4 Proven Sources of Trust

Know, like, and trust: these are the keys for building business today.

In spite of the stunning technological advancements of the last few years–or, perhaps, because of them–people want to do business with other people with whom they have an authentic relationship. John Naisbitt’s Megatrends prediction of “high tech-high touch” nearly 20 years ago has proven true. The more technology rules our lives, the more we seek human connection. The explosion of social media sites puts a explanation point on this prediction.

For those seeking to stand out in a crowded marketplace, this is incredibly good news. Few of us will ever invent the next big thing, the next iPod, the next Facebook, the next Twitter. But all of us can build relationships. All of us can get to know our customers and prospects in meaningful ways, where they truly begin to like us, and, most importantly, fully place their trust in us. When everyone has access to equal technology, the tie-breaker in business is depth of relationship.

Four Sources of Trust

People place their trust in us for different reasons. We must understand what those reasons are and how to  maximize them. Never forget this fundamental truth: Buyers choose commodities based on price. They choose partners based on trust. Here’s how to get it:

1. Service Trust

The first place to build trust is with the people you are serving now, your current customers. So much of the energy and resources of a typical business is directed at new client acquisition, and client retention is completely ignored (or delegated to an amorphous support department). This, in spite of the fact that it is ten times more affordable to keep a client happy and to go out and get a new one, and in spite of the fact that the best source for new clients is satisfied current ones.

So serve your customers. Serve them fully. Serve them generously. Serve them unselfishly. I’ve written about this in other blog posts and white papers, but here is how you do that: Provide value. Provide added value. And provide unexpected value. Fully meet every customer’s expectations, and then exceed those expectations in surprising ways.

2. Referral Trust

Referral trust is different than service trust. Service trust is gained directly from the clients you serve. Referral trust is gained indirectly from the recommendation of those clients to others. In other words, a client trusts you and a colleague trusts them. So that trust is leveraged, loaned out, if you will, from one person to another on your behalf.

Referral trust is the most reliable and cost-effective way of building business. A few weeks ago a past client of mine recommended my executive coaching services to a company he was working with. They contacted me, and we spoke for less than 30 minutes. The next day I began working with the executive leader, full-fee, pre-paid. Various referral studies point to a four times higher close rate on appointments made through a referral relationship at a mere fifth of the cost.

Referral trust, however, is dependent on service trust. If I had not not served my client with the depth and generosity he needed, he would have not made his referral. When, however, you deliver remarkable service time after time, like gravity, new clients will be pulled to you irresistibly.

3. Expertise Trust

Expertise trust is a different kind of trust than the previous two. It’s one that’s established more intellectually and less emotionally. Yet it’s critical to the buying process. People make decisions with both their heart and their head. Expertise trust appeals to the head and fosters a sense of respect and confidence in one’s authority.

I build this kind of trust by speaking in public. Rarely have I made a public presentation that has not resulted in real business. Writing builds this kind of trust as well: blogs, white papers, articles, and books. Podcasting and videocasting do this too. All of these are very good at establishing expertise in a field and have never been easier to do.

What is it professionally that you love to do and do well? Start talking about it and writing about it on a regular basis. Build your tribe and very soon you’ll be seen as an expert in the field.

4. Affiliation Trust

Affiliation trust is trust that’s built outside of the business context. It’s gained by serving with someone in a common cause. As you serve together, a relationship develops, and with it trust. From that platform a person may learn of your business expertise and access it themselves, recommend it to others, or both.

As with any of these sources of trust, the potential for manipulation exists. That is, doing things insincerely just to get business. The potential for manipulation with affiliation trust is even greater, however. Make sure you are acting from a pure heart. Believe in the cause you’re serving and let business naturally develop from there. Please don’t be one of those guys whose passes out his business card at church or bids at a fundraising auction to feed his fragile ego.

All for One and One for All

They key to utilizing these four sources of trust in your business is to get as many of them working for you as possible. For instance, a client may be introduced to you through a referral and, recognizing your expertise, choose to do business with you. You then serve them generously, and that trust is deepened. You also end up working with them on an event at your local Boys and Girls Club, and the resulting bond you build is nearly unbreakable. Why, may I ask, would they go any where else for the product or serve you provide?

Again, buyers choose commodities based on price. They choose partners based on trust. Which of these two do you what to be?