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The Fast Company Executive Board is a private, fee-based network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.

15 ways to close the “credibility gap” with potential clients or customers

You’ve caught the attention of a new prospect—now you need to convince them you can really deliver what you’re promising.

15 ways to close the “credibility gap” with potential clients or customers
Members of Fast Company Executive Board share their expert insights. [Image: Courtesy of the individual members.]

Across industries, marketing teams of both B2B and B2C companies employ a variety of strategies to catch the attention of new prospects. It can be a difficult hill to climb—particularly in today’s global, digital marketplace—but even when you succeed, your work may be only half done. The new prospect knows what you claim to offer, but they may not be sure—yet—that you can back it up.

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To complete the sale, companies need to close the “credibility gap” that may be keeping prospects from making a final decision in their favor. To help, 15 members of Fast Company Executive Board have shared ways companies can convince potential clients and customers that they are capable of and committed to following through on their marketing promises. Follow their advice to establish your expertise and land the deal.

1. SHOW, DON’T TELL.

If you want to be viewed as a trustworthy expert, don’t just explain your services; show them to your prospects. Use data to show exactly what clients can expect from your proven process, and teach them something valuable. Share information that will help your prospects regardless of whether or not they partner with you. – Liza Streiff, Knopman Marks Financial Training

2. SET REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS FROM THE BEGINNING. 

Setting realistic expectations is an important aspect of the sales and closing processes. This helps with onboarding and closing the credibility gap. Make sure your new client is not over-promised and under-delivered. If you discuss timelines, goals, and “measure of success” expectations ahead of time, it will help with longevity and retention. – Karolina Hobson, Radd Interactive

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3. OFFER NEW CLIENTS FREE RESOURCES.

While trying not to undervalue our thought leadership and expertise by giving it away, early on in a client relationship (maybe even before we’ve closed the deal), we strut our stuff and provide content and insights at no cost. This allows us to deliver on our promise of waking up every day focused on “What can we do for Client XYZ today?” – Lisa Bichsel, Bichsel Medical Marketing Group

4. TAKE A WALK IN THEIR SHOES.

The No. 1 reason a client hires you is that they believe you understand their problem, so you must commit to listening and learning about their challenges, their sector, how their business model works, and what’s on their minds. Product pushers lose in these conversations. You have to walk in the client’s shoes to gain their trust and establish credibility. – Amy Radin, Pragmatic Innovation Partners LLC

5. DETAIL WHAT YOU’VE DONE FOR SIMILAR CLIENTS.

One of the best ways to close the credibility gap is to share a case study featuring a similar client and detail the specific goals and outcomes achieved for that client. If that is unavailable, I believe it’s important to communicate a very deep understanding of the client and their product or service and suggest a few key goals to help them. If it resonates deeply, that will likely suffice. – Fehzan Ali, Adscend Media LLC

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6. TALK ABOUT THE CHALLENGES YOU’VE OVERCOME.

Don’t be afraid to share some of the speed bumps and roadblocks that have come up for you in the past and how you have risen to the challenge and come through for your clients and customers. Every customer thinks that their situation is unique. They need to be assured that your company will be able to come up with solutions that are specifically tailored to them. – Reuben Yonatan, GetVoIP

7. SHARE YOUR CUSTOMERS’ SUCCESS STORIES.

Stories matter. Customers want to feel like their pain points are understood, and the best way to do that is by telling meaningful stories that feature the success of your current customers. Compiling and sharing the best case studies, customer success videos, and great customer feedback can go a long way when it comes to closing the “credibility gap” with potential customers. – Jeremy Almond, Paystand

8. SET EXPECTATIONS BASED ON PAST RESULTS.

Listening to customer needs so that you can provide anecdotes and success stories is the best path toward developing trust with a new client. Product demos are rehearsed and always put a company’s best foot forward. Talking about challenges and setting expectations based on past results will give new clients the reassurance they need. – Jessica Thorpe, gen.video

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9. TAKE REFERRAL MARKETING SERIOUSLY.

Something I have found to be very effective is referral marketing. When a potential client gets a recommendation for your company from someone they know, they will be way more likely to engage with you and then tell others in the industry if they have a positive experience. This significantly reduces your sales expenses and sales cycle. Try focusing on people who are looking for what you are selling and who willingly sought you out after recommendations from an acquaintance. – Nicolas Susco, (ea) ElipseAgency

10. ASK THEM WHERE THEY HEARD ABOUT YOUR COMPANY.

Ask questions that remind them why they chose you and questions that demonstrate your expertise without requiring you to explain it. This works particularly well for consultants—good questions demonstrate the value of working with you. A quick way to get started is asking where they heard about you. This reminds them of the brand credibility you had before the call even began. – Marie Zimenoff, Career Thought Leaders

11. PROVIDE FREE TRIALS OR SAMPLES.

Offer them a taste of the experience of working with you through a free trial or a product sample or by inviting them to a client event that showcases your team’s expertise and company culture (which also gives them the chance to mingle with your existing clients virtually or in person). Also, share your company’s purpose so they can see the positive impact you have on the world. – Andreea Vanacker, SPARKX5

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12. CREATE A STRONG BRAND IDENTITY.

Brand, brand, and brand again. Prospects trust a brand they know. Work hard on your company’s values, positioning, social media and website, blog, PR—everything that you think will build your brand in a specific niche or a vertical. Your sales team will thank you for that. – Yoav Vilner, Walnut

13. GET TO KNOW YOUR CUSTOMERS (AND YOURSELF) INSIDE AND OUT.

Start a conversation. Rather than pitching your business with a hard sell, aim to listen more than you speak. Get to know your customer, their market, and the issue they are looking to improve, and know your product inside and out so that you can determine how it will benefit this customer specifically, making their lives easier or better. Customers are unique; treat them as such. – Eric Schurke, Moneypenny

14. DEMONSTRATE YOUR COMMITMENT IN EVERY INTERACTION.

Trust is earned. It is an outcome of my actions as an adviser and consultant. I aim to make every interaction with a client an opportunity to demonstrate my commitment to their success. I don’t differentiate between an important long-standing client and someone I just met. Keep serving a new client until they are embarrassed that they are not paying you! – Andrew Binns, Change Logic LLC

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15. ADD TESTIMONIALS TO YOUR WEBSITE.

A powerful way to convince clients to trust you is to share details about your work with previous customers. Building case studies and adding testimonials to your website goes a long way toward helping clients visualize the positive changes you can make. Share numbers, tell stories, and refer to real people to make your offerings seem more real. – Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner

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