This article originally was written by one of our clients, Richard F. Libin, for a trade publication. We found it to be equally true for Marketing and PR and asked his permission to share it. We think you’ll find it valuable.
Trust is defined by your attitude and the way you begin to first interact with your customer. Trust is a very personal and fragile value. It requires honesty and understanding. In turn, it helps make people comfortable with their decisions. When earned, trust, translates to sales, repeat business, loyalty, and referrals.
When violated, trust breeds anger, betrayal, hurt, and skepticism, especially in business relationships. When a customer’s trust is lost, sales decline and negative word-of-mouth increases. Mistrust can be caused by perceptions, mis-perceptions or real experiences, and influenced by a diverse range of factors including appearance, attitude, knowledge, manners, mannerisms, presentation, promises, etc.
Customer relationships – and ultimately sales – are built on trust. Before customers purchase, they must trust three things:
1. The Product or Service
2. The Business
3. The Salesperson
APB calls this the Trust Triad to support the customer.
How can you earn customers’ trust? It requires thoughtful, planned, and sincere interaction with customers by every employee, regardless of your job. It starts and ends with you. Period.
First impressions matter. You must look and present yourself professionally, even on casual days. Your image reflects on the business and product or service you’re selling. Greeting a customer with a positive attitude sets the tone for the entire interaction. If you bring optimism and professionalism to every customer exchange, why wouldn’t every customer feel comfortable working with you? Why wouldn’t they trust you? Think about the last time you made a large purchase. What attitude did the salespeople convey? Did you trust them based on your first impression? Why? Identify how they built your trust and emulate them.
First impressions must be supported with exceptional service. Remember, a salesperson’s job is to help customers find the product or service that meets their unique needs, wants, and desires. By listening and focusing on this, not on selling, you will deliver superior a product. You’ll treat your customer exactly the way you’d want to be treated.
Exceptional treatment must be delivered consistently. This requires clear communication, active listening, and an honest understanding of customers’ unique reasons for buying. Exceptional treatment must be given to every customer, whether they buy now, today, next week, or next year. Customers shouldn’t have to transact business to receive exceptional service.
Delivering consistently requires a clearly defined process, a positive attitude, and continuous measurement, improvement and education. A process ensures that you ask specific questions, collect information that will help guide the process, find the right product or service, and deliver a proper selection – exactly same way every time. This consistency exceeds customer expectations and strengthens customer trust in you.
Measuring performance is essential in determining how well the process is followed, its effectiveness, and how it can be improved. This leads to continual learning, every day, from good and bad experiences. It’s vital and it must occur daily. How much education is needed is an individual choice: do you want to be adequate or exceptional? To be exceptional you must take the initiative to learn every day, to ask questions, like why.
In fact, the three most important letters in the English language are WHY. This word is fundamental to learning. As children we used it incessantly. As adults we don’t use it enough. Like children you should always ask why? Question everything and everyone so you can learn from successes and mistakes. Like a child, learn by watching others. Look for people who’ve mastered the challenges you struggle with. Ask questions, pick their brains, bounce ideas around, and identify techniques you can use.
Building the Trust Triad – while a never-ending process, is achievable. It demands your commitment to a professional image, consistent, exceptional service, and ongoing education. The rewards from building this level of trust with customers can be very profitable.