Author and expert on Trust in Business, Charlie Green, reveals the best ways for professionals to build trust to turn potential clients into paying clients.
Charles H Green needs no introduction (but I'll give him one anyway).
As author of Trust Based Selling, and co-author of the absolute classic, The Trusted Advisor and the recently published follow-up The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook, Charlie's built a name as THE expert when it comes to trust in business relationships.
I caught up with him on skype recently to ask him about how professionals can build trust in their relationships. In particular, in their marketing and business development when they're “courting” a potential client.
Listen in, and you'll hear some of the most powerful, yet simple advice you'll ever hear on building strong trust-based relationships.
Ask any senior professional about the books that have had the most influence on them and The Trusted Advisor by David Maister, Charles H Green and Rob Galford is almost certain to be up their near the top of the list.
It was a landmark work – explaining why trust needs to be at the centre of any professional relationship – and how to earn it with your clients.
The good news for us fans of the book is that Charles H Green has teamed up with Andrea Howe to write a follow-up book: The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook. This book takes up where The Trusted Advisor left off and dives into practical details on how to:
Develop business with trust
Nurture trust-based relationships
Build and run a trustworthy organization, and
Develop your trust skill set
One of the tools Charles and the team over at Trusted Advisor Associates use in their work is the Trust Quotient Self Assessment. This tool allows you to see which elements of trust you're strong at, and where you have weaknesses.
Rather impulsively, I agreed to be a guinuea pig for the tool – and to video the results live with Charles.
On the video we look at my Trust Profile, and talk about how to go about improving your trustworthiness using the tool as a guide.
You can check it out here, find out what my profile is, and how to improve your trust:
Caelen tells a fascinating story of how one of his sales team has been able to win business in countries where he and the client don't share a common language. They use a gentle and professional approach which treats the potential client with respect and builds up trust through personal communication followed up with email.
Here's the story in Caelen's words…
Lately, I had a good chance to listen to one of our salespeople, Dermot, while he was doing business on the phone. I noticed that he was talking to someone who I believe whose English was very poor because Dermot was trying to spell out our business key advantages. I later learned that he was talking to a dentist in Mexico who does not speak English at all!
Everything seemed normal. Dermot was very accommodating and nodding courteously as he listens to the Mexican dentist at the other end of the line. But what was amazing was that Dermot does not speak Spanish, except for a few poorly pronounced “Gracias” and “Hola.” Despite the language barrier, Dermot was able to successfully deliver a clear message about the pricing of our products in both Euro and Mexican Peso.
What is wonderful about Dermot is that he was able to deliver his message and even understood the dentist’s unintelligible reply. The conversation went on for another few minutes, and then I finally heard Dermot taking the dentist’s credit card information, sealing that conversation with a final deal.
You may not believe what I am saying, but as we expand our market worldwide and WhatClinic.com is now starting to export products, it is no longer strange to us to deal with non-English speaking clients. In fact, Dermot is now able to close a deal almost every week with overseas client he has no common language with. Interestingly, he does it always in a unique way: by developing trust with a prospective client.
What usually occurs during the initial conversation is that a clinic manager—who at least know some English and who surely does not have any authority in terms in financial matters—would insist Dermot to speak to the clinic’s owner, who is a surgeon or a dentist. Since there is no common language, the conversation usually ends rather quickly, but effectively. Dermot, on his part, ends the conversation by promising to send a follow up email.
The most interesting part of this marketing approach begins after each call when Dermot would summarize our benefits along with the pricing, and then he translates the information using Google Translate to the client’s language. In our experience, this process is remarkably beneficial, both on our part and that of the client’s. Once Dermot receives the communication from the client, he would again use Google Translate to uncover the message. This process always ends in a successful sale.
Every successful sale is always a product of a successful phone call, despite having a language barrier. All information needs to be translated, but the initial phone conversation is all that matters in sealing a deal. In other words, if Dermot won’t pick the phone there would have been no sale at all.
Most business entities spend their marketing efforts looking for instant big wins, but ended up getting small or no gains at all. At WhatClinc.com, we invest on getting the client’s trust because it is in developing trust and confidence that huge sales are born. We make it a point that client is aware that at the other end of the line there is a real person who is willing to establish a genuine relationship and is willing to do business. We also make it a point that we are trustworthy, reliable and honest.
The success of our business lies in our professionalism in that we treat non-English speaking clients with the same respect we give to dentists and surgeons from the UK or Ireland. Dermot is the epitome of our business. He is aware that whatever lapses in phone communication due to language barrier can always be complemented by follow up emails. The result is that we are able to establish connection with prospective clients that always leads to sales. We have proven that it is impossible to do business without human contact.
Mexico is now our largest single market. We are able to achieve this largely because Dermot has broken the language barrier that separates us from our clients.
So what can we learn from this?
Well, if nothing else, if Dermot can use patience, respect and professionalism to build a relationship with someone he doesn't even share a common language with – then the rest of us should certainly be able to use the same approach with the far easier challenge of someone who does speak the same language as us.
Welcome to the February 2009 Edition of the Carnival of Trust.
This month sees the publication of the 10th Edelman Global Trust Barometer – and it makes for frightening reading. Across their sample of “informed publics” in 20 countries across the globe, 62% of 25-64 year olds reported that they trust corporations less now than they did a year ago. In absolute terms, in the US, trust in banks for example, has fallen to 36% among 35-64 year olds; with trust in automotive companies even lower at 33%. In the UK, even trust in “people like me” dropped 13 points to 38%.
Set against this backdrop of falling trust levels, it would be easy to fill this months Carnival with lurid tales of corporate misdeeds and breaches of trust. And in the aftermath of the recent Madoff, Merill Lynch, Blagojevich, Satyam and other scandals we have no shortage of candidates.
But if we truly believe – as I firmly do – that increased trust is an absolute necessity underpinning not only successful businesses but successful societies – then what we need are examples we can look up to and learn from, not just ones which allow us a self-satisfied “tut tut” at other's misbehaviour.
Of course, it would be impossible to do a round-up of this month's trust-related blog posts without some mention of recent scandals. But I've tried to balance that with some rather more inspiring and uplifting material too.
Before launching into this month's selection a few words of thanks to Charlie Green for the opportunity to host the Carnival, and to Ian Welsh for his support in preparing the selection. Please share with us and the authors your reactions and comments.
Posted before the outcome of the Superbowl was known, in Pittsburgh Steelers and the Titans of Wall Street Rob Jewell provides an inspiring “compare and contrast” story highlighting the leadership of Steelers' owner Dan Rooney. Rooney's ability to bring his organisation's values to life through his personal conduct is the perfect example of how individuals can inspire trust amongst whole communities through their actions.
In Leadership Scruples: What Would You Do? Dan McCarthy lists 20 great ethical questions to test your leadership calibre. It's the sort of test where you “know” what the right answer is instinctively – but whether you'd be able to carry out that behaviour in the real world is the true test of a leader.
JD Hull reminds us in In Praise of Structure: Getting a Standard that the setting – and maintaining of standards is one of the key foundations of an effective culture for professional service firms. If our client's and our own people cannot trust us to meet basic deadlines, how can they trust us with their most important work and their careers.
In the final post on Leadership and Management this month, Brad Kolar talks about the difference between equality and fairness. In an article echoing W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne's work on Fair Process, Brad's When Equal Isn't Fair talks about how leaders must treat their staff differently – adapting to their individual needs – in order to treat them fairly.
On the Connecting with NLP Blog, Lisa J lays down a post chock-full of common sense, and of equal value to professional advisors and parents alike. is the kind of post I wish I'd written myself. For me, item #2 in Lisa's list – Tell the Truth – is the cornerstone of establishing trust in almost all situations.
In a short and sweet post on Influence: Understanding & Fulfilling The Needs of Others Steve Roesler brings his experience from counselling and coaching to the world of influential presentations, and notes that in order to influence, one must listen as much as one talks. Standard advice for 1-1 interactions – but almost unheard of when it comes to presentations. And yet from my own experience, this advice rings very true – I'd urge readers to give what he says careful consideration.
First up in Sales & Marketing is an interesting article from Sims Wyeth: Dress for Success which shows how what we wear and how we look affects how others trust us (and, of course, how we trust others). To be honest, this is one of those articles that both impresses me with its accuracy while at the same time depressing me that we can all be so shallow. While I'd like to think I base my opinions of others on how they act, not on what they wear – Sims highlights that the evidence points to the contrary. And we need to bear this in mind while attempting to build trust when selling or marketing to others.
Next up is perhaps my favourite post of the month, from my friend Tim Rohrer. Tim is a great storyteller, and in Belligerence Kills he recounts the tale of his encounter with a sales trainer who really should have known better…
Inevitably, recent financial scandals loom large in the economics roundup. Perhaps the most interesting perspective is provided on Barbara O'Brien's Buddhism Blog. In Greed and Delusion on Wall Street she avoids the obvious knee jerk reactions to draw wider lessons for us all from a buddhist perspective.
Finally, in “The Gullible and Bernie Madoff” (post no longer available online) Neil Senturia brings us right back to the core issue of trust – highlighting that Trust is Only Earned in a Deeply Personal Way – it cannot be garnered and granted by someone else.
Just like golf is simple and sculpture is simple. You just put the ball in the hole, or chip away all the stone that isn’t your subject.
Selling is simple in concept – but difficult in practice. And often, under pressure to deliver our numbers this quarter or in the heat of the moment trying to close that deal we’ve been chasing for months, we forget the simple things that actually lie at the core of sales excellence.
In my work with clients I often find that returning to the basics – the simple core of excellent sales – can often lead to a great leap in performance.
And in my experience, the basics of selling can be simplified into two essentials – what I call “Twin Track Selling”. In essence, these are to establish with potential customers:
That they have a need for the benefits your product or service can deliver – a need big enough to justify paying the price you’re charging for the product.
That they trust that your product, service or people can really deliver the benefits you claim – and do so better than your competitors.
That’s all you need really. Establish the need, and build the trust. Simple in concept, but immensely difficult in practice.
When we work to establish needs, typically we jump too fast at the first hint of a need and try to close immediately.
Sure, the customer said he wanted a more reliable car, or a more usable sales management system. But is that initial, surface need going to be enough when you start pitching how great your £20,000 car or £100,000 CRM system is? Probably not.
Most likely the customer hasn’t fully thought through their needs and doesn’t realise just how much that unreliable car or the unusable sales management system is really costing them. They haven’t considered the risk of their wife being left stranded at the side of a motorway if the car breaks down, or the impact of the system on sales-force productivity and morale – and hence on sales.
As a result, your product looks awfully expensive compared to their perception of a relatively minor problem. So they’re uncertain when you push for the sale – and despite your attempts to steamroller their “objections”, you usually end up in the nightmare “I’m not really ready to buy yet – but I promise to keep you in mind in future” scenario.
Or perhaps the customer does understand the value of what you’re offering to them – but the sale just seems to be drifting away over time. You keep telling the customer about the benefits of your product – but even thought they agree with your business case projections they just seem unwilling to commit.
While it’s tempting to write them off as tyre-kickers; often the problem goes much deeper. Often the issue is that you just haven’t proven to them that your product really can deliver the wonderful benefits you’re claiming.
In this increasingly sceptical world, they won’t just take your word for it. And all your competitors have equally glowing testimonials in their literature. Building a high degree of trust with your customer is crucial – not just personal trust, but trust that your product, your services and your people really can deliver.
It takes time – and thoughtful planning to build up a sufficient level of trust to allow the customer to buy with confidence that the benefits they’re looking fo really are going to be delivered by your product.
Often when you’re in a rut or you have a sales pursuit you’re really struggling with, it’s tempting to turn to a flavour of the month solution – a new closing technique, a clever elevator pitch or other techniques.
But in reality, you’re far better off investing your time going back to basics and really thinking through, for this situation – how can I help my customer understand their real needs? And how can I prove that my product really does meet those needs?
It’s only by doing this, and tailoring it uniquely for each sales situation, that you can put yourself firmly on the track of Sales Excellence.