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Four Behaviors to Building Trust in Sales

By David Jacoby

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“I'm not upset that you lied to me, I'm upset that from now on I can't believe you.”

― Friedrich Nietzsche

Trust is essential to successful selling. When the buyer trusts you, the buyer believes your promises, gives you access to power, takes your advice, and gives you referrals. A buyer won’t buy from you unless he or she trusts you.

Think about a time when you were the buyer, and you thought the seller was not trustworthy. Why did you think that? Perhaps the seller made a promise and then didn’t follow through, or maybe the seller told you what you need before getting to know you. Whatever the reason, for most of us, building trust takes time, but can be broken in an instant.

Research suggests the following four behaviors are key to building trust in sales.

#1 Reliability

We all have experienced reliable and unreliable people. We value the reliable and avoid the unreliable. To become a more reliable person, keep your promises, don’t overpromise, and avoid surprises by managing expectations. This also means letting people know as soon as possible if you won’t be able to make a deadline. 

#2 Honesty

Nobody likes to tell a lie. But sometimes it’s easy to fall into the trap of fudging, omitting, or misrepresenting information. For example, making up an answer so that you won’t look bad in front of a customer. Or, not pointing out a math mistake in a proposal that cuts against the customer. 

Besides being morally wrong, any advantage a rep gains from lying will be short-lived. If you don’t know the answer to a customer’s question, admit it, and then offer to find out. Acting in an honest, ethical manner, such as turning down business where your solution isn’t a good fit for the buyer, builds trust with the buyer by communicating to the buyer that you're “on their side of the table.”

#3 Responsiveness

The late, great Sam Walton, the founder and CEO of Walmart, had a simple rule about responsiveness: the “Sundown rule.” The Sundown Rule is responding to all requests, whether by customers, co-workers, or suppliers, on the same-day they're received. In today’s world of ubiquitous communication, it has never been easier to answer, reply, or simply acknowledge a request. When you follow the Sundown Rule, you signal to your customers that you value their concerns through your responsiveness.  

#4 Objectivity

Objectivity may be the hardest trust-building behavior for sales reps to demonstrate. After all, your job as a sales rep is to be biased in favor of your solution. That’s what makes being objective such a powerful trust builder: the customer notices when you consider the other side of an issue. 

In a sales situation, objectivity doesn’t mean you have to sell for the competition. However, you may acknowledge the merits of a competitor’s solution when appropriate, just be sure also to point out your strengths and differentiators.

Which of these four factors do you think you need to personally work on the most to increase your customer’s trust? To build better relationships with your buyers, ask yourself before each sales call, “What specific things can I do to build trust with this customer?”

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About David Jacoby

David Jacoby
As a Managing Director at Sales Readiness Group, David helps large B2B sales organizations improve sales performance. Previously, David was a Principal at Linear Partners, a sales consulting firm providing sales strategy, sales operations, talent management, and interim management services to emerging growth companies. In the past, David has served as Vice President of Business Affairs of Xylo, Inc., where he was responsible for the Company's business development, sales operations, legal affairs, and financing activities.

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