How to gain Trust from new prospects

This is crucial for any salespeople that are not selling to friends, family or referrals ; this starts happening pretty soon after you start in a new business or industry. The main problem lies with how people’s brains and attention spans work. You need to understand how to approach and keep “unknown prospect’s” attention for long enough so you can explain your services and value to them. Answer the WHY should I talk to you?

 The Attention Curve

When starting a business, most people begin with: networks, friends, friends-of-friends, and people who instinctively “get it”. Once you hit a certain revenue limit or run out of friends, you usually hit the wall as word-of-mouth and referrals start to plateau (or, as a large company, when your new leadgen program, product launch, or market struggles). At some point you run out of “friends” and need to figure out how to click with other buyers’ people who don’t already know you and don’t intuitively “get it” like Early Adopters.

There’s a painful difference to evolve from selling to people you know and who trust you, to outside buyers who don’t. It’s called bridging a Trust Gap. When you understand why this gap exists in the first place, you’ll better know how to cross it.

 High Level of Trust

On the one side of the spectrum are “Best Friends” – people who know and trust us (or your company/brand), and are willing to give you a big slice of attention just because you asked for it.

If you call up a friend and ask them to meet with you for two hours to review a demo, product, blog post or talk, they will – even if it makes zero sense to them.

This side also includes the few people who somehow run across your product, as crappy as your website is – and just “get it”. You don’t need to explain anything to them, because intuitively they know what you can do, why it matters and how to use you service.

All of these Early Adopters are willing to invest a lot more energy to figure out what you’re doing and how they can benefit. They give you a lot of leeway – which is invaluable in getting a new company, product or leadgen program off the ground. But it becomes a liability – and often a rude awakening – when you start expecting everyone to give you that same leeway.

 No Trust

On the opposite end, there are the people who have never heard of you or your business. When people don’t know you, they’ll only give you a splinter of their attention to figure you out. If they don’t click with you within that window, they move on.

The more connection you have with them right away, the more leeway they’ll give you. The less you have, the faster you lose them.


•  A cold email: allows for a 0.3 to 3-second window before they engage or move on.

•  A cold call: allows for around 3- to 30-second window.

•  Walking door-to-door: around 3- to 60-second window.

 Compared to:

•  A referral: 15 minutes – 1 hour

•  A best friend or parent: Unlimited plus coffee and lunch

 Bridging that Gap

The point is to help you move from depending on buyers on the one side (Trust) to being able to better market and sell to buyers on other side (No Trust). You have to either find a way to fit your message into that slice of attention, or expand the amount of attention they’re willing to give you.

The tiny slices of attention that “cold” people are willing to give you are the mental investments equal to those of 3rd graders. Your message has to be simple for them to both understand and easily act on, or else they’ll move on before ever giving it a chance.

You can watch this in yourself: what goes through your head when you get a long note from someone, even someone you know? How about a short one? Do you see how the effort you’re willing to give that messages changes so dramatically depending on who it comes from, how simple it is, and what they are asking for?

This is why “short and sweet” emails or calls tend to work better than long emails and calls as first touches with new people. People see a long email from someone they don’t know, and they just aren’t willing to invest in consuming it.

If you’re a genius copywriter, maybe you can make them work, but for us regular people, shorter is better – at least for first contact. The simpler your messages are to understand and answer, the more easily they’ll fit into your prospects’ window of attention.

 About Riaan

Over the past 20 years, Riaan has been working with leading Sales Organisations, Sales Managers and select Individuals who want to improve sales performance, design and implement winning strategies and sales cultures that leads to more deals.

Since 1985, Riaan has been in Corporate | B2B | High-level Sales and led teams to maximise performance. He provides strategic oversight and serves as executive sales coach and advisor to clients ranging from small, rapidly growing start-ups to well-established, large corporations.

His experience has allowed him to work with organisations and executives within entities such as Old Mutual, Sanlam, the Telecoms Industry, Siemens, Capgemini, Accenture, BWI in Hong Kong and many others, to help them improve sales performance.