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The Trusted Salesperson: Is It Possible?

In a rapidly changing buying world, the job of the salesperson is less and less to push product and more and more to build trust. Trust has always been essential, but now it is an even higher priority. 

Trust is central to a customer-centric approach. It has a huge impact on customer experience. In a digital buying environment, trust-building is the best way a seller can add value to their customers, their business and to their own role.

Trust is also strange! On the one hand, it takes time to build trust. On the other hand, we are continually taking very quick decisions (often in seconds as Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink reminds us) about whether or not to trust people.

Trust is important. The many books are written about being a “trusted advisor” building relationships bear witness to this. It is the aspiration of most relationship managers and is seen as the key to true professionalism and to developing lasting, sustainable, mutually profitable business relationships.

This is the first of a series of posts on being a trusted salesperson.

Let’s start with the fast/slow time frame of trust.

Before we meet

Before we meet someone for the first time, they will often have already started to decide if we are to be trusted. They will be influenced by how we are introduced. I was talking earlier today to a great executive coach I have known for many years.

Much of Chris Wisdom’s business comes from referrals. He was telling me how much quicker and easier (and more enjoyable) things are when a conversation starts off with “Ah yes Chris, you come highly recommended”¦”. Your prospect will also probably have checked you out on LinkedIn so ask yourself what your profile says about your trustworthiness. You may have been building credibility through your content and your earlier communications. Your predecessor may have earned or lost trust with your contact, and there is always a “trust inheritance” from previous contacts (positive or negative), and of course, the brand you represent will contribute to how much you are trusted before you even meet.

First impressions

When we meet someone for the first time, we take a very quick initial decision about whether to trust them. Some people describe this as intuitive or “gut feeling” but Malcolm Gladwell’s “Blink” demonstrates that the way we “thin slice” facts like appearance, the tone of voice or body language is very rational and very fast. We need to manage first impressions carefully and professionally.

Trust takes a dip – it’s normal

But let’s assume we have made a good first impression and our contact decides to take the discussion to the next stage. At this point, they start to look at us and our offering more critically, and there is often a dip in trust as they apply their robust selection criteria to our offer and explore in depth whether we are to be trusted. Don’t be offended by this dip in trust. It is normal. It’s our job as sellers to manage buyers through their trust-growing process.


Firstly, they must gain confidence in your character. Do you do what you say? Do you handle their questions calmly? When don’t you have the answer straight away how do you react? Are you interested in them, their issues and their business? (We’ll look in a later post at the critical importance of having low “self-orientation”).


Then they’ll form an opinion of your competence. Do you know what you are talking about? Do you ask intelligent questions? Can you demonstrate track record? Do you know (and are known by) the people they respect? Is your offer credibly positioned and priced?


The next step of trust-building centres on a perception of relevance. It’s not enough for me to believe that your product or service works. Now I want to know if it will work for me. Will it meet my needs? Is it future-proofed? Is it the best of the solutions available to me? I began by figuring out if I could trust your character. I moved on to decide if I could trust your competence. Now I am focused on your relevance.

“Could use you” to “will use you.”

From this point, your job is to enable me to trust you enough not just to think I could use you but to decide (and persuade others) that I will use you. I need to build your trust in me, my offer and the organisation that will support it.

In my next post on trust, I’ll look at how some of the excellent writers about trust have influenced my understanding of what makes a trusted salesperson. In my next article on this topic, I’ll give some practical guidance on building trust through the sales process.

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