Selling often means speaking to people who’ve never heard of you. But as you’ve probably experienced, there’s usually a credibility gap — and until it’s filled, they’re not likely to move forward with you.
The obvious solution, of course, is credibility. Credibility helps you stand out and build trust with prospects who are complete strangers to you.
But how do you build it? That’s what I’m going to share with you in this article.
Keep reading to learn how to overcome a credibility gap, plus five things you can do to create credibility with your ideal prospects — even if they’re perfect strangers.
Let’s get started, shall we?
Why the Credibility Gap Is Such a Problem
Today, customers wield all the power. They research the market, read reviews, and get input on how a product works — without ever talking to a salesperson.
In fact, 57% of the purchase decision has been made before a customer even calls a supplier.
So, if you want to close the credibility gap in today’s world, you need to be visible and compelling. You need to hang out where your customers are and bring something exciting to the table — an offer they can’t ignore or refuse.
It All Starts With Trust
The mother of credibility is trust.
You can’t be credible if people don’t trust you, simple as that. You can’t blame their cynicism, either. Businesses have been overpromising and underdelivering for decades. And once you’re committed to a deal, it can be difficult — and potentially embarrassing — to reverse.
For brands that are household names, credibility is a given. They’ve enough visibility that, even if someone hasn’t used their products, they’re familiar with them. They may know people who use those products. And if the brand has been around for a while, there’s a lot of social proof.
Essentially, familiarity builds credibility. That’s why it’s so important to be visible.
If you’re a startup or selling a new product or service, credibility is something you have to earn. In the past, a persuasive advertising campaign might’ve been enough, but in the age of the internet, you’ve got to do a lot more to be taken seriously.
Building trust starts with understanding your prospect’s problem and ends with solving it in the best way possible.
Less selling, more helping.
The average person sees around 5,000 advertisements or marketing messages per day. That’s over three every minute. Add review sites, product publications, social media, and other platforms where customers can discuss, critique, and recommend businesses, and how do you succeed at being visible and compelling in all that noise?
The solution is to be helpful above all else. Because when you’re helpful, it’s easier to gain trust, and when someone trusts you, they’re more willing to buy.
Referrals are, by far, one of the most successful ways to build credibility. In fact, 74% of consumers rely on word-of-mouth before making purchasing decisions.
73% of consumers are also omnichannel shoppers, so if you want to be visible, you need to be present where and when these referrals occur.
Being Visible and Compelling
At this point, I’ve mentioned visible and compelling a few times, so let’s look at what I mean by that.
Being visible means:
- Your content appears when customers search for answers to their problems.
- You have an active presence on every channel your prospects use.
- Your customers have written reviews and testimonials about you.
- You’re featured in relevant press publications.
- You’re reviewed, featured, or discussed by industry influencers.
Being compelling means:
- You consistently write meaningful, relevant, and helpful content.
- You’ve built a large social media audience that regularly shares your content.
- Your product or service has been well-reviewed by customers and influencers.
- Your story has featured in well-respected industry and consumer publications.
- You’ve been endorsed by leading influencers and industry experts.
I don’t expect you to achieve all of these things before you start selling, but you should at least be working on them. Let’s explore how these areas affect the credibility gap.
Closing the Credibility Gap
There are five important parts to closing the credibility gap and being visible and compelling. Let’s look at what they are and how you can use them to build trust and credibility for your business.
1. Create content your customers care about
Selling is about getting inside your customers’ heads. What do they want? What do they need? What problems or questions do they have?
Your customers won’t respond to generic sales messages. You content and messaging needs to be meaningful, relevant, helpful, and improve their lives.
Here’s what that looks like:
Meaningful content is well-researched, referenced, and generally enlightens the reader with new information or unique takes on old topics.
Relevant content contains information the reader cares about. It might be personalized, presented in a specific medium, or delivered when they need it most.
Helpful content answers a question, solves a problem, or provides actionable advice. It doesn’t sell, but instead it educates, informs, or delights in some way.
Your content should meet all of these criteria. You have to do your homework on this — don’t create content you think your customers will enjoy. Research what your customers enjoy, track views and engagement metrics, and test what works so that you’re creating content you know your customers will love.
2. Become an omnichannel seller
Love it or hate it, social media has changed how we communicate. It’s where most people express their opinions — a digital soapbox, as it were. Almost 80% of the US population has a social media profile. So, as a business, you need to join the crowds and get on that soapbox too.
It’s not enough to just sign up, either. You have to become an active member of the community. You must create engaging content, repost others’ content, comment on posts, and respond to people commenting on yours.
It’s about building a community — a following — and yes, it’s a full-time job.
If you are in charge of the company account, you might want to hire someone to do this for you (though I’d recommend checking in regularly, as social media is a treasure trove of customer data).
Building social media communities isn’t hard, but it does require persistence. Post every day, follow and emulate influencers, and ensure your channels are staffed and responsive.
Your social channels are tributaries that flow into your sales funnel. If you’re unresponsive, these tributaries dry up and funnel flow slows.
3. Reach out for reviews and testimonials
Testimonials are the gold standard of reviews. They tell a story that humanizes your business and contextualizes your proposition.
Your first customers are often your biggest champions. They love expressing their opinions and having a voice in how you run your business — especially in the early stages when they can exert greater influence.
In many ways, they’re the ones developing the business, not you.
Don’t be afraid to ask for reviews or testimonials at any time, but especially during this early stage. It makes customers feel valued. If you want, offer a small reward in return for their thoughts — a simple discount would do.
Above all, make it really easy for them to give feedback. Provide links to review sites, advise what areas to touch on, and encourage honesty with no repercussions.
If you can persuade a journalist to demo your product or service, even better, since a neutral third party adds even greater credibility (more on this later).
4. Make your story newsworthy
You’ll see many “As featured/seen in/on…” sections in today’s websites, along with a cluster of press logos and links. It’s a common credibility tactic that exploits the bandwagon and authority cognitive biases. Essentially, people are more likely to follow the crowd or an authority.
It’s widely assumed well-respected publications have a rigorous editorial process. True or not, their brands speak volumes. So even if it’s only a short article or press release, if you managed to get it published on the Wall Street Journal or TechCrunch, you’ve earned the right to put those names on your website and brochures.
For many customers, this is a stamp of approval, and the more stamps you have, the more the credibility gap narrows.
Find the relevant publications in your industry and pitch them a story. It could be about your mission, technology, or people. Read the publication to determine what they consider newsworthy. Consider their readership, and draw upon your own experiences when pitching. It might simply be a unique angle on an old issue.
If all else fails, a PR agency with the right contacts can do this for you. You’ll have less control over the content, but it is easier to get published this way.
5. Find influencers to vouch for you
The right influencer can close the credibility gap in an instant. This might be a leading thinker or a social media influencer — someone with enough weight to sway opinion in your favor. If you’re lucky, they’ll find you, but in most cases, you’ll need to put in the hard work to find them yourself.
First, you should make a list of everyone who might be interested in what you do. Then, qualify your list by reviewing the influencer’s audience — to ensure it aligns with your business and ideal customer. Once that’s done, you need to devise a strategy to engage them.
Don’t message or email asking them to talk about you. Unless you’re paying for an endorsement, this will be ignored.
Instead, become part of their community. Follow them. Join the discussion. Get involved, participate, and eventually, you’ll earn the right to ask for something in return.
If you have the budget, you could also hire an influencer as an advisor. This is especially common in the tech industry, where trendsetters tend to be techpreneurs and coders. In SaaS, for example, a nod from a leading technologist might be all you need to validate your business.
If you’ve read this far, you might be feeling overwhelmed. But don’t worry. This isn’t meant to be a checklist. You’re probably already doing some of these things, to varying degrees.
Closing the credibility gap is actually very simple, but it’s important to anchor your strategy to a solid set of principles. Starting today, use the five principles you learned here as the basis of your own credibility action plan.
Commit to it, and soon you’ll find, where there once was a credibility gap, there is now a bridge to better sales.