CCA 8.5 Lesson 5: Establishing credibility

Credibility is crucial in building goodwill in the mind of customers. A good relationship with a potential buyer is based on trust. To gain this trust, sales professionals must have credibility and make their presentation and claims believable. Customers must be able to rely on and believe what sales professionals say.  

Much of the sales presentation deals in claims or promises of value that the prospect will receive from buying the product or service. Without proof the sales professional asks the prospect to believe that what he/she is saying is true. But today’s prospects have learned that it is easy to promise anything. What they want is delivery and proof. Actions speak louder than words. The sales professional has to make promises now and then, but the sales professional knows that he/she must be prepared to back them up with evidence the prospect will believe.  Here are seven kinds of proof you can use to back up your claims for the product or services you sell.

Guarantees and Warranties:  Perhaps the easiest tool to use to create credibility is the

guarantee and warranty of the product from the company which created it. A warranty

is usually written and covers the product performance or the workmanship. It will

describe the maker’s responsibility for the performance, the repair, or the replacement

of defective parts. It basically covers the usage and performance of the product. 

A guarantee can be a written or verbal agreement that generally covers the satisfaction

of the buyer when using the product or service. Most guarantees come with a comment

like, “If you are dissatisfied for any reason, we will refund your money in full.”  

Success stories and case histories:  We all like to listen to stories and case histories, particularly how another person or firm handled a need or problem we have. Sales professionals collect success stories and have case histories about their products or services, using them as testimonials. When you hear of one, get as much detail and as many specifics as you can. They make the story more believable to the prospect. There is comfort in numbers, and the risk is reduced when the prospect knows other people have been in the same situation.

News stories and articles:  If your product or service gets a favorable mention in the news, use the story or article for proof. News items can also be used as proof of other reasons why a prospect should buy, such as increasing property values if you sell real estate, shortages of materials related to your products, or an expert predicting a rising stock market if you sell mutual funds. For some reason, if it is written in a book, magazine, or newspaper, people are more apt to believe it–again, seeing is believing. A popular source to use is Consumer Reports. This magazine contains tests of products manufactured throughout the world.

Visual proof:  When you cannot demonstrate a benefit live, the next best method of proof is a visual record. Still pictures or movies of the product in operation are helpful. Charts and diagrams can be used to prove a point, such as the results of a consumer survey or records of how a product is selling in other areas. Also, you can prepare charts to show what an excellent repair record your company has or the maintenance that is required. One professional advises to “prove one point at a time.” Avoid trying to cover several points with the same chart or graph.

Expert endorsements:  We tend to respect the opinions of authorities in their field when they testify to the quality or performance of the product a sales professional is recommending. Results from testing laboratories, a statement from the chief engineer of a well-known company, and leading professionals in your area who have used your product are all examples of proof that carry more weight than your own opinion as a sales professional.

Testimonials:  Satisfied customers are convincing evidence of your claims, especially those claims that cannot be demonstrated to the customer, like long wear, savings in operation, and long range benefits. Testimonials are more impressive when they are from people or firms with needs similar to those of the prospect. Some sales professionals give prospects the phone numbers of present customers and encourage the prospects to call up other people and get their feedback instead of just relying on the sales professional’s word. A sales professional should keep a good record of happy customers. To do this, a sales professional must follow-up constantly after sales are made.

The demonstration:  If your product can be demonstrated to the customer, it is an easy way to back up some of your personal claims. If your product is lighter than other products, the prospect can lift it to test the weight. The prospect can operate a machine to see how easily it works. The prospect can test drive the car, try out the sewing machine, use the computer, and lay on the bed. The prospect can actually experience the product by using it. The demonstration is a favorite tool to establish credibility. When people actually use the product, they become emotionally stimulated and begin to feel ownership of the product.

The demonstration involves showing what your product can do. You have heard the expression, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” The demonstration allows you to jump up and down on a suit case to show its durability. It allows you to reach out and grab the prospect’s attention. By involving the customer and giving the customer something to remember, you increase your chances of making the sale. You can awaken the customer’s interest in a manner that no amount of verbal presentation can achieve.


One of the best ways to keep attention in a presentation is by using visual aids. Not only do visual aids gain and maintain attention, they also promote two-way conversation. The following includes many of the possibilities you can use as a visual aid.

You the sales professional: You are the most important visual aid of the presentation.  An enthusiastic and quality presentation given by the sales professional will create the perception in the mind of the customer that the product is also enthusiastic and of high quality. Customers will see the connection between the sales professional and the presentation. The sales professional should exhibit energy and confidence, this in turn will build credibility for the product he/she is selling. No other visual aid can or should replace you as the most important visual aid used during the presentation.

The product itself:  For the majority of demonstrations, the product itself is the best tool to use next to you, the sales professional. If the product is unique or eye catching, use it as the main visual aid of the presentation. When individuals see the product, observe it, examine it closely, see how it operates, see strong points, know what can be done with it, and what ought not to be done with it, they gain a strong impression.

Transparencies:  Transparencies used with an overhead projector can project images and concepts on the wall or screen. Many sales professionals write on the overhead transparencies while they give their presentation. The use of transparencies is becoming more widely used in today’s selling world.

Display boards:  Fastening a series of pictures or objects to a cork board or

bulletin board is useful when selling at a trade show. Interesting demonstrations also involve using magnetic boards on which objects are attached and moved about freely to illustrate specific points. 

Charts:  A variety of charts can be used for demonstration purposes. The most common type of chart is the flip chart. This is a series of illustrations in which sales professionals can start with the first chart and describe the items on it.  After the first chart has been explained, the sales professional moves through a series of additional charts. It is suggested that the sales professional use color and attractive visuals on the chart so that the attention of the prospect will be maintained.

Graphs: Graphs are a particular type of illustration which often convey certain messages. The most commonly used graphs are line graphs, bar graphs, and pictographs. Graphs are an excellent tool to use to explain particular ideas and visualize specific selling points. Care should be used in constructing and interpreting graphs.

Posters:  Posters, very similar to charts, are large pictures or illustrations on soft paper or stiff board. They are usually made in a series and are shown one after the other. Posters are effective to use in situations where many people are being contacted at once–like at a trade show or exhibition.

Portfolios:  This sales tool is very popular for financial, insurance, and investment sales professionals. It is a case that resembles a large book or binder.  It may be made of plastic, paper, or of a more durable material like leather.  The portfolio carries a series of visuals like charts, graphs, illustrations, testimonial letters, pictures, and any other visual aid that can strengthen the presentation. The portfolio is usually smaller than a flip chart and can easily be handled during a presentation.

Catalogs:  Catalogs are usually reference volumes and consist of illustrations of the many products being offered by the sales professional. A large catalog is an impressive means of demonstrating the size of your assortment and the volume of items you sell. It gives you readily available illustrations and descriptions of most items. It saves the sales professional the burden of carrying many products around.

Samples:  The use of samples is one of the best and most effective ways to demonstrate a product.  For example, samples of food give the prospect an excellent idea of quality, taste, size, and color. The door-to-door sales professional finds samples one of the best ways to introduce a product.  Marketing research shows that a prospect who has sampled the product is more likely to buy that product than if the appeals are directed only through advertising.

Audiovisual/Computer generated aids:  With the improvement and abundance of today’s technology, audiovisual tools are becoming more popular in the sales presentation. Video tapes, slides, projector panels, tape recordings, and computer generated graphics are useful items to increase the number of senses being appealed to in a presentation. It is common place to see sales professionals use computers systems that combine sight, sound and movement into a powerful, visual presentation. 

Now that you have been exposed to several alternatives that can be incorporated into a

presentation, consider the following hints in using visual aids but always remember the key

point in the next illustration.

The Most Powerful Visual Aid

The sales professional is the most effective and persuasive visual aid used during the presentation.

■ Be sure to practice using the visuals before the presentation.

■ Keep control of the visual and don’t allow the visual to remain in the hands of the buyer for a long period of time. This is a quick way to distract the attention of the buyer.

■ Prepare in advance so that you may use the visual aid at the time that it will become the greatest strength.

■ Keep your visuals in good condition.  If the visual aids you are using show wear, they might create some credibility problems in the mind of the buyer.

■ Remember that visual aids are to assist you in the selling job. They cannot do the selling job alone and should not become a crutch.

■ Don’t become so dependent on computer generated visuals or other electronic technologies that you become totally lost if some electrical problem suddenly occurs. Always be prepared to give or continue on the presentation if a problem with your technology-based visual occurs.


People use the five senses of touching, smelling, tasting, seeing, and hearing to gather information about the things around them. A successful sales professional will attempt to appeal to as many of the five senses as possible during a presentation. The more senses you involve, the better the learning process will be. Look at the illustration that indicates the percentage of learning that comes from each of the five senses. Notice that using multiple senses appeals increase learning and retention.

The Five Senses and Learning

Hearing = 10%

Sight     = 85%

Smell   = 1%

Taste   = 1%

Touch   = 3%

If you are selling a car, don’t just talk about the car, get the buyer to sit behind the wheel and test drive it. If you are selling a computer system or software program, let the customer use it.  If you are selling a smoke alarm, hold a match near it to set off the alarm buzzer. Creative sales professionals of microwave ovens will place a cup of water in the oven and show how it will bring the cup of water to boil in less than one minute. In selling a suit, let the customer wrinkle the sleeve to show how well it keeps the press. Always be thinking of things you can do to involve more than just the sense of sight. By using more than one sense, you not only increase the learning process, but you also involve the customer by giving the customer a successful experience with the product.


The creative sales professional makes positive use of questions. Through the use of questions, you can gain customers’ opinions and feelings, gather information about the customer, and find out if the customer is accepting what you are saying. Questions are a great tool because questions require responses, responses provide feedback, feedback provides information, and information is needed to make decisions. The use of questions in the sales presentation can increase the power of suggestion. You are able to ask questions and get the customer to agree with points that you emphasize during the presentation. The more you can get the customer to say yes to minor questions, the better your chances are of getting the customer to say yes to the final big question to buy. Also, it is helpful to nod your head when you ask a question that desires a “yes” response in return. The following are some good questions to use in applying the power of suggestion in the questioning process.

Don’t you agree?

You like that, don’t you?

Isn’t that true?

That’s worthwhile, isn’t it?

This product has what you want, doesn’t it?

You can see the obvious benefits, can’t you?

Questions are only effective if you use the right tone of voice and know when to modulate your voice. Use questions that encourage the customer to respond in a positive manner. The more you get the customer to say “yes,” the better the feeling will be about your product and presentation. Always do what is necessary to establish and maintain a positive atmosphere.  This is especially important during your use of question techniques.