The Trust Equation: How Top Performing Salespeople Build Trust with Customers
“To have a deep, long-lasting relationship that produces mutual satisfaction, trust is the key ingredient,” said Cameron Elliot, Founder and Consultant at Elevate Corporate Training.
Before someone will invest in you, your company, your products, or services, they have to trust that you can deliver what you say you will. Why would they spend any money with you if they don’t trust what you’re saying?
Salespeople should assume they go into any relationship with a prospective customer with a trust deficit. A recent study found that just 3% of people find salespeople to be trustworthy. 3 percent! As a marketer or salesperson, you won’t get the benefit of the doubt without first building a foundation of trust. That’s why sales training often focuses heavily on strategies to build trust.
The Trust Equation
The Trust Equation is set up similar to a fraction. In a fraction, the numerator is top with the denominator on the bottom. The denominator is powerful – it divides the top line.
In the Trust Equation, the numerator is made up of three parts:
Every salesperson thinks they are credible. They may indeed be credibly, but until they’ve proven it to a customer, they can’t assume buyers will believe it.
- Do we have the experience needed?
- Have we demonstrated the expertise?
- Do we bring real value?
Credibility is gained by developing compelling solutions that solve problems and demonstrate an inherent return on investment.
Reliability means being dependable and honouring our commitments.
- Do we do what we say we will do?
- Are we on time and prepared?
- Do we keep our commitments?
Studies show that reliability matters more than price or value. More than half (53%) of B2B customers said the experience they had during the purchase process had the biggest impact on their loyalty. Only 38% said it was because of a superior product offering or service.
Intimacy is developed by finding mutual interests.
- What respect do we show?
- Do we protect confidential information?
- Do we talk poorly about others?
The denominator in the Trust Equation is Self Interest. The larger the self-interest, the more quickly it erodes credibility, reliability, and intimacy.
Self-interest implies that you are more focused on yourself and your outcomes.
Put Your Customers’ Needs First
Building trust in a relationship means putting the customer’s needs first. If you’re just thinking about you (or your need to hit a sales target), you may miss an opportunity to add value that would be meaningful to the customer.
- Is there something you’ve learned in your experience that will help the customer beyond the product or service you’re selling?
- Are you providing value beyond the product you are offering?
- Do you go above and beyond what’s expected?
For example, let’s say you promise to deliver a proposal by Friday. Instead, you deliver the proposal on Thursday along with a Whitepaper that provides additional insight into something they are trying to achieve. Doing this adds to the above the line attributes and diminishes concerns about self-interest.
Approach each client interaction with the intent to make their business better. This does not mean you are giving away everything for free or accede to every demand. It doesn’t mean you can’t negotiate for better terms. It does mean trying to find a way both parties benefit. It may be cliché, but finding a win/win situation builds trust.
Avoid Talking Badly about Others
People will notice if you are the type of person that talks about gossip or rumours, or talks poorly about your competitors to promote your own agenda. By avoiding this, you are demonstrating that you value others’ feelings. This demonstrates high levels of intimacy.
If you bad mouth your competitor, or your client’s competitor, you may win short-term points. In the long run, however, you risk that they’ll remember you’re the type of person that engages in such behaviour. This demonstrates you are more interested in scoring points with your client (self-interest) than you are about maintaining integrity or respecting other relationships. They may wonder what you’ll say about them to someone else.
Also, If the only way you can promote your product is by running down others, you haven’t demonstrated the value in your product.
Trust Is Earned Cumulatively
These may seem trivial as isolated events. However, trust is earned cumulatively. Over time, these small incidents add up. Just like a bank account, the more deposits you make, the more your savings grow. In a savings account, compound interest is calculated on the initial deposit and all of the accumulated interest from previous periods. In the emotional savings account in the Trust Equation, this compounding creates a magnifier effect. Each time you add credibility, reliability, or interest, it is stacked on top of previous times.
Conversely, any time you put your self-interest ahead of your customer, you are also compounding the impact. If you promised to deliver that proposal on Friday, but do not deliver it until the following Monday, for example, you are demonstrating self-interest and undermining your top line attributes.
Shift Your Mindset
So, how can you build trust with a client, friend, child, spouse, or colleague? Demonstrate credibility, reliability, and intimacy and avoid self-interest. Shift your mindset to helping those around you rather than just creating more wins for yourself.
Trust doesn’t happen by accident. It takes a consistent approach and commitment to focus on the things that build that trust. It takes a concentrated effort to maintain that focus to develop long-term relationships. Sales training and brainstorming with sales managers or sales teams can be effective to help develop these skills and put them into practice.
Above all, trust needs to be sincere. You simply can’t fake it. There are too many parts of the equation that will give you away.