The global public relations and marketing firm, Edelman, releases an annual report they refer to as the “Trust Barometer.” A recent report indicates that trust in governments, businesses, and not-for-profits is on the decline. We may not be surprised by the results of the Edelman report.
However, the fact that trust in business is declining is of concern, because it means that today, more than any previous time, people are predisposed to skepticism. Mistrust presents a challenging situation because if we do not establish trust in the company that we represent, many of our prospects will not buy what we are selling.
One aspect of trust is that a prospect has confidence that the company will deliver what the salesperson describes, and as a customer, they will have a good experience using the product or service. Businesses spend a lot of time and money on elaborate advertising campaigns to establish trust with the public. There are many well-known examples of companies that come to mind that have great products, with customers that are extremely satisfied with their products.
These companies have earned a reputation for delivering high-quality products and services and have established brand loyalty. But what if the potential customer has never heard of your company, what then? And what if your company does not have an established reputation with a loyal customer base? If you consider this from the prospect’s viewpoint, no doubt, they will want to know more about an unfamiliar company to determine credibility. Yet, most prospects never audibly express their concerns about a company’s trustworthiness. However, it is a fundamental issue that they are considering while contemplating the purchase of your product or service. You have an uphill battle if you are selling a product or service for an unfamiliar company. Unfortunately, you have not established brand loyalty with a new prospect, so presumably, they have no reason to trust your company.
On occasion, a salesperson may believe that they can increase trust in their company when they establish trust in themselves during their ongoing interactions with the prospect. The salesperson may think that by correlation, the prospect might believe that since the salesperson is so congenial, the company must be reputable and keep its promises. But does that approach work in the real world? It might sometimes, but it is not a good plan for the long-term. Although the salesperson establishes rapport and garners as much trust as possible in themselves, it is always better if, through a series of strategic statements combined with social proof, the salesperson helps a prospect increase their willingness to trust the company that they represent. In most cases trusting the company is of utmost concern to the prospect because it is ultimately the one providing the product or service, not the salesperson.
As you think about this issue, another interesting fact to keep in mind is that trust is forward-looking. Any measure of trust that has been established with the prospect must be maintained. Why is this the case? If trust is broken, it is tough to reestablish, and trust can quickly be broken if promises are not kept. Any hollow promises about a product or service that is not fulfilled will result in a dissolution of trust. You will most likely end up with an unhappy customer who will share the news of their unhappiness with anyone who will listen. No doubt, they will point out that your company is unreliable and untrustworthy.
Dissatisfied customers tend to discuss their perceived bad experiences in online reviews. Such remarks hurt your chances of establishing trust with the next prospect if your reputation is tarnished, especially since, as we previously established, most prospects today are predisposed to be biased towards distrust in the first place.
Once negative reviews become widespread, it can be difficult to reverse the effects, especially with smaller companies that do not have sophisticated public relations departments or cannot afford major advertising campaigns to sway public opinion. Trust issues even impact larger, well-known companies. Perhaps you recall the scandal facing electronics giant, Samsung, involving some hand-held cellular devices catching fire. Samsung had to develop a strategic advertising and marketing plan to attract and retain customers. If an individual does not have a good experience with your product or service, it will negatively impact your business.
Remember, trust is not easily gained, and once acquired, it must be continuously earned. As we build trust, a prospect’s concern about the risk of buying our product will naturally decrease in proportion to the increase in trust. Therefore, we must always be aware of the importance of trust when relating, reasoning, and resolving our way through a sales presentation.