Gaining trust. A challenge these days for sure. The reasons why a person or company languishes outside a circle of trust are often quite simple, but discovering what those are can be a rough emotional ride. It takes a frank assessment of how we behave as individuals and as a company, combined with a willingness to accept some hard truths about both.
Securing customer trust is not easy. Failing at it is frustrating and humbling. You reach wit’s end trying to figure out why it seems so damn tough to sell your product or service. And when you do, there’s no better time to summon the courage and start honestly examining the probable reasons.
Here’s an approach that can work:
First, just accept that trust is super scarce and skepticism sky-high in today’s corporate world. Blame for it can be assigned in all directions, and collateral damage can be seen anywhere business is conducted. The result: a substantial lowering of the bar for what passes as acceptable business behavior. So face up to this reality. Even embrace it, because the answers you want will surface more easily when you do.
And then examine the 10 areas below. When answering the questions, try to strip away the self-protection instinct that exists in all of us. Be honest with yourself. Combined together, the answers will reveal a lot about who you are and how you do business. In all likelihood, they will determine whether you reside inside or outside of a customer’s trust circle.
1. Pricing – Are you straight with people? Are they clear on how you price, why you price that way, how it compares to similar products or services, why your company is a smart choice for the money? The more clarity, the better. Nobody likes vague pricing or post-purchase surprises that cause regret.
2. Appearance – First impression is everything, and consistency is critical. Does reality match your verbal description of the company and what’s reflected on your website? Do you and the company come off as having your acts together? Or are you the interior decorator whose office is an outdated mess? Make sure you can comfortably pass peoples’ initial smell test. Having someone be on guard about you from the get-go is tough to overcome.
3. Understandability – When reading your material, do people easily get what you do? Is there clarity to the message, or are you making people work too hard to digest your fancy wording? You’re up against short attention spans and love of self-service. The quicker people understand on their own what you offer, the easier trust can develop. Your information has to be well organized and crisply presented.
4. Tone – How you say it is as important as what you say. Does your delivery sound genuine, as if you’re communicating to a friend? Do you come across as confident, courteous and sincere? It’s trickier to be authentic in writing than verbally, so close attention should be paid to how you are being interpreted. Self-awareness is important here, so is consistency.
5. Helpfulness – Buying is largely emotion-driven. Study after study proves it. People really want to be in control and comfortable that their decision is the right one. They want to feel they’re being helped in an honest way. Are you accomplishing this? Do your clients believe you are genuinely trying to help them make the best decision for them? A huge trust builder (or breaker).
6. Reliability – IDWISIWD -> I do what I say I will do. Do you? Do you really? So many people get tripped up here once they make an excuse for not sticking to a client commitment — and get away with it. And then they do it again. A pattern develops. The excuses start to become more plausible to you but less plausible to the customer that has cut you slack, until they’re suddenly a customer no more. Careful of this trap.
7. Ownership – When you vow to fix a problem, do you own it until it is resolved? Do you get to a client with updates before they get to you? Are you straight with people when explaining what happened? Almost no one expects perfection, but everyone respects people who don’t relinquish ownership of a problem and then are honest with an explanation. Trust can really flourish when a bad situation is handled well.
8. Humanity – Do people feel a human connection to you, even when there’s no face-to-face interaction? Are they comfortable with you as both a person and as a business that wants to make a profit? This is an easy one to get wrong. The key is connecting with people on two different levels, not just as a face of a company.
9. Selflessness – Do you genuinely care more about a client’s satisfaction than your personal gain from that client? Do you think they get this sense? If people feel that what’s in their best interest comes second to what’s best for you, gaining one’s trust is extremely difficult. If you’re lucky enough to have it, selflessness is an attribute people treasure in a relationship.
10. Vocal Clients – How long is your list of clients that welcome speaking on your behalf? Is it longer than the list of clients you wouldn’t even approach to ask? Having only a few customers willing to sing your praises is a big problem, one that will only grow bigger as buyers continue to rely more on what other people say before placing their trust in you.