January 16

Tom Hanks, Credibility and Sales


Describe a film as a “Tom Hanks movie” and everyone knows what to expect:  A highly likable, regular guy who gets caught in extraordinary circumstances but rises to the top due to his true good character.

It’s this credibility that has landed Tom Hanks at the top of the list of “Most Trustworthy People in America,” according to Readers Digest and Forbes.

The credibility of the Tom Hanks brand translates to big bucks for the actor and the projects he’s associated with.  Sales credibility and the power of your brand translates into dollars for you and your organization as well.  So it’s good to do a gut check and ask:

“How is my sales credibility?”

Credibility is incredibly important and difficult to quickly gain in sales. When trust is low, as it is at the beginning of most salesperson-buyer relationships, your every statement is subject to scrutiny and skepticism. So how do you turn around that inherent low level of trust so that you and your solution have a fair shot?  Like Tom Hanks, make credibility your personal brand by leveraging the following tips.

Make Sales Credibility your Personal Brand:

  1. Sprinkle in accomplishments.

    Of course, you’re not a celebrity like Tom Hanks, which means you may need to include your experience or credentials in a sales presentation or conversation.  But avoid the urge to unload a laundry list of qualifications on your prospect, especially early on. Instead of building credibility, thumping on your chest too soon often has the opposite effect on skeptical prospects.  Think about what qualities or achievements matter most to your customer and sprinkle them in where relevant.  For a really effective way to do an introduction, read here.

  2. Show congruency.

    A pudgy castaway?  Audiences never would have bought it. Tom Hanks lost 50 pounds to give a credible portrayal of a man stranded on a desert island for four years in Castaway.  Your body and your voice should support who you are and what you are saying if you want to be perceived as credible.  For example, saying, “I welcome all questions,” or “Let’s make this more of a conversation,” while you stand behind your laptop and rush through slides sends a mixed message.

  3. Talk their talk.

    Sure, actors have a script which gives them the precise words to be credible in their role, whether they’re portraying a softball coach or an astronaut.  On the other hand, most sales presentations are filled with confusing acronyms and buzz words that do more to erode credibility than build it. Don’t try and teach your customers your language. Do the homework of incorporating the language of the customer in your script. Putting in the effort to speak in your customer’s terms will help them understand your message better as well as give you greater credibility.

  4. Walk the talk.

    Having sales credibility ultimately means doing what you say you’re going to do. When Hanks’ Captain Miller in Saving Private Ryan says “I am willing to lay down my life and the lives of my men…to ease her suffering.” No one doubts him.  Build credibility by sticking to even the smallest implied agreements with your audience, like starting and ending your presentation on time, or following up promptly to all requests.  Nothing gives people greater confidence in you than seeing you walk the talk.

  5. Take nothing for granted.

    Co-workers of Tom Hanks will tell you he is extremely focused and doesn’t take his success for granted.  He shows up on the set prepared to make each film the absolute best possible.  Even if you’ve presented the same basic content to many customers, many times, don’t take anything for granted either.  Make sure you have everything you need to support and deliver your presentation successfully.  Do discovery. Practice and tailor your message for each unique audience.  All of this footwork will allow you the freedom to show up and focus on giving your best performance each time.

  6. Be yourself, but don’t limit yourself.

    Those who have met Tom Hanks say he is incredibly down to earth.  He knows who he is, but he also continues to push his range.  For years he played the nice guy next door before progressing on to astronaut, boat captain, scientist, and AIDS activist.  With each role, he still made it his own. Tom Hanks’ repertoire has expanded over the years and so can yours.  Be authentic, but continue to grow and evolve.  If you know you have more inside of you to offer as a presenter, get the support you need to help express that.

By Dick Thomas Johnson from Tokyo, Japan [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons


credibility, opening, presentation skills

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