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Trust-building is the most important thing you can do both online and offline. No matter what else you do, if you’re not trusted–nothing you do matters.

Unfortunately, if you spend any amount of time online, you’ll be hit up with offers all over the place from people you’ve never heard of and for products you don’t care about.

Unless the ad is amazing it just becomes background noise.

I think my partner Juliana did a good job of covering this topic a few weeks ago, but I want to take a slightly different angle.

Let’s talk about how professionals and consultants can build trust quickly (and get some extra meetings) by using a simple, three-step marketing sequence.

There’s A Right Way And A Wrong Way–Choose Wisely

As Juliana talks about in her article, Robert Cialdini writes that when a gift is freely given (given without anticipation of something in return), we feel an obligation to repay that gift.

There are some interesting aspects of reciprocity that seem to be part of human nature:

  1. Humans are wired to accept gifts. Think about your own experience; is it easy for you to refuse someone who offers you a gift?
  2. Humans feel an obligation to the giver. When we receive a gift, we feel a sense of obligation, even indebtedness, toward the giver.
  3. Humans will repay bigger than they received. Related to number 2, people will go out of our way–even if it means returning the favor with a gift out of all proportion to the original gift–in order to “clear” the debt.

Persuasion Professionals and unscrupulous characters use reciprocity to create an unfair advantage, but for our purposes I want to emphasize that I’m not talking about manipulation…

… I’m talking about using reciprocity to make it more likely that a prospect watches the video you place on your Bridge Page.

“Wait, I’m making a video? And what’s a bridge page?”

Sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself.

More on that in a bit.

the professional three step funnel builds trust quickly

Transforming skeptics into believers…  and ultimately into clients…  is possible with the right approach.

Building Trust With Your Best Prospects

Unless you’re selling space heaters to eskimos, people probably won’t buy from you until they know your story, believe in what you have to offer, and feel you are the best person to deliver it.

How Do You Do This Online?

First, let’s call out the elephant in the room.

For consultants, professionals, and other pros who offer intellectual goods, building trust online isn’t easy to do.

JetBlue’s chairman, Joel Peterson, says that trust is built on integrity, competence, and authority. These foundations of trust easier to build during in-person meetings than through online formats.

But the online space has some advantages over in-person meetings:

  1. You can get in front of more prospects by orders of magnitude than you ever could by pounding shoe-leather.
  2. With the right systems, you can build trust with prospects over time–at their own pace.
  3. With the right targeting, you can get you message in front of exactly the right kind of person–without dealing with gatekeepers.

Building Trust Comes Down To One Thing

I don’t mean to oversimplify, but the best way to build trust in the online space is to demonstrate your abilities.

Show them.

Yes, you’ll show them again when you meet face to face, but you need to show them now in order to get the meeting.

Let’s walk through that.

Where To Start

Before getting into how you engage your prospect, as well as the tactics, strategies, and mode of delivery, we need to understand what you need to get across to them.

If we agree that the foundations of trust are integrity, competence, and authority, then you know that whatever you do, the prospect needs to walk away with a sense that you deliver what you promise, you have the skills necessary to deliver, and there is nothing preventing you from delivering on that promise.

The first step is obvious: before you can create anything you need to know what you’re creating.

  • Ask yourself what questions you get most often from prospects and clients.
  • What are they struggling with?
  • What is it that brings them to you initially?

Provide Help

Once you’ve answered those questions, ask yourself how you can address those issues.

Can you help them, answer their questions, give guidance, or otherwise provide value to prospects who are dealing with the same things your best clients were facing when they first came to you?

Delivery

This might take the form of an article, podcast, video, or live stream video. The mode of delivery doesn’t matter as much, as long as it’s delivered where your prospects and clients congregate online (i.e., Facebook, LinkedIn, online forums, etc.).

What Is The Most Captivating Thing You Can Offer For Free (Or Low Cost)?

The best way to frame this question is to think about the sexiest thing they have available to their clients.

  • What is the burning question that you can solve?
  • When you engage with a client, what is the one thing they want more than anything else?
  • Can you give them what they want through a free or low cost offer?

Example

If you’re a wealth advisor and work primarily with business owners, can you offer them a few strategies to reduce their company’s tax burden (I know there are legal limits, but the key is to tell them what to do, not how to do it)?

That should attract your prospects to at least read your piece–every business owner wants to save on taxes.

Perhaps the free giveaway is a list of questions business owners should ask their wealth advisors (or tax preparers, etc.) to see if they are able to craft and implement the kind of strategy you discussed.

I’m just spitballing, but that should give you a sense for the kind of front-end offer you can give to weed out your best prospects from the people you don’t want to work with.

Side Note: It’s important to note the distinction between what your prospect wants and what your prospect needs. Give them what they want, then you’ll be in a position to give them what they need later.

How To Format A Front-End Offer

As I mentioned earlier, the format of the front-end offer isn’t as important as whether it’s something that’s attractive to your best prospects…

… so don’t overthink it.

The front-end offer could be anything:

  • Book
  • Software
  • Tool
  • PDF
  • White paper
  • Case study

It doesn’t need to be anything huge–just make sure it’s something desirable and useful.

Now Comes The Marketing: How To Structure Your Campaign

Use those principles to present your product or service in the right order.

  1. Ad
  2. Valuable content
  3. Gift
  4. Pitch for a meeting
  5. Thanks (plus delivery)

Here’s A Map Of The Professional Services Funnel We’ll Be Talking About

professional services funnel that builds trust with prospects

If you look closely you’ll see that the page after the prospect opts in is a video offer page…

Why Put An Offer Video So Soon?

After all the talk about the psychology of influence, you’re probably wondering why we’re putting a pitch so soon after the prospect took us up on the free doodad.

There’s a simple reason this works.

By giving your prospect something of value first, you’ve prepped them to be receptive to your message.

Unless you’ve made a crazy viral video, in most cases people are unlikely to watch a businessy video you put in front of them–in fact, they might actually get annoyed.

But since you’ve given them great content and a gift that was valuable enough to them that they just gave you their contact information…

you’re putting the video in front of them at a moment in time when they’re most receptive to your message.

How Do You Do This?

Before giving the prospect the free doodad, you insert a page just before the Thank You page to present your message to the opt-in taker.

This bridge page gives you a chance to share some trust-building gold:

  • Embed a video of you telling your story
  • Let the prospect hear from you about the results you’ve gotten for your clients
  • Tell the prospect what you do and why
  • Give the prospect a chance to meet with you by scheduling a call through the button at the bottom of the page

This video shouldn’t be a hard sell: it should be a quick video that lets them see you as a real live human.

You’ll let your prospect see you as a real person, and give them an idea of what you’re all about, who you serve, the results people get by working with you, and a way for them to engage with you.

What Does The Offer Page Look Like?

It’s actually quite simple. Here’s a sketch of what this page might look like.

professional services funnel offer page that has the sales pitch for the client meeting

Some elements you might have on the page could be:

  • Testimonials
  • Benefits statements
  • Quick one-line highlights of sections of the video

But if you want to keep it simple, the page doesn’t need to be all that complicated.

You can keep it to a headline, video box, and button (personally I prefer the longer page, but that’s just me).

Whether They Watch Your Video Or Not, You Still Get To Shine

The awesome part about this video is that even if they don’t take you up on the offer to schedule a call or take a meeting, they’ll come away from the funnel with a personal connection to you and your brand.

This is very different than reading words on a screen. They get to see you, and hopefully watch enough of the video to get a sense of who you are and what you’re all about.

They’ll start connecting..

They’ve seen your smiling face, heard your voice, listened to your story, and know why you do what you do (plus they know what you do, which always helps).

Some Prospects Will Take You Up On Your Offer

This is the best part.

If you are able to communicate your story and offer in a compelling way, a percentage of prospects who move through this funnel will click the call-to-action button and schedule the call.

(Don’t worry, you’ll have a chance to get this funnel as a template at the end of the post.)

These are your “hot” leads, and you want to reach out to these people asap.

I mentioned sending people who want a meeting to a scheduling system like Calendly or Acuity, but there are a bunch of ways you can reach out to these “hot” prospects.

  • You can set up a Zapier to add them to your contact list, notify you via Slack.
  • You can set up the funnel so that when a person indicates that they’re interested in meeting with you it sends you a text message.
  • Or you can simply let them know that someone on your team will be calling them to set everything up.

However you set it up, make sure you get in touch with them quickly to schedule that meeting or have that call.

Also, make sure to set up your funnel so that after scheduling the meeting they get the free doodad… after all, that’s what got them into the funnel in the first place.

What Do You Do With Prospects Who Don’t Schedule A Meeting?

Luckily you have each prospect’s contact information (remember that in step 1 they had to submit their name and email in order to reach the Bridge Page and get the free doodad).

This means you have a way to communicate with them.

This is the most important thing… but first you’re probably asking yourself a question:

Why Didn’t People Schedule A Meeting?

There are a million reasons why someone doesn’t take you up on your offers.

  • Timing
  • Budget
  • Not enough info
  • They don’t trust easily
  • They’re tire-kickers

The bottom line is: who knows why they didn’t convert?

The best you can do is put yourself in a position to convert your prospects later when the time is right for them.

Let Prospects Become Clients On Their Own Timeline

People like to come to their own conclusions in their own time. To hurry the process makes you seem pushy, and they’ll be less excited about the offer than they would have been otherwise.

(Side note: this isn’t to say that you don’t employ some tactical elements like urgency and scarcity to get fence-sitters to make a decision, but that’s not what I’m talking about.)

The best way I’ve found to turn prospects into clients is to nurture them over time. Stay top of mind and relevant by regularly creating amazing value through whatever format works for you.

If it’s blog posts, then post blogs and share them via email.

If it’s podcasts, webinars, live streaming video, then do that.

Whatever medium works for you, provide valuable tips, information, and advice over time, and give your prospects multiple ways to consume that information.

Just make sure the information is valuable.

Don’t hold back your best stuff.

Amaze them.

You’ll build trust while staying at the front of their mind, and best of all, you’ll be top-of-mind when they’re ready to buy.

Take Aways

Let’s recap:

Unless somebody already knows you, it’s difficult to get strangers to meet with you (especially online)–even if you can solve their burning issues.

Here are the three steps to speed up the trust-building process:

  1. Solve their burning problems. Take some of the hot-button issues you know most of your prospects are experiencing, and produce a piece of content (video, blog post, white paper, etc.) that tells them what to do to solve it.
  2. Offer them something of value in exchange for their contact info. You’ve seen this everywhere, and so have your prospects. The key to making this work is offering a free or low-cost doodad that is so outstanding, they’d normally pay for it.
  3. Tell your story and invite them to talk. In-between the Opt-In page and the Thank You page, insert a Bridge Page with a video of you telling your story. Tell them the benefits your clients enjoy, why you do what you do, and why it’s a great idea for them to click the button on the page to schedule a meeting.

Ultimately the strategies in this article are about accomplishing one thing…

…finding the easiest, most effective path for prospects to hear your message and get to know you better.

If they decide to schedule a meeting, bonus! That’s where you want to get to anyway.

If they take your free doodad, watch the video, and don’t schedule a meeting right away that’s okay too–they’ve had a chance to get to know you better, and you now have a way to keep in touch with that prospect to develop the relationship further.

Of course, none of this will work if you don’t try it.

So to make this process a little easier, we’ve created a funnel template just for you…

Get Your Free 3-Step Professional Services Funnel

I try to practice what I preach, so what better way to deliver you value than to give you a sample funnel so you can implement this strategy right away.

Click the button below to get your free funnel.

professional services funnel

Of course you’ll have to trade your email address for this funnel, but after reading this article I’m sure you expected that anyway!

Good luck!