2 Crucial Checkpoints to Starting the Business Relationship

Developing likeability & credibility through Program on Persuasion’s corporate sales training establishes the trust needed to develop business relationships.

When sales people think of the term “qualifying,” they typically think of it in the context that they are qualifying leads. What they don’t normally think of is the opposite: their leads also qualify the sales person. When buyers are thinking of investing in your product or service, they have to trust your sales person. So how do you make sure that your sales force comes across as trustworthy to its prospects?

There are two checkpoints or qualities that Program on Persuasion’s corporate sales training encourages developing in the business relationship, likeability and credibility. At the top of the Predictive Sales Funnel ™, these two qualities are crucial in proceeding to the MOFU.

Motivations for Likeability

“The essence of trust building is to emphasize similarities between you and the customer,” says former CEO of IBM, Thomas J. Watson. To unpack this idea: people like people who are like them. And people tend to buy from people they like, whether the similarities are in personality traits, background, lifestyle, common goals, or even similar interests.

This also means that our likeability is the first checkpoint where the buyer qualifies the sales person.

Because everyone believes his or her own intentions are noble, when we see others who are similar to us, we tend to project our values onto them. Because of this projection, we think that they must hold the same character traits as we do. Similarities on these things help to establish the business relationship very early.

Whether it’s true or not, the perception is that they are like us in some way, and through extension we give them our preferable attributes, as well. Program on Persuasion’s corporate sales training details how to cultivate likeability in the very first sales meeting.

The Power of Credibility

The second thing that a buyer qualifies, even when they have already decided that they like your sales person, is the answer to the following question: Do I believe them?

When anyone—especially a buyer—perceives that a seller has authority and credibility in their industry, the credible person becomes very powerful and very believable.

Real World Example

In 1963, Stanley Milgram’s experiment on credibility determined some disturbing results. He designed this particular experiment to determine whether a subject would contradict their own judgment in favor of an authority figure’s. The most crucial variable in this experiment was the credibility in the authority figure, in this case, a doctor.

In the experiment, there were three key roles: the expert was dressed in a white lab coat, as a researching doctor. The subject, the person who had volunteered for the experiment, was the person who volunteered to be a part of the study. The expert tells the subject that the experiment involves “how punishment affects learning and memory.”

The subject (the volunteer) was then instructed to test another actor, the learner, our third party. When the learner answered a question incorrectly, the expert (in the lab coat) told the subject to issue an electric shock to the learner (the one who answered incorrectly). These volts increased in intensity from five volts all the way up to 450 volts.

It’s important to note that although the electrical shock was not really happening, the subject (the one administering the volts) thought that the volts were real.

Under the coaching of the expert, two thirds of the subjects pulled every shock switch up to the last instruction. That’s four hundred and fifty volts! For comparison, a defibrillator (the machine used to resuscitate the human heart) uses a minimum of 200 volts per shock.

To break it down, the volunteer subject administered shocks of up to twice the amount needed to resuscitate a human heart. The subjects did this because the person who told them to do it wore a lab coat. Essentially, the “expert” demonstrated their credibility.

Note: Milgram staged that experiment in order to understand how German citizens could tolerate or support the Nazi party and the torture in death camps. He got his answer—or one valid answer—through establishing credibility. Milgram summarizes in the article “The Perils of Obedience,”

“The legal and philosophical aspects of obedience are of enormous import, but they say very little about how most people behave in concrete situations.  I set up a simple experiment at Yale University to test how much pain an ordinary citizen would inflict on another person simply because he was ordered to by an experimental scientist. Stark authority was pitted against the subjects’ strongest moral imperatives against hurting others, and, with the subjects’ ears ringing with the screams of the victims, authority won more often than not. The extreme willingness of adults to go to almost any lengths on the command of an authority constitutes the chief finding of the study and the fact most urgently demanding explanation.”

The point of Stanley Milgram’s experiment was to see how far the subject would go against their good, moral sense, when an expert was instructing them to do so. His experiment focused on the detrimental effects of credibility.

As sellers, the effect of our credibility would never be to convince a buyer to go against their moral judgement. Instead, our credibility should reinforce a morally-sound, helpful decision for their business. Program on Persuasion’s corporate sales training reinforces how to establish credibility in the business relationship far before a buying decision. Most times, your sales force is credible, but they don’t necessarily know how to demonstrate it in the most effective manner.


If a white lab coat can convince people to trust against their best judgment, then imagine how much your sales force can do with establishing likeability and credibility can do to reinforce a business relationship in a positive way. Through developing their own likeability by bonding over similarities, and establishing credibility by understanding the field, your sales representatives can move into the middle of the Predictive Sales Funnel ™ with ease.


Photo from Unsplash.com.