In my line of work (running a sales training and consulting company) there are lots of coffee meetings. When I meet a new prospect for the first time, have a review meeting with a client or sit down with one of my partners, we invariably ‘go for a coffee’. This is a prime tool to build trust in sales.

I’ve discovered, through bitter experience, that there are few more embarrassing sensations in the corporate world than finishing up a meeting with a new prospect, heading back to the office and suddenly catching a glimpse of yourself in the mirror, sporting a proud cappuccino moustache!

Your mind immediately jumps back to the meeting you just had and you can’t help but picture yourself, confidently discussing the topic at hand, while your prospective client sits mesmerized by the layer of chocolate and foam moving up and down on your lips, every time you speak!

In the sales world, we increasingly hear about the importance of establishing credibility, rapport and trust. Easier said than done you might say, and I agree. We are all a bit wary of salespeople, slightly suspect of their motivations and not inclined to give too much away when we meet them for the first time. Many of us have been burned before, trapped on the phone with a telesales person or cornered by a clipboard wielding survey collector, while we desperately trying to finish our Christmas shopping.

So with all of that baggage, how can a salesperson possibly start to build trust and rapport with a new client or prospect. Here are a few of the strategies I’ve found to be most effective:

  • Be yourself – Don’t feel the need to leave your personality at the door when you open up your notebook or Ipad at the start of your meeting. There shouldn’t be a ‘work Greg’ and a ‘home Greg’ … there should just be Greg
  • Be honest – If you don’t know something, say that you don’t know it, but commit to finding out. If your product or service can’t deliver on a particular requirement, be upfront about its limitations, but also willing to explore alternative scenarios
  • Be authentic – The easiest thing in the world is to slip into jargon, rhetoric or corporate speak, particularly when you’re slightly unsure of your footing. Don’t do this … don’t bullsh*t or prevaricate, talk honestly and openly, but more importantly ask questions and really pay attention to the answers you receive
  • Be vulnerable – If you don’t pretend to have all of the answers, but you’re willing to ask questions and eager to learn, you’re far more likely to develop trust, rapport and credibility in this world
  • Perhaps most important of all, be prepared to point out their chocolate moustache – If there’s something my client needs to hear, about their business, their sales team or their own chocolate moustache, I need to be prepared to take the leap of faith and point it out to them, without fear or favour.

Only then can we begin to really trust one another and only then will our working relationship reach a level of shared understanding and genuine openness and honesty.

Cian McLoughlin is the Amazon #1 bestselling author of Rebirth of the Salesman, a regular keynote speaker at sales kick-off’s around the world and one of the Top 50 Sales bloggers in the world for the past 2 years. He is a passionate proponent of an ethical, honest and authentic approach to sales. His company, Trinity Perspectives, is committed to helping sales organizations unlock the latent potential of their customers’ insights with their Win Loss Analysis and Sales Transformation services. To read more of Cian’s sales articles visit

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