I have been writing about consumer trust in sales and business for many years. However, this year has seen a rise in my output on this topic, especially with the fallout from the Banking Royal Commission with posts such as: The Flight to Ethical Selling – how the banks can avoid a royal commission; What does Selling Better mean for customers and shareholder return?; and What are the biggest issues facing CEOs and sales leaders today?
Yet trust is the heartbeat of business, sales and society.
Without this life force pumping vitality through our collective systems every day we start to wither and recoil. We become weak and anaemic. We close ourselves off and lose sight of what is real and important to our survival.
However, trust is much more present in our daily lives than the media and governments might have us believe.
Most of the people we rely upon to get us through our daily lives are strangers to us. The infrastructure for us to travel on and live within, the clothes we wear, the food we eat: all rely upon the endeavour of strangers for the most part, and we trust that they are doing the right thing. And for the most part people are; it is heartening and comforting if we lend our attention to this fact.
Yet, when the things we are meant to trust fail, like banking institutions – i.e. the fallout from the Banking Royal Commission – we feel betrayed, let down, angry and confused. We start to question what is true and what is not. We become wary, cautious, and more anxious, especially about the intentions of others.
As cited in the Australian Financial Review article this week:
Former ANZ CEO John McFarlane calls for rethink of banking philosophy… he has called for a shift in corporate philosophy away from the focus on making money to making a contribution to society. In an essay about long-term sustainable value, McFarlane admits that as a banker, “today I am ashamed of the reputation of our banks”.
“I joined the industry over forty years ago where the bank manager was the doyen of the community,” he says. “Not so today. We must return to the philosophy that banking is a profession as well as a business, and that contribution rather than reward is its centre of gravity.”
Short-termism, adherence to higher and higher shareholder returns, win-at-all-costs hyper aggressive greed based ‘bro’ cultures, and affluence creation as a sole purpose in of itself: all are factors that breach trust and bring organisations to their knees with the likelihood of customers, members, patrons, patients, shareholders and employees leaving in droves.
When consumer trust is breached by individuals or organisations, it is very hard to come back to that entity and feel completely safe. Our radar is heightened and alert: it’s hard to relax when we are not sure of their intentions and we stay wary, looking for signs of more danger. We end up questioning the motives of others, with good reason – because if we don’t, we may become their victims.
This is the dance of all human relationships. I confess I start out with trust as the default setting; however, I know of others who start the other way around. Wherever we start, we are working with the tension between trust and mistrust. We look for signals that help us navigate our relationships and whether we can feel safe with people or not. This is true internally within organisations and teams, with customers, and people in general.
Hard earned over many years, trust can evaporate overnight.
Trust Building Elements
So what do we need to do to develop, encourage, support and sustain trust-based relationships in sales, business and society?
Here is a list of Trust Building Elements for your consideration:
- Expertise: have the ability, knowledge and resources to meet customers’ realistic expectations in our areas of expertise
- Dependability: do what we say we will do. Make promises we can keep and keep the promises we make. Be reliable. Deliver quality.
- Authenticity: be genuine.
- Candour: cultivate the quality of being open and honest. Frankness.
- Customer orientation: Place as much emphasis on our customers’ interests as our own.
- Compatibility: create a common connection. Find something in common. Be caring.
- Clarity: be clear about what you can and cannot do for people. How you help them.
- Collaboration & Cooperation: work together, with each other. Aim for win-win relationships. Sort out differences in a respectful manner. Find common ground to work from.
- Consistency: set clear guidelines, expectations and accountabilities and stick to them.
- Communication: maintain frequent, open and meaningful communications. No confusing terms, tricky jargon or asterisks. Communicate any changes in a timely manner to give people a chance to adapt, and act if desired.
- Principles & Purpose: design and lead a culture around principles, not rules. Define a higher purpose that supports mutually beneficial, fair and sustainable long term practices, values and outcomes.
Principles not Rules
John McFarlane calls for a system governed by principles not rules. He says:
Organisations need to take the actions necessary to earn long-term trust and commitment as a foundation for long-term value creation. Our actions and decisions must therefore be socially beneficial, culturally desirable, ethically justifiable, economically feasible, ecologically responsible and above all, convincing and transparent.
Selling Better Manifesto
This is precisely why we created and released the Selling Better Manifesto.
It is designed as an antidote – an alternative business philosophy – to the short-termism, win-at-all-costs, hyper aggressive, greed-based ‘bro’ cultures that desecrate trust on every level and do not deliver real value.
It is our intention to reclaim and practice the true essence of selling for a sustainable and prosperous world. Consumer trust is the heartbeat human-centred sales and leadership strategies and practices designed for a collaborative world
We are dedicated to the proliferation of human-centred sales, and leadership strategies and practices that deliver win-win business relationships, enhanced reputations, aligned customer-centric cultures, sustainable business practices, satisfied customers and much better sales results.
Remember everybody lives by selling something.