Though trust is an easy resource for large companies to neglect in the heat of a push to sell, it is often found at the core of any business relationship. According to the 2006 Annual Edelman Trust Barometer, 64% of opinion leaders in every country the study assessed indicated that they had refused to buy services or products from a company they thought to be untrustworthy. Since customer relationship management is about building, maintaining, and leveraging partnerships with people that support your business, this statistic shouldn’t surprise you. Do you purchase your morning cup of coffee from the cafe that remembers your name and goes the extra mile to make your drink personal, or do you go to the one across the street with the barrister who treats you with a cold shoulder and who constantly mispronounces your name, even though his brew tastes better?
Trust in sales is more than just creating a great product. It’s actually more about creating a rapport, a relationship, with the people that use it. Here are a few things to think about:
The first thing that cultivates a trusting business relationship is reliability. If customers expect something to be delivered on the first of the month, make sure it gets to them on time. If there is something outside of the system that you just cannot control (such as an issue with a mail carrier that delays an order), apologize to your customer and show that you care about their inconvenience by doing something to offset the delay. Many companies fail to deliver on their promises simply because they do not have a good understanding of their actual capacity to produce results. Remember that a happy customer pays you more money over the course of a year than a customer who doesn’t feel cared about.
Don’t be afraid of the truth.
If a customer has been lied to, regaining that trust is virtually impossible. Even if it might cost a sale in the short term or damage short-term sales efforts, always be honest and forthright with your customers. They will appreciate it. Several studies have shown that keeping an old customer can be up to five times as valuable as trying to chase down a new one, so avoid lying just to keep a customer happy now. You’ll almost certainly lose them later.
Work on the little things.
Thanking customers for their business, remembering to follow up on issues, and simply checking in whenever there’s radio silence go a long way. Customers trust companies that build this rapport. This is where effective CRM tools and contact management systems really shine, since the amount of information they collect can be used to make reminders and thanks much easier to distribute in a way that doesn’t consume a lot of time.
Put the buyer first.
This can be difficult, especially for newer salespeople who focus exclusively on month-to-month sales figures. Selling a customer something that they don’t really need might increase your numbers now, but over the course of time the oversold customer is less likely to come back to find a product that meets another need, even if your organization could provide assistance. Good CRM programs will emphasize a buyer-first attitude by considering the customer’s relationship with the product in their workflows.
Bring customers into the sales process where appropriate.
If you create a proposal and present it later to a customer, rather than letting them walk through it with you along the key components, you can create a sense of anxiety in them. Including them in certain processes, when appropriate, is always the best way to go because it can leave them feeling like their input is valuable. Customers that feel valued and influential will spend more time giving you feedback that is critical. The 2012 Edelman Trust Barometer illuminates some trends which show there is a shifting sense of trust away from CEOs and more towards everyday employees.
Let your customers lead you to new customers.
Peer recommendations and word of mouth generate trust rapidly. Once a company generates trust with its customers, those customers will tell their friends and generate even more customers who are likely to already have a trust in the company because their friends recommended it. Influencing this type of growth for your product is important, but can be very tricky. For instance, it is easy to give customers exorbitant referral bonuses and flashy incentives, but it is much harder to make such referrals seem less like bribery and more about a genuine interest in growth.
What do you think?
By focusing your efforts on trust, you can in turn build a strong rapport, get consistent business from long-term customers, and get those customers to build your reputation and your customer base for you. Have you had success building trust with customers? Have you lost a customer breach of trust? Tell us about your experiences in the comments.