If you’ve had sustained success as a sales person, you can probably look back at your career and pinpoint one or two defining moments that moved you to the next level of credibility with your customers. These moments are different for everyone.  Maybe it was winning a huge deal against stiff competition. Or it could have been the hard lesson of losing a major deal because of a lack of focus on the details. For me, that defining moment came when I was willing to say, “No” and walk away from a deal when it wasn’t right for my customer or my company.

You might ask, “How could saying “No” and walking away be a defining moment for a sales person?” After all, isn’t the point to win the deal? Actually, I did win the business. I had the confidence to tell the customer that what they were asking for was unreasonable, would result in a poor quality solution that wouldn’t meet their needs and refused to work with them on the project. The customer went with another vendor and the results were disastrous. Within 45 days, the customer had returned, hat in hand, asking for help in salvaging the project. We took the customer in a different direction, got the project back on track and finished in a way that allowed the customer to save face with his management. That customer never questioned me again when I had to deliver hard news. I’d earned the credibility necessary to secure their future business, and the impact on my confidence as a sales person was monumental.

For most sales professionals, their career defining moment also revolves around earned credibility with customers and peers. What exactly is credibility? Credibility is believability or trustworthiness. Credibility is the ability to inspire or earn the trust, belief or confidence of others towards you based on a combination of certain factors or qualities that you exhibit. Credibility is the direct result of displaying these qualities consistently. Most importantly, credibility is earned, meaning it doesn’t come freely. It’s not a thing you can give; it is a thing you get. It is the impression others have about you and all that you do or represent based on multi-faceted elements.

Earning Creditability

What are ways that a sales professional or company can earn credibility with customers?  First and foremost, know your stuff. You add value by being the expert – not just on your products or services (that is assumed) – but by understanding business pains and addressing those pains with realistic solutions. Research industry trends and concerns so that you can speak to those during customer conversations. Make sure you can clearly articulate the value that you and your company bring to the table.

Second, do your homework. Research your customer before the initial meeting. Customers don’t want to answer questions that you should already know. Leverage resources like customer websites, Dun and Bradstreet, and internet searches to gain as much knowledge as possible in preparation for the sales call. You add instant credibility when you can comment on current issues or activities going on with your customer and understand the company’s operational and management structure before you step into their office.

Third, listen to what your customer is telling you but don’t be afraid to disagree. You are there as the expert and need to call upon your experience and expertise. Customers often “don’t know what they don’t know” and rely on you to bring insight to the conversation to determine the optimal solution. If your customer is asking for something unreasonable or you believe is not in their best long term interest, speak up. Explain your reasoning, offer an alternative solution, and hold firm. Don’t be afraid to walk away from the customer and opportunity. Closing a deal where you are forced to propose a less than ideal solution, will almost certainly end in disappointment and possibly the loss of a customer, and ultimately your credibility and reputation.

Business Intelligence Give You an Edge

One of the benefits provided through Cisco Partner Plus is Customer Intelligence. Cisco does the work of researching prospects and leads for our partners. Partner Plus partners receiving Elite and Prestige level of benefits receive target prospects, and they also often get information about that prospect’s company, employee count, previous IT purchases, projected needs for the near future and other insights.  This enables partners to prioritize opportunities and have the necessary knowledge to open the door and add instant credibility with those prospects.

Cisco Partner Plus partners receiving Elite level benefits also enjoy prioritized pre-sales engineering support through Partner Help Plus. Partners can work with seasoned engineering experts who not only help with configuration and product related questions but can also provide competitive intelligence and meet virtually with customers when requested  Leveraging these engineering resources can add significant value by shortening sales cycles and bringing expert advice directly from Cisco to customers.

Another value-add benefit for Partner Plus partners include customized Partner Plus Demand Generation Campaigns around specific technologies such as Data Center. These campaigns, offered at discounted prices to partners, are designed to reach new customers, grow your brand awareness and increase your midmarket business faster. Partner Plus campaigns offer you the latest in advanced demand generation marketing practices. We’ll manage the campaign execution and help you amplify your credibility with prospects.

No matter what resources you leverage to build your knowledge base, always remember that pre-work and experience are your most important assets when it comes to building long-term customer relationships and differentiating yourself from your competition. You only have one reputation – protect it by being credible enough to say “no” and watch your book of sales grow.


Karin Surber

Sr. Global Business Development Manager

Global Partner Strategy and Planning