It seems like yesterday when I sat in a room with a handful of developers at Xerox and together we created a sales model that would be a key component for not only the sales force at Xerox, but their clients as well.  It was a model that would be used for decades and considered a cornerstone of the sales training world of Xerox.  It was not perfect, and although we had a healthy mix of people on this team, spent a great deal of time together, and still missed a little something called, “trust.”

I know, you are asking yourself, “You call yourself some kind of sales guy, how could you miss something as basic as trust?”  Oh yee of little faith, it’s easier than you may think.  You see the real mistake we made was thinking that if we methodically built a consultative model, the model itself would build trust.  We thought if we built a model that taught in a repeatable, predictable fashion…

  • How to ask questions and listen
  • How to problem solve
  • How to create urgency
  • How to confirm critical client decisions
  • How to make client recommendations
  • How to open a conversation
  • How to close a conversation
  • How to address objections during that conversation

… we would build trust with our clients.  We were close, but where is the trust in that list of criteria?  I’ll tell you where it is – it’s subtly contained within all the pieces above – and that’s not good enough.  The fact is, you can build any consultative model you’d like, but without specific steps that address trust, the process becomes anemic.  So let’s fix it now.  If you want to build trust with your clients or your friends, there are three things that you can do.

  1. Keep Your Questions Open.  It’s a conversation you are having with your client; not an interrogation.  Open questions get people talking, and the more your clients talks, the more they like you.  Starting your questions with words like, “who, what, tell, describe” should do the trick.
  2. Stay Away From Problems.  Meeting someone for the first time, and immediately asking about problems does not build trust.  You have to earn the right to get to the deeper issues.  I want to hear all about my friend or my client, and the problems can wait… for now.
  3. Base Your Pace On Personality.  We are building a conversation here.  Some people are social, and that means your initial, open questions might include questions about family.  Some people are more analytical or dominant, and that means your initial, open questions would need to be targeted towards the reason why you are there.

The Moral of the Moment is not hard to see here, and there are two of them.  First, never, ever assume that building trust is created in some magical way because you are smart, or are genuinely a trust worthy person.  There were some pretty smart people in that development room and we missed it.  Second, contrary to popular belief, the art of building trust can follow a repeatable, predictable process like the one outlined in this article.  Just beware because building trust is so obvious, you can miss it!

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