A Matter of Trust
Randy G. Pennington
“Nothing ever happens until someone buys something from someone else.”
I have heard variations on that quote for many years. And it still rings true. Our economy is based on the exchange of value known as sales.
Here is my corollary to that truth: No one every buys anything that is important to them or about which they have a choice until they trust you.
Let’s examine the qualifiers in that statement. I once purchased an auto repair from someone I didn’t really trust because I was stranded on the side of the road. It was a one-time situation in a town where I did not live. Likewise, I am sure that I have made a few minor purchases that did not rise to the level of importance that my trust was actively required. The little glow stick that I purchased at a concert comes to mind, but there are very few of those.
So … unless your business is built on one-time sales to customers with no choice or you are selling something that exists below the threshold where trust is even a consideration, the need to build a reputation for trust is critical to your success.
Building Trust One Person At A Time
Carl Sewell owns car dealerships—ten of them in fact. His Lexus and Cadillac dealerships traditionally rank at or near the top for sales and service in North America. Sewell knows a purchase will be made when I walk in the door of his dealership. There is a solid track record on which to rely – nine automobiles purchased and all the service work that goes along with them. I am loyal to Sewell Motors because I trust them. I trust them—and your customers will trust you—because they have mastered the following five principles.
- Character: Every discussion of trust begins here. Character defines an individual’s approach for dealing with themselves and others. It is the demonstration of the values adopted for basic living. Individuals who embody basic principles such as honesty, trustworthiness, loyalty, justice, patience, and duty find that their ideas and recommendations are readily accepted. The nagging question of motive lingers when character is in question.
- Competence: How good are you at your job? How much do you know about your product? Can you answer my questions with confidence and authority? Professionals who earn my trust are competent. They recognize their individual strengths and weaknesses and commit to continuous growth in all areas of individual performance. An excellent reputation for honesty will be rendered useless if it is matched with incompetence.
- Communication: Outstanding presentation skills contribute to effective communication. Unfortunately, too much emphasis has been placed on the importance of the pitch. Communication that builds trust is about listening. The ability to understand others creates a bond that encourages interdependence and enhances commitment. We tend to trust those who appreciate our goals, struggles, joys and situation.
- Consistency: The sales professional that sold me my first car from Sewell impressed me with his competence and communication. That, combined with the company’s reputation for character, led to the initial buy decision. Purchases two through nine have been made because of consistency. Every person at every level has continued to perform in a manner that re-earns and maintains my trust. Confidence that your performance will be in line with past experience frees others from worry about protecting themselves from an unpredictable response.
- Courage: Earning and maintaining trust in an increasingly competitive and demanding world requires courage. Challenges must be confronted head-on in a manner that respects diversity; demonstrates professional business practices; and maintains personal integrity. True courage requires commitment and the willingness to accept personal risk. It fosters admiration and sets in motion a series of events that influence long-term success.
A Special Message to Sales Managers
The five factors for building trust were originally developed in a study we conducted in 2004 about what causes mistrust on the job. Our work since that time has reinforced the fact that character, competence, consistency, communication, and courage are considerations in all decisions to trust another person or company or institution. And that leads us to you—the person responsible for creating the environment that promotes trust.
Sewell Motors has built its brand based on integrity in its products, services, and relationships. That commitment is on display every day through the promises made and delivered. It is about performance not marketing. I asked Joe Calloway, author of the book Becoming a Category of One, to explain why building a brand that customers can trust is important. He said, “The experience of doing business is critical as today’s brutally competitive environment meets a soft economy. A unique brand that others can trust is the only way to set you apart from the competition.”
That is where you come in. The same five factors that cause your customers to trust your sales professionals will cause your sales professionals to trust you. Carl Sewell understands that and devotes countless energy and effort toward that end. In return, he gets comments like this one from Linda, one of his sales team: “I owe this company a lot. They stood behind me during my mother’s illness. I have a huge sense of loyalty and desire to help them succeed.”
Does your sales team say that about your company?
Do This Now
- Be very clear about the values for which you stand. What are the principles that are so important that you would never compromise them … even if it meant losing the sale?
- Be consistent with the messages you send. Communication is everything and everything communicates when building trust. A great sales pitch that focuses on benefits rather than features is nice. A reputation for listening and caring that is communicated through action over time is the stuff of legends.
- Get better at your job. Customers have always had a choice. It didn’t matter as much when there were more than enough buyers to go around. Today, you have to be better tomorrow than you are today. Learn more, grow more, and invest more in education.
- Never sacrifice trust for short-term gain. Consistency and courage build relationships that last a life time. Yes, you have to make your numbers today. There is no “long-term” without delivering results right now. I contend that companies like Sewell Motors are still delivering results today for the precise reason that they are unwilling to sacrifice trust for short-term gain. Customers are smarter and more vocal than ever. They will find out and let others know if you took advantage of them.
Looking ahead from 2009, you can count on the following:
- The economy will eventually turn around and more people will start buying again. It may not be this year, and it will probably be many months before activity returns to the levels we remember from 2006 and 2007.
- Customer behavior has been altered for the short-term and perhaps longer. Those who experienced the Great Depression saw their purchasing habits altered for many years and often their entire lives.
- Trust will be critical for your success today and tomorrow.
The question that remains is what you will do about it. A matter of trust is a matter of survival.
Randy Pennington is author of Results Rule! Build a Culture that Blows the Competition Away. He helps leaders build cultures committed to results, relationships, and accountability. For additional information or to schedule Randy for your organization: contact via telephone at 972.980.9857; e-mail at Mary@penningtongroup.com; or on the Internet at http://www.penningtongroup.com or http://www.resultsrule.com. Your comments are encouraged. Please send your ideas to Randy@penningtongroup.com.
©2009 by Pennington Performance Group; Addison, TX. All rights reserved. This article may be downloaded for personal and professional development. Copies may be shared within an individual organization. All other uses of this material are strictly prohibited without written permission from the author.
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