Tom Hanks, Sales, and Credibility

Your personal brand is critical when trying to make a sale.

By Julie Hansen

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 truly good character.

It’s this credibility that has landed Tom Hanks at the top of the list of the “Most Trustworthy People in America,” according to Reader’s 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 personal brand can translate into dollars for you and your business as well.

That’s why it’s good to do a gut check and ask yourself: “How is my sales credibility?”

Credibility is important, but it can be difficult to quickly gain. 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 lack of trust so you and your product or service have a fair shot? Like Tom Hanks, you can make credibility your personal brand by leveraging the following tips.

Sprinkle in accomplishments.

Since you’re likely not an A-list celebrity, you may need to include your experience or credentials in a sales call or meeting. 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 who have probably heard much of the same.

Having sales credibility ultimately means doing what you say you’re going to do.  Nothing gives people greater confidence in you than seeing you walk the talk.

Take some time to think about what qualities or achievements matter most to your customer and sprinkle them in where relevant and in a conversational way. If possible, enlist the aid of a third-party to introduce you. Don’t be shy about telling them what qualifications you’d like them to point out in the introduction either. Or send your prospect an introduction prior to your call to set the stage accordingly.

Show credibility.

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, your voice, and your words must 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 talk non-stop sends a mixed message.

Talk their talk.

Actors have a script which gives them the precise words to be credible in their role, whether, like Tom Hanks, they’re portraying the manager of a women’s baseball team, the pilot of a disabled plane after takeoff, or an American lawyer defending a Soviet spy. While you don’t necessarily use a script, you may be partial to using your own “industry-speak”—acronyms and buzz words that can confuse or distance you from customers. Don’t try and teach your customers your language.

Do the homework of incorporating the language of the customer in your conversation. Putting in the effort to speak in your customer’s words will enhance your connection and help them understand your message better.

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” or “I just know that every man I kill, the farther away from home I feel”—no one doubts him. Build credibility by sticking to even the smallest implied agreements with your customer, whether it’s starting and ending your call or meeting on time, or following up promptly to all requests. Nothing gives people greater confidence in you than seeing you walk the talk.

Take nothing for granted.

Tom Hanks’ coworkers will tell you he is extremely focused and doesn’t take his success for granted. He obviously knows his craft but he still 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 over, don’t take anything for granted either.

No two customers are identical. Make sure you have all the information you need to tailor your message to each unique audience. Doing your due diligence with each opportunity will allow you the freedom to show up and be of service to your customer.

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 an astronaut, ship captain, scientist, and AIDS activist. And 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 you to offer as a salesperson, enlist the help you need to express that. Talk to your boss. Take a class. Hire a coach.

Don’t limit yourself to one single role that only says: “That’s just how I am.”

Your personal brand is critical when trying to make a sale.

Julie Hansen is a professional sales trainer, speaker, and author. She authored the book ACT Like a Sales Pro in 2011 and has been featured in Selling Power, Entrepreneur, and Sales and Service Excellence magazines. She can be reached at and


Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.