Trust vs. Relationship

A common prescription in sales is to build a relationship with your customer.  One definition of relationship is “a state of affairs existing between those have relations or dealings”.

Compare this definition with trust.  One definition of trust is “assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something; one in which confidence is placed”.

This may seem like a fine point of semantics but the important point is your reference in dealing with customers.  Do you want to create a “state of affairs” or an “assured reliance”?  Most sales people and the companies they work for feel that building relationships is important.  I don’t disagree, but perhaps a point could be made for going deeper and building trust.  If you want to make more sales develop a trusting relationship with your customers.  Don’t try to be their best friend, truly become their trusted advisor.

Do the things that develop a trusting relationship.

  • Be professional from the first handshake.
    • Be honest with your intentions – you are there to see if there is a basis for a mutual trusting relationship that will lead to a sale for you and a great solution to a problem for the customer.
    • Be willing to walk away if you feel that the element of mutual trust is not present.
  • Listen more than you talk
    • As the right questions and actually listen to the answers
    • You are not there to sell anything other than the fact that you are a person who can be trusted.
    • You will eventually sell something because you are trusted, not the other way around.
  • Set mutual agreements
    • Don’t give without getting. I’m not suggesting a zero-sum relationship because that doesn’t work.  Don’t be a “quote-monkey” and jump at every request.
    • Find out the why behind every question. If they ask for a speedy delivery ask why this is important, what are their expectations, what happens if you can’t provide a speedy delivery.  If the customer is hammering you on the price dig deeper, don’t jump in quickly with a lower price.
    • A mutual trusting relationship can’t be built if you are just jumping through hoops.
  • Make promises that you will deliver on.
    • If you can’t provide delivery in the time-frame they need say so – trust won’t be built if you make the sale but can’t deliver on time.
  • Deliver bad news with the same urgency as good news.
    • If you are assured by management that you can fulfill their order, but then find out later that something has gone wrong, then immediately call the customer before they call you.

There are many other qualities and actions that go into developing a trusting relationship, remember that sales develop from a trusting relationship not the other way around.  The basic building block of trust is that you can’t tell people that you are trustworthy.  Your actions will let people know your trust value.  Trust also has the 1% factor.  You can be trustworthy 99% of the time, but if the someone catches you in one lie then your value goes down.

You often hear the expression, “people buy from people they like.”  I think the expression should be that, “people buy from people they trust”.  Your customer probably has enough friends, what they really need is a vendor who has their best interests at heart.

So, yes develop a relationship with your customers, just don’t make it one dimensional.  Include trust along with accountability, respect, and transparency and you will have a relationship worth developing.

Your sales will improve and you will sleep better at night.


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