Trust is the currency of business. Without trust, business dies.
The challenge is that trust is at an all-time low. The Edelman Trust Barometer continues to present data that shows people are very distrusting.
While low trust may feel discouraging, the good news is that companies and salespeople that build and maintain trust create an incredible competitive advantage.
How do you build trust? I want to propose a formula:
TRUST = MESSAGE + RELATIONSHIP + EXECUTION
This formula is based on three questions:
Let’s explore how these three factors work together.
The first component of trust must answer the fundamental question: “Can you help me solve my problems and achieve my goals?” Buyers don’t buy products, they buy the outcomes the products deliver. And the outcomes buyers are looking for are things that either solve a problem, helping them achieve their goals.
You build trust when the message is about the outcomes that your buyers want. You erode trust when the message is all about the greatness of you, your products, and your company.
I’ll take it a step further. Since we are all inundated with thousands of messages each day, the only things that get through our attention filters are things that are related to the outcomes we want to achieve. If your message does not lead with outcomes, you will not get on the buyer’s radar. You will simply be white noise.
A message that builds trust leads with the outcomes your buyers want. A message that erodes trust is all about you.
The second component of trust is built on the answer to this question: “Who have you helped?” We’ve all heard the saying, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” I think that it should be stated, “It’s what you know validated by who you know.”
Companies and salespeople make all kinds of claims. Buyers want to believe you. However, they will only believe you if other people can vouch for what you are saying. They need to feel a level of familiarity--like they are in good company.
Familiarity is enhanced nurtured by personal connections to employees, references from customers, partnerships with trusted brands, and involvement in the community. Some of these relational factors are direct: “I know Sue who works there.” Many are indirect such as, “Oh, they work with XYZ recognized brand” or “They support ABC local charity.”
Most pragmatic business people will say that the essence of trust is execution. I agree. However, you don’t get to execution until you have a client. And you don’t get a client until you have a message that resonates and a relational connection.
With the message and relationships in place, you now must execute. This begins from the first marketing and sales interactions and continues throughout the lifecycle of the relationship.
The Gospel writer, Luke records these relevant words of Jesus: “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.” (Luke 16:10)
This principle applies to buyers. Little things make a big difference, especially at the beginning of a relationship. Smart sales professionals deliver on small promises to demonstrate that they can fulfill big promises. The same goes for marketing promises. Not delivering on small things at the beginning of a buying cycle crushes trust.
Which of these three areas do you need to improve? Whether you work in marketing, sales, or operations, the success of your business depends on your ability to build trust.