Most of us would say that if we don’t trust someone, we wouldn’t buy from her. But what causes a person to trust another person in a business context?
David Maister, who has written a number of excellent books, and two classmates of mine from Harvard Business School, Charles Green and Robert Galford, coauthored The Trusted Advisor, which looks at just this issue. They studied what causes people to trust others in business, and identified four elements of trust. (Read their book for details.)
What causes you to trust another person in business? Is it some combination of the person’s background, track record, experience, education, or technical competence?
Maister, Green, and Galford say those qualities make up one component of trust, which they label “Credibility.” But three other elements exist: Reliability, Intimacy, and Self-Orientation. Let’s look first at Reliability.
Reliability - The repeated experience of expectations met. Think about that: in order to trust, we have to have more than one experience with a person in which our expectations were met (or exceeded).
So, by definition, no one trusts anyone on first blush. And this can work to our advantage in selling: if you make a good first impression upon meeting a prospect, and then you can identify some additional information he would like to have—even if, right now, he’s not willing to move forward with you—you can set a deadline for yourself and then meet it, contributing to the Reliability component of trust.
Here’s an example:
“Mary Lou, that study I mentioned seems to have caught your interest. I have a summary of it—I think I’ll e-mail it to you later on this afternoon, and it’ll be in your e-mail queue when you come in tomorrow morning, shall I?”
Or you might say:
“Fred, shall I look up that article I mentioned and get a copy over to you later on today? I think you’ll find it interesting.”
The idea is that you set a time (if your prospect isn’t doing so) and then you meet that deadline! So your prospect has two experiences of you— the meeting itself, and then the e-mail or other follow-up that shows him that you do what you say you’ll do.
More about Intimacy and Self-Orientation in the next post!
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