Trust is complex and exists at many levels. One of our blog readers, Rob, responded to our ‘instant trust’ piece with an email that was so good, we invited him to write for us.
He asserts that while trust is recognised as core to all we do, it is important to realise that it is easily broken and difficult to restore. We must guard it carefully.
Cultivating and sustaining trust is central to Skynamo’s passion for changing the sales conversation.
Trust is core
Trust, as in all constructive relationships, is a foundational requirement in business. It is complex and exists at many levels. Some trust is baseless (which is not necessarily a bad thing but is the area conmen exploit). In business, the level of trust that is exercised is usually directly related to the extent to which either (or both) party is vulnerable (anxious/fearful) and the amount of their investment (i.e. what is potentially at risk; physical, emotional, financial or reputational.)
What is at risk for the potential customer in the first stages of the business relationship? Their initial investment is limited to time. But for the sales rep what is at stake is making the sale – a major investment because ‘no sale means no commission and eventually no company to work for’. Thus, although the initial trust required in the relationship is small, it is critical as pointed out by Prof. Frei in the earlier blog.
However, once the sale is made and he or she becomes a customer, the investment (risk) grows with a commensurate need for increase in trust. This repeats itself up to the point where your product is an essential or critical cog in the total system of their company at which time the risk to the customer is very high and deliberate efforts at maintaining trust and confidence are essential.
Trust grows and is not accidental
The question is, what builds trust and what can threaten it? While it is possible to make lists of the building blocks of trust, they are more akin to a matrix or web where the destruction of any one aspect threatens the entire system.
Companies spend significant energy and resources projecting themselves as being trustworthy. (For instance, the motto of a local hospital group is ‘Expertise that you can trust’ and the Skynamo webpage says “I am here to help – no pressure selling! Promise!”). Some companies advertise by claiming that they are the leaders in their field and have been in existence for many years (Old Mutual claims 170 years). Others enhance their legitimacy by listing recognisable companies as being among their customers (e.g. McIlhenny claims royal warranty stating that they are “Supplier of Tabasco Sauce HM The Queen – Master of the Household – Granted in 2009”).
The products themselves are boosted by reputation, reviews, guarantees, compliance with standards or norms and underpinned by ongoing research and development. And then of course, the ‘Like’ button, which is the Internet’s system of rapid review.
“The goal is to build sustained customer confidence in both product and company.”
5 ways of showing yourself to others as trustworthy
Besides the triangle mentioned by Prof Frei that facilitate initial trust, personnel contribute to building clients’ trust by being trustworthy through being:
Respect is demonstrated in the tone of communication, punctuality and efficiency (not wasting their time). Comply with local instructions (e.g. don’t park in the wrong bay). Be culturally aware, sensitive and appropriate. Don’t take the relationship for granted.
In the course of your interaction, sensitive information about the customer and his or her business and staff may come to your attention; making them vulnerable. Gossip is the deadly enemy of trust.
Be transparent (open and truthful) about your own, the product’s and the company’s ability to address the customer’s needs, problems and expectations; acknowledge the limitations. Take responsibility, admit mistakes and apologise. Don’t withhold awkward information and keep the customer in the dark about issues that arise that might affect them.
Provide competent, accurate and relevant service. Understand and respect personal boundaries. Don’t interfere in matters that do not concern you, unless invited.
5. Reliable and predictable
The customer needs to know that they can depend on you to follow through (keep) on your promises and commitments, consistently and on time. Take time to understand the customer’s expectations because they are the basis of his or her evaluation of your product and service. Ensure that expectations are realistic. Trust results from behaviour that meets expectations.
“Trust is easily broken and difficult to restore.
Guard it carefully.”
Have you read the UK Field Sales Trust Gap Report yet? Download it here for FREE!