Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Jumping through Trust Hoops

As I've started my own B2B venture, all the reading and writing I've done over the past few years has suddenly become much, much more real. I am dealing with issues in selling to businesses that weren't quite as complex as they were in selling to end users. One of the most profound struggles in selling what I do is something that I've written about before but haven't experienced in its fullness until now.  What I'm talking about is the challenge of building trust. Though I know there are exceptions, it seems the level of trust between buyer and seller is much more important in complex B2B transactions than it was in the B2C environment that I came out of. I, by the nature of the service I am providing, will be working with customers--not simply selling to them.

The Levels of Trust

To someone completely new in business, with nothing to go on but a handful of recommendations, you've got to build trust from the ground up. As I've spoken with people, the feedback I've gotten has taught me that there are two primary types of trust that buyers must have in order for salespeople to be successful with them. These are:
  • Trust in the salesperson's intentions
  • Trust in the salesperson's competencies
The cold calls I've made have been incredibly challenging. I now know that some of the terminlogy I've used in my scripts has alienated peole from even considering doing business with me. You see, they don't know me from Adam. I don't even have a recognizable company behind me so that I can say, "I'm from XYZ." I'm just me, and they--naturally--assume the worst. As soon as they caught wind that I might, possibly, maybe, potentially be asking them for money, they ended the call. Was it because they didn't think they needed what I was selling? Probably not. Was it because they didn't believe I was capable of doing what I said I could do? Maybe. But I think it's most likely because that don't know me and assume that my intentions are underhanded, selfish, and manipulative. "People don't know care how much you know until they know how much you care." And, when you people don't know you care, they assume that you don't.

The people that I've called based on recommendations have been much more trusting of my intentions. As I talked to them, the conversations swung quickly to my capabilities. They trusted my intentions--I was a friend of a friend--but they still knew nothing of my abilities to get the job done. In that respect, they still didn't trust me. They believed that I had a good heart and wasn't out to trick them, but they still didn't know if they wanted to shell out any money to pay for me. It makes perfect sense. I had not yet proved anything to them.

What are your experiences in building trust? Is it a different process now than it was from when you started? Has building trust gotten easier with experience? I'd love to hear your thoughts...

featured image courtesy of skycaptaintwo licensed via Creative Commons


  1. Doug - People don't make decisions about whether or not to Trust and Respect you. Rather, they feel it emotionally and intuitively. Respect is important because that is how prospects decide whether you will "get the job done."

    The leading expert on intuition is Dr. David Hawkins, a research psychiatrist. His book, "Power vs. Force," which is too long, is well worth reading.

    The key to making it all happen is for you to be able to quickly and accurately determine whether you can trust and respect the prospect. Whatever you decide, the prospect will (almost always) feel the same way about you. It took us fifteen years to refine a process that can get it done in about twenty minutes.

  2. Thanks for your input, Jacques. That's a very good point. Trust is intuitive. People who do make the conscious decision to trust have already made the subconscious decsion to trust. Building trust is all about being someone trustworthy. I've not heard of David Hawkins, but will definitely look into him.

  3. This is an interesting article, and it also defines the difference between a complete cold call, and warm call. In this case, lukewarm. In the second phase, you had gotten past the obstacle of the prospect not knowing you at all, even though the lukewarm prospect still didn't know you at all. They based whether they would trust you on their trust in the person who gave you a referral. Sounds like it really is possible, though twice as difficult, to build a relationship on a cold call. I still believe it is, even though the process could take much longer.

  4. Thanks for your input, Cara! I think that's why so many sales people hate cold calling--because it's really about buidling trust and that can sometimes be uncomfortable with strangers. But, you've got to keep in mind the future trust you will share with those clients once the relationship has been established. In the end, sales ia ll about building trust!