Key to the Sale: Earning Boomers’ Trust

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Some producers have it, some don’t – the apparent ease with which they earn clients’ trust. But, like a lot of other things, how to earn trust with Boomers can be learned. You, too, can do it easily.

There are some basic rules to follow. If you follow them diligently, Boomers will find it easier to trust you, and then you will find yourself more comfortable with them.

The Four Components of Trust

  • Credibility. Credible means you can use your knowledge and abilities for the Boomer’s situation in the person’s interest. It’s as if the client was saying “You have to show me you’re credible by demonstrating the connection between your knowledge and my needs. Simply telling me about your capabilities doesn’t do it.” Too many producers try to impress clients by speaking endlessly about how much they know and what they have done.

TIP: Words don’t make you credible. Boomers have too much experience as consumers to believe what salespeople say. Insight into the client’s situation produces credibility.

  • Reliability. You need to do what you say you’re going to do. Every time. Getting things done wrong, late or not at all makes you unreliable. Who trusts someone who is unreliable?
  • Emotional Connection. You have to have it. Not all the time, possibly not even most of the time. But periodically the client has to see you as a human person not a salesperson. People in general and Boomers in particular don’t trust salespeople. As long as the client regards you as only a salesperson, you will not be trusted. It’s only when he or she comes to regard you as another human being that trust can be established. Coming to see you as a human being means finding the emotional spark that connects real people.
  • Focus on the Boomer Client, not Yourself. It’s sometimes called doing what is right for the client. However, it’s much more than that. It’s thinking of the client’s needs ahead of your own, both in terms of the sale itself and in terms of the time you spend with him or her. If all you’re looking for is a commission, you aren’t putting the client’s needs first. If your meeting with the client is about moving him towards a sale, rather than finding out his needs, you aren’t focusing on him. If your conversation with the client is designed to make you feel good rather than make him feel good you’re focusing on your needs, not his.

Avoid Doing Things that Lead to Distrust.

Sounds simple but it goes against our natural instincts. We do things that lead to distrust because of habit and because they make us feel comfortable.

Talking too much is the best example. As a salesperson, you want to score points; make the client feel good about you; show you are knowledgeable. Really what you want is to overcome your own insecurities and get on with the action. None of which is helpful in building trust because you’re focusing on your goals rather than the client’s goals.

TIP: You can’t listen and talk at the same time. Listening – really listening – is at the heart of earning Boomers’ trust. They have to believe that you hear them emotionally as well as factually.

In the typical situation, a client will begin to describe a problem and, because you’re experienced, you believe you know exactly where he is going with the rest of the story. So, you interrupt and impress him with your knowledge of his situation, even before he completes telling you about it. There are three things wrong with your response:

  • We’re talking about Boomers here. By this point, you’ve learned that they’re highly individualistic. What you believe is the point of the client’s story may not be that at all. All your interruption has done is to demonstrate you don’t understand the client’s needs.
  • Interrupting demonstrates you aren’t really listening. You’re hearing what you want to hear.
  • By providing answers before the client completes his story you’re telling him you want to treat the problem generically rather than individually. Boomers want to be treated as unique individuals. For them, it is all about “me.” Your response indicates that it’s all about you.

Clients don’t hire technicians. They hire problem-solvers. Or, more exactly, they hire people with whom they can work to solve their particular problem. This means they hire people who they believe understand their particular problem and who they can work with comfortably.
Finding somebody who can solve a particular problem isn’t that difficult. There are many producers with appropriate technical skills. However, for the client, finding somebody he wants to work with can be difficult.

You need to have appropriate skills. The skill is an entry fee. It doesn’t get you any further than the front door to the client’s home. After that, it’s your ability to build trust that will get you the Boomer’s business.
This requires conversational skill, not technical skill. It means explaining the issues in a language that the client can understand. Demonstrating your skill with technical jargon is self-defeating. It means answering questions. It means helping the client understand his choices and their implications. It often means emotionally holding the client’s hand as he wrestles with the alternatives. Boomers, who have special faith in their own ability to learn things, don’t want producers to tell them what to do. They want you to lay out their choices so they can make their own decisions. They ask, “What are my options? Help me understand the pros and cons. Give me a recommendation and tell me why it’s right. Help me reason through to a decision.”

TIP: For Boomers, there’s a critical difference between saying, “Here’s what you should do,” and “Here are the alternatives.” This isn’t just a difference in words. Any technician can tell them what they should do, but they don’t want to be told what to do. Their money and, in some sense, their lives are at stake. They want to believe they have the right answer. This can only happen if they’re comfortable with the conversation. You need to work to put the client at ease. With Boomers, putting clients at ease means education, not as a lecture but as a conversation.

Show You’re Human

There is a difference in what works as a one-time sale and being good at building long-term relationships. Many salespeople become skilled at the one-time sale, but this is a different set of activities and a different set of talents from building long-term relationships.

The way you build a relationship is in the moments when you aren’t talking business. Take the opportunity, if it’s presented, to find out a little bit more about the person as a person, not just as a source of business. Similarly, let the client see you as a person not just as a place to give his business. You need to make yourself personal by sharing information about yourself.

Reveal Potential Conflicts

Producers generally get paid on commission. It can become a barrier to trust because it builds a suspicion you might not be acting in the client’s interest.

Full disclosure is required for continuing relationships. They need to get the complete picture of how you get paid. This will go a long way. Most professionals get paid on the consequence of their advice. This is true whether they are lawyers, doctors or producers. If an attorney tells you that 14 documents have to be prepared, you tend to believe him even though he’s going to get paid for every single one. Potential conflicts are everywhere, and producers aren’t unique. What builds the trust is complete open disclosure. Tell the client he needs to know how you get paid. Doing so builds the trust you need.

For a free copy of Mike Sullivan’s “10 Tips for Selling to Baby Boomers At or Near Retirement,” write

Michael P. Sullivan is Chairman of 50-Plus Communications Consulting and can be reached at or For a free list of Mike Sullivan’s 34 Boomer Life Events, email him at

Michael P. Sullivan is a Sales Consultant/Trainer for 50-Plus Communications Consulting Charlotte. He can be reached at or viewed on LinkedIn. For a free copy of his “10 Tips for Selling to Boomers,” email him at

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