Selling and marketing in a world with little trust

Charles H Green explains how we can become more trustworthy in our sales and marketing approach, and why giving content away generously, for free will make you stand out like a beacon.

Trust Equation

Important guest post by the best-selling author of The Trusted Advisor. Charles H Green explains how we can become more trustworthy in the way we develop business, and why giving content away generously, for free will make you stand out like a beacon.

Charles H Green

Charles H Green

What’s been happening to trust in sales? To trust in marketing? Trust in advertising? In companies? Governments? Political parties?

They’re all lower than a grasshopper’s knees, you might say. Never mind why–let’s focus on the practicalities: in a world with so little trust, what’s a salesperson or marketer to do?

A Basic Fact About Trust

Here’s a frequently unnoticed fact: trust is an asymmetrical relationship. It takes two to trust—a trustor and a trustee—and those two roles are dissimilar. Trusting someone isn’t the same thing as being trusted by someone.

So, which has been the problem? Is it that consumers have become less trusting in recent years?  Or that sellers and marketers and companies have become less trustworthy?  And if it’s both, which has been the cause, and which the effect?

Let’s assume that sales and marketing and companies in general have become less trustworthy, and consumers have in response become less trusting. (The two forces interact, but this assumption allows for more practical action).

The Competitive Advantage of Trust

If you want to succeed in a low-trust world as a marketer or salesperson, you have two strategic choices:

  1. You can get with the trend toward lower trust—become even more manipulative, cynical, distrusting and untrustworthy.  Most strategic analyses urge precisely this—the trend is your friend. Or,
  2. You can differentiate yourself against the trend, by adopting the saying that, “In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.” In other words, become more trustworthy—and, as we’ll see, more trusting as well.

I will stay completely out of the realm of the ethical here and simply ask,

“Which strategy—purely as a matter of business—is more likely to be successful?”

It’s not a trivial question. There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that fear and aggression, coupled with lying, can be very effective.  On the other hand, being trusted comes with huge advantages—among them higher speed and lower cost.

Interestingly, the lower-trust our world gets, the easier it is to stand out as high-trust—and the more effective as a strategy. If your values happen to be so inclined, you may also find the high-trust strategy more amenable personally.

So—just in case that sounds like you—let’s explore behaving in a high-trust manner.

The Dynamics of Trust

If you want to be high-trust, take note of two dynamics about trust. They both have to do with reciprocity—a curious aspect of trust.

First, trustworthiness succeeds by attraction—not by promotion. Give up—stop, cease, desist—trying to tell or convince consumers that you are trustworthy. You are shooting yourself in the foot. People hate being told what to believe—we all have an inner teenager who resists it.

Instead, behave your way into trustworthiness. Speak the truth; be dependable; walk the talk; be transparent; focus on others; care about your customers, operate in their interest, and operate in the long run. Don’t talk about all this; instead, let them talk about you.

Second, it turns out that one of the best ways to be trusted is for you to be trusting. Take the first risk. Extend your hand. Give content away. Don’t lead with lawyers. Be transparent. Be willing to get a little burned. Model the behavior you’d like to see consumers demonstrate toward you.

“In a world with so little trust they will make you stand out like a beacon.”

These two action sets—being more trustworthy and more trusting—are more easily said than done. But they are powerful. In a world with so little trust, they will make you stand out like a beacon. Not a bad thing to be in such times.

Thank you very much Charles. It’s important to understand the backdrop to the world we’re selling, marketing and sharing content in today. This helps to give us all the big picture view.

You can learn more about Charles’ approach to developing business and building relationships with trust in his newest book – The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook – which we’ve reviewed here –

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