Building and Understanding Trust

A few days back I spoke with a new client named Brad, a successful and old-fashioned sales management professional from Texas. He informed me that after 8+ years of periodically selling cattle someone recently wrote him a bad check for the first time. He later found out the ethically challenged individual is now gone in the wind, resulting in Brad losing $800. This led to an interesting discussion about trust.

Toward the end of our conversation he scoffed at my suggestion to invoice people through a 3rd party that can safeguard the transaction for a small fee. He simply told me, “That’s not a very good way to build a relationship John. How many people like to hear that you don’t trust them?”

I felt kind of guilty at that point because I had invoiced him the day before, and the amount of the invoice wasn’t significant.

A while back my father suggested that I read three management books. The key lesson in each of them is that without trust you can’t build an effective team. Teamwork and developing a manageable corporate structure aside, the same lesson applies to working with customers or clients. You need trust to build a sustainable business relationship. When companies say they are “the largest producer” or that they “partner with their customers” they are really trying to signal that they are trustworthy.

Building A Relationship

Marketers build an integrated marketing communication plan to make sure all of the information being disseminated to a target market reinforces one uniform branding message. People should think about trust the same way. The way you approach someone with a proposal, verbal or written communications, administration of financial transactions, information transparency, and basically all aspects of interacting with another party will impact your business’ trustworthiness and/or personal relationship with them.

Brad thinks sending an invoice offering transaction protection implies that you don’t trust someone. I think invoicing seems like a pretty neutral means of administrating transactions. My method of operation is to send invoices, but I will pay 1-2% of the transaction value essentially outsourcing trust from my new client to a 3rd party. Asking Brad how he’d like to handle payment could have potentially saved me that 1-2%, and extended trust to Brad creating a stronger relationship.

Brad might have preferred to trust that 3rd party as well, but extending the offer to let him choose couldn’t have hurt our relationship.

Understanding Your Actions

There are instances where utilizing 3rd parties or technology for security, engaging in limited micromanagement of an employee, or bringing in a management consultant to solve a problem can make sense. Unfortunately what you are essentially doing is outsourcing trust. As logical as it might seem to you, some people will interpret these actions as you displaying a lack of faith in them or their abilities.