Invisible Wall manwall

The Invisible Wall of Distrust          wall

 You can’t see it. wall
 You can’t hear it.
 You can’t touch it.
 You can’t even smell it.

But make no mistake; it’s there…the invisible wall of distrust.
Your buyer knows it’s there and sees it with perfect clarity.  It’s the elephant in the room that they rarely tell you about.  One brick at a time, year after year, it was built with the mortar of false promises and layers of incompetence.

MBA students in my Sales Management and Strategies course at Loyola are fairly reserved.  When I asked them to think about the perceptions they have of sales people, hands started flying toward the ceiling.  “Dishonest”, “money motivated”, “interested in making their quota”, “don’t listen”, “don’t follow through”, “talk too much” and the list goes on.  Suddenly, they all found their voices at once.  More proof the wall exists.

Trust, as Stephen M.R. Covey calls it, is the one thing that means everything.  Without it, friendships dissolve, marriages deteriorate, communities divide and governments fall.  On the other hand, high trust relationships strengthen people, teams, organizations, cities and even countries.  In the business world, sales people who seek trust centered relationships will experience a road less traveled; but, find it a worthwhile journey.

So how do most sales reps deal with the wall?  Here are a few ways for starters:
• They are unaware it exists. (Not after reading this).
• They ignore it.
• They shift blame (not my fault, the last rep did that to you).
• They go around or over it (a great way to turn the wall into a fortress).
• They lower their price (sorry, it’s still standing tall).
• They delay or procrastinate.
• They give up.

The wall exists because sales people inside and outside of your industry have violated the same basic principles that I call the five pillars of TRUST.  So what are the principles?

Transparency – Have no hidden agendas.  Don’t say your product can do something you’re not sure it can do.  Be upfront about anything and everything that the customer could perceive as a “surprise”.  Someone once said, “It takes twenty years to build a reputation and five minutes to destroy it.”

Reliability – Making promises that you keep are trust deposits.  Making promises that you break, are at best withdrawals and at worst, overdrafts.  Follow through on your commitments.  According to a recent study published in the Harvard Business Review that rated the biggest mistakes sales people make, one in five reps fail to follow through.

Understanding – According to that same study, one in five sales reps don’t listen to customer needs.  “First seek to understand, then to be understood”, says Dr. Stephen Covey.  From my twenty six years in the sales arena, too many reps “show up and throw up”, dumping irrelevant information and experience.  Listen, listen and then listen.  Instead of thinking about what you want to say next, try clarifying anything you’re unsure about.  Then understand the impact to the customer.

Sincerity – Show the customer that you care.  The old saying, “people don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care” still rings true.  Be honest and genuine – they can see through the invisible wall and they can also see through insincerity.  What can you do tomorrow to show your customers that you are sincere?

Transform – When you’re viewed as a “me too” supplier, the only way you can provide value is to lower your price.  That’s a pattern that leads to nowhere.  Instead, bring your customer to a new place.  Help them uncover a need that no one has revealed to them and then lead them to a desired outcome.

Putting the five pillars of TRUST into practice help you breakthrough the wall of distrust.  And trust is everything.

Mark Slatin helps organizations attract and retain loyal customers through trusting relationships.  You can learn more at www.truecolorsconsulting.com.

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Charles H. Green  |  February 6, 2008 at 2:41 am

    Mark,

    Congratulations on your (most excellent) post’s inclusion in this month’s Carnival of Trust, hosted by Michelle Golden’s blog Golden Practices.

    I too agree strongly with your ideas, particularly the power of transparency, understanding and sincerity.

    Re transparency–the best way to be trusted is to show you’ve got nothing to hide. The best way to have nothing to hide is don’t do or say anything you’d regret coming public.

    Re understanding, echo your Covey quote–I also like the old saw, “People don’t care what you know until they know that you care.”

    Again, thanks for your excellent post, and congrats on its listing in the carnival, at
    http://goldenmarketing.typepad.com/weblog/2008/02/carnival-of-tru.html?cid=100139858#comments

    Reply
  • […] Mark Slatin points out the trust building issues we face with prospects and clients because of what they’ve been taught by those who have preceded us—don’t trust anyone.  Breaking what he calls the “wall of distrust” which the prospect has built over years requires new thinking and new actions which he identifies in his “Five Pillars of Trust.” […]

    Reply
  • […] Mark Slatin points out the trust building issues we face with prospects and clients because of what they’ve been taught by those who have preceded us—don’t trust anyone.  Breaking what he calls the “wall of distrust” which the prospect has built over years requires new thinking and new actions which he identifies in his “Five Pillars of Trust.” […]

    Reply
  • 4. markslatin  |  February 9, 2008 at 10:26 pm

    I’m honored that one of the co-authors of The Trusted Advisor took the time to respond to “The Invisible Wall” article. Charlie Green’s concept of The Carnival of Trust blog, a monthly “best of the best” on all the web, is a great way to have thoughtful exploration on the important topic of trust.

    Reply
  • 5. Krista Ronai  |  February 10, 2008 at 12:41 pm

    The timing of this article is perfect as it speaks to a relevant situation in my career. I recently obtained a new territory and must overcome the invisible wall of distrust. Mark’s insights were helpful and have given me food for thought as to how I should approach these new customers.

    Reply

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