, we are expecting a small group of about 15 people only. The room can only take in 18, so please register early to avoid disappointments. Please e-mail your registrations tons to


     Pls. check out our web sites and for more inspiration.

Upcoming Events


     Due to an increased number of experiential teambuilding workshops and in-house training during this period, including:

  • SIP Project Management;

  • American Chambers of Commerce (Shanghai);

  • German Chambers of Commerce (Shanghai);

  • Dräger;

  • Alfa Laval; etc.

     Hence, we are postponing other public events till further notice.  Your patience and understanding is appreciated. 


Tips for Managers:

Motivating Middle Performers


By Mark Murphy

Founder and CEO, Leadership IQ

Edited by c.j. Ng,

Master Trainer, Asia, Leadership IQ


Most leaders assume that middle performers are already doing the best they can, and so dismiss taking any action to improve their performance. Middle performers, in turn, internalize this assumption and stop trying to be anything more than what they already are.

Employees need feedback, both good and bad, in order to succeed. Middle performers typically account for 70 percent of the workforce. This translates to two-thirds of your employee base that, if you are like most leaders, by the very merit of not being told whether they are doing “good” or “bad,” are being encouraged to tread water at only average performance levels.


While it is likely that a few of your middle performers simply do not have any more to give, most of them have substantial unrecognized potential. In other words, middle performers absolutely have the ability to tip the scales of success in your favour. As a leader, it is your job to uncover this hidden talent and motivate middle performers to reach towards higher performance.


It sends a powerful message when you tell a middle performer, “You’ve got what it takes. Go ahead and run with this. I trust you.” When you can say these words with conviction, and a middle performer suddenly realizes they can be more than what they currently are, it’s a powerful moment for them, for you as a leader, and for the organization as a whole. You may even find that when given a little time and attention, middle performers will rise considerably on the performance curve and become high performers.


There are five critical reasons why middle performers remain middle performers, and we’ve created a grouping for each. In the course of working day-to-day with these folks, you should be able to pick out the patterns and key elements that assign them to one of these five groups. If not, it’s time to get out there and get to know your middle performers. Most of them are eager to be noticed and heard, and with just a little prompting, they’ll probably tell you exactly what you need to know. Let’s take a look at these middle performer groups and explore what can be done to maximize their hidden potential.


Keep that in mind, most managers are better at communicating negative feelings than positive ones.  And, most managers and leaders don’t do enough checks as to the message they think they are communicating and also what message is being received.  That’s the subtle twist to this.  It’s one thing for you to assess yourself; it’s another to ask whether that message is being received in the way you intend.

Middle Performer Group #1: They're Maxed Out

The first group consists of employees that are simply maxed out. These are the folks who are perfectly competent at doing what they’ve always done, but who are consistently unable to produce when given more challenging tasks. There may have been a time when those in the “maxed out” group had a desire to be high performers, but they’ve since reached a pinnacle of performance they’re unable to eclipse. Most leaders mistakenly assume that all middle performers belong to this group; however, only 10 to 15 percent of those in the middle are truly maxed out.


It’s a poor use of a leader’s time to try and develop those in the “maxed out” group. This is not to say this group of middle performers is incapable of bringing value to an organization. Not everyone can run a four-minute mile, but this does not mean that those who can’t should give up running. The “maxed out” are steady, reliable employees that meet expectations and tend to be generally happy where they are.


Middle Performer Group #2: They Don’t Know How

The employees that make up the second group are those that just don’t know how to reach high performer status. They seem to be going full steam ahead, but somehow always fall short of distinguished performance. The “don’t know how” middle performers are often stuck in this performance rut due to working for leaders that don’t take the time to clearly state high performance expectations—or any expectations at all. This is often a result of the afore mentioned misconception that middle performers have no more to give, hence the belief that it is a poor use of time to try and develop any of them. And so the cycle of middle performance begins. 


A leader will never successfully create a high performance workplace if he or she does not clearly communicate expectations. Even a high performer is going to be at a loss for how to meet the mark if told, “Sales are just not good enough. I need to see improvement.” Without knowing how much improvement and by when, the “don’t know how” middle performer may give what he or she thinks is high performer effort, only to be met by dissatisfaction from the boss. Ongoing, this situation becomes a confusing hit or miss scenario where the employee is never sure whether or not they are on target. They start viewing their leaders as capricious, and making the effort to try and please them becomes obsolete.


Middle Performer Group #3: They Have No Confidence

Middle performers that lack confidence in their ability to achieve high performer status make up the third group. By and large, this situation exists due to an erroneous notion of what defines a high performer. When a leader’s time and attention is primarily focused on combating low performers and praising high performers, a very clear, although often inaccurate, message of “good” and “bad” is absorbed by those in the middle. By merit of the positive attention they receive; high performers can appear to be perched on a pedestal that seems impossible to reach. Even though many middle performers possess the skills and attitude of a high performer, they simply do not see themselves as having what it takes to make the climb to the top. >


Because middle performers tend to discount their own accomplishments, it is especially important to take the time to comment on the good work being done by this group of employees. This is your opportunity to set the record straight that middle performers are of value to the company, and to start turning their confidence levels around.

Middle Performer Group #4: Costs Are too High

A common misconception among some middle performers is that being a high performer goes hand-in-hand with being a chronic workaholic. The fourth group of middle performers refrains from giving their all as they foresee that the costs of being a high performer are just too high. It may be that they have been witness to a few high performers that compulsively feel the need to work, and who, in doing so, embrace long hours and weekends at the office. It may also be that this group of middle performers does not fully understand what the expectations of high performance are, and so imagine that the only way to move to the next level of performance is to trade personal life and outside interests for increased work time.


The “costs are too high” middle performers are blocked from becoming high performers by their apprehension over the "sacrifices" they think accompany the role. It may be that these are only hypothetical, and that you can easily assuage these concerns by talking these middle performers through their incorrect assumptions. However, there is always the chance that these high performer sacrifices are in fact quite real. Listening to and investigating these concerns may uncover valuable information by which you can instigate some changes that not only will help you motivate middle performers to a higher level of production, but will have the added bonus of working to retain high performers.


Middle Performer Group #5: Benefits Are Too Low

The fifth group of middle performers is comprised of those employees that believe the benefits of being a high performer are just too low. These are the folks that have the skills and attitude of a high performer, and who would be happy to do what it takes to move up to the next level, if only they could see the tangible benefit of doing so. They question each possibility of advancement, and if they foresee no favorable return, suspecting instead that the “rewards” will be factors such as a minimal pay increase, added hassle, and little to no promise of promotion, they turn away from making high performer efforts.


This group, not unlike group 4, may simply be reacting to hypothetical conditions. In this situation, middle performers will be de-motived by what they perceive to be a lack of benefits. Once again, this may be valuable information that should be investigated with your high performers. If you find that the suspicions of the “benefits are too low” middle performers are not valid, you will need to reinforce the actual benefits of high performance. And if they are valid, you will need to address that factor.


For more tips on motivating middle performers, join us this Friday October 19 at 1:00 PM Eastern for our webinar titled "Turning Middle Performers Into Stars".


As a reminder, this webinar is part 3 of a 4-part series on "What Great Managers Do Differently". Happening every Friday in October, this series will show you the 4 key skills that distinguish the greatest managers from average managers. Register today for this package and get access to the remaining 2 live webinars, all 4 webinar recordings and a complimentary coaching session.

If you would like to get the eLearning material on "Turning Middle Performers Into Stars" and 39 other eLearning topics by Leadership IQ, you can e-mail or call +86-136 7190 2505 or Skype: cydj001

About Directions Management Consulting


Directions Management Consulting is the partner of LeadershipIQ in China and Asia.  LeadershipIQ helps more than 125,000 leaders every year through the facts drawn from one of the largest ongoing leadership studies ever conducted is used to help companies apply resources where the best possible results be achieved.


In addition, Directions Management Consulting is a leading provider of sales performance, innovation and experiential learning solutions in China and many parts of Asia. is the sales performance arm of Directions Management Consulting specialising in conducting training, research and consulting services for sales managers and their team.


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Currently, Directions Management Consulting has served clients such as InterContinental Hotels Group, Unilever, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Roche, Philips Lighting, Carrier, Ingersoll Rand, Freudenberg etc.


Through collaboration with consultancies such as Forum Corporation, MTI, de Bono China, ProWay etc., the consultants in Directions Management Consulting have served clients such as PwC, Air Products, Evonik, Wacker, Epson amongst others.


Directions Management Consulting will increase its efforts to conduct leadership studies in China and other parts of Asia, so that more companies apply resources where the best possible results be achieved in this part of the world.


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