The Prospect’s Journey from 1st Contact to the Close of a Sale by Stacey Hall

The prospect’s journey goes through 3 stages before reaching the point of purchase.

The prospect must first know you, like you, and then trust you. To sell requires trust. 
No trust = No Sale.

Unfortunately, decade after decade, sales training programs teach to sell first and then build relationships later.

This approach is the same as seeing someone on the street who you find attractive, yet do not know, and asking them to marry you – without so much as asking to meet for coffee first. It is not beyond reason to expect that if you meet enough strangers, you might find a person who is lonely or curious enough to say YES to you.

Time and time again, though, you will be told NO.

There is a natural process of building a strong connection with another human being that is soul-satisfying and ‘comfortable’ to you both. It is the process of identifying if you are in alignment with each other’s core values…do you fit into each other’s comfort zones?

And while making connections through social media can happen much more quickly, all strong relationships – especially those that result in consumer loyalty – must develop through the process of the Know, Like, and Trust Principle.

KNOW:  This is the stage we first introduce ourselves to the other person. It’s important to start the relationship slowly, yet it’s time to disclose something meaningful about yourself and see if your new friend or prospective customer will do the same.

LIKE:  This is the stage where we find out if we ‘tick to the same beat.’  Are we in alignment with each other’s core values?  Is what we are selling likely to solve their problems and meet their needs? 

During this stage, it’s important to lighten up, explore and allow the exchange of authentic thoughts and feelings. This allows the prospective customer to develop a sense of being safe with us.

Always remember, in this stage, it is too early to start asking for a purchase. There is not enough trust built yet. It is during this stage that we demonstrate whether we are trustworthy or not.

During the stage of LIKE, it is essential to consistently demonstrate how much we genuinely care for the other person.

This is the stage when asking questions about the prospect’s interests, needs and goals is the MOST IMPORTANT activity.

TRUST: We arrive at this stage by being consistently reliable in practicing the activities suggested during the LIKE stage. 

Understand and Apply the ‘Know, Like, and Trust Principle’ to make sales inside your comfort zone.

In the marketing world, terms that correspond to Know, Like, and Trust are used. These are Build – Engage – Sell.

Know = Build Your Audience
Like = Engage with Your Audience
Trust = Sell to Your Audience

BUILD YOUR AUDIENCE (KNOW):
‘Audience’ refers to your soon-to-be leads, prospects, and customers (or clients, patients, or team members). “Build Your Audience” means meeting people who match your ideal audience.

Meeting them first requires knowing the profile of your ideal audience. Notice I said ‘ideal’ audience and not ‘target’ audience or ‘avatar.’ There is a specific reason for that.

The definition of a ‘target’ is “a person, object, or place selected as the aim of an attack.”  The use of the term in marketing circles gained popularity with a certain approach to sales based on warfare tactics.


Personally, I do not find warfare tactics satisfying, comfortable, or relaxing. How about you?


Regarding the use of the term ‘avatar,’ which means “an icon or figure representing a particular person in video games, internet forums, etc.”, I prefer to remember that I am interacting with a real person. Referring to a potential customer as an ‘avatar’ is an easy way to dehumanize them, and that makes it easier to not care about their feelings and problems.


I refer to our audience as ‘ideal’ because they are. We know the problems our ideal audience wants to solve — and we have the products and services to solve them.  Those people who are in our ‘ideal’ audience zone. They are the ones who are in alignment with us. And vice versa.

ENGAGING WITH YOUR AUDIENCE (LIKE):  In addition to all the activities to practice in the ‘LIKE’ stage already mentioned, ‘Engage with Your Audience,’ from a sales perspective means creating valuable content in a variety of ways to serve your audience.

And ‘valuable’ means that is “emotionally and mentally satisfying” by solving the problems of your audience.

When it is satisfying on that level, they will want to engage with you by commenting and responding to your content.  And as you acknowledge and respond back, you are demonstrating that you sincerely care about them.

Acknowledgment is the most valuable ‘content’ you can offer!

It is defined as “the act of recognizing the existence of someone/something” and is a powerful recognition of the whole person.

Why is that important?

Because in our fast-paced, no-time-to-think world, the majority of people feel unappreciated, taken for granted, and unseen.


SELLING TO YOUR AUDIENCE (TRUST):  
The everyday practice of acknowledging people who engage with us as an important element in creating trust during the sales process is reinforced by the Harvard Business Review, which conducted a series of studies on the topic.

The studies reinforce trust is built slowly through consistent, positive engagement as reported in this HBR article from June 2021: https://hbr.org/2021/06/whats-the-best-way-to-build-trust-at-work.

The studies prove acknowledging the emotions of others can foster trust. The act of verbally recognizing someone else’s feelings is perceived as an effortful act and can help form deeper connections with them. But, when an acknowledgment is seen as being motivated by selfish reasons – with an ulterior motive — it is not as effective.

Being responsive to requests is another way to show acknowledgment and build trust. A study showed customers are willing to spend up to 20% more on an item from a business that responds to their customer service tweet. 20% more!

Another study reports 92% of customers are likely to continue using a company once their service issues are resolved during the first attempt at resolution versus 51% with no first-call resolution.

All that said, if you want really want to build trust faster, make sure you use their name with respect. 


Dale Carnegie is quoted as saying, “Nothing is as beautiful to a person as the sound of their own name.”  And we all know how successful Dale Carnegie was at making sales.

And by all means, if you do not know how to pronounce the person’s name…ASK for instructions.  Don’t try to pretend that you know. It just makes you look foolish and like a ‘know-it-all.’  And whoever likes a ‘know-it-all?

If you engaged well and found where you and your prospect align, you are now ready to offer your products and/or services.

This is the point at which your prospects are likely to say YES to you because they trust you. 

They feel you have their best interests at heart.

They believe in what you believe in. If you like the product or service, they believe they will too.

Now it’s time to ask for the sale. And not ever before this moment!

There is no need for scripts to overcome objections. It is not likely you will hear an objection at this point. There is no need to put on your battle armor because there is no war.

Most people in sales don’t ever get to experience this moment because they started selling (‘pitching’) as the first step, hoping to get the person to respond, and lastly hoping to eventually build a long-term relationship with the prospect. Doing sales this way is what gets good people labeled as ‘pushy,’ and ‘spammy.’

So, don’t sell out on yourself by selling to your prospects too early and shortening their journey.

These are a few of the many tips I share in Selling From Your Comfort Zone’ – which is now on Kindle, Audible, and in paperback from every bookstore around the world.

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Stacey Hall
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