Yesterday, I was part of a Focus roundtable discussion on sales. During the discussion, I made the point that the deep fundamentals of sales haven’t changed much in a couple millennia. I made the point that great relationships have always been built on the foundation of trust. Despite all of the radical changes in the economy, the revolutionary changes in technology, and the massive increase in our knowledge of sales and selling, none of these has done a lick to change these deepest of deep fundamentals.
But there were detractors. It was suggested that I was incorrect. It was suggested that trust wasn’t necessary for some sales, and that trust isn’t really necessary for transactions like those that you make over Amazon.com. It was also suggested that trust isn’t necessary for some larger sales, like a purchase being made from IBM, with the idea being that if you trust IBM, you don’t need to trust the salesperson.
Perhaps I am incorrect, but I don’t think so. Large or small, trust and relationships count for a great deal in all sales. In fact, it’s the whole game.
Do You Trust Amazon.com?
It is true that trust may be less important when the size, the complexity, and the relative importance of the desired outcome is low. So let’s take a look at Amazon.com.
I order a book. The book is delivered. My trust in Amazon grows. But if I order a book, and it isn’t delivered, then my trust is diminished. If this happens a few times, trust starts to become quite a bit more important. The reason it doesn’t feel like trust is part of this equation is because your books always show up. Amazon.com is reliable.
In my case, if books stopped arriving as promised, Amazon.com wouldn’t lose a customer who spends $25.00 on a book. They would lose a customer with somewhere north of 550 books on his Kindle for iPad app. The lifetime value of a customer is far greater than the $25.00 book. Hence, trust!
If you can no longer trust that you will receive the benefit of your bargain, you start bargaining with someone else. Just for fun, imagine the trust and the relationships that must exist between Amazon.com and United Parcel Service; if UPS fails, Amazon.com fails. Think trust matters to Amazon.com?
The IBM Salesperson is IBM
If you do not trust the salesperson from IBM that calls on you and your company, you don’t trust IBM. The IBM salesperson, for all intents and purposes, is IBM. And IBM is their salespeople.
A brand only stands for something you can trust if the people that represent that brand act in a way that reinforces that trust. Imagine that a salesperson is deceitful or duplicitous in order to win business. Soon, those who buy learn that promises are made and not kept, that the salespeople are dishonest. What then does the brand mean? What then does it stand for? How then is it perceived?
I happen to have a close, personal friend who came out of IBM and who held a very high level position in sales management. I had heard that IBM was serious about integrity, but I asked him about it anyway. He told me that it was hard to get fired from IBM. In fact, they would pull out all of the stops to help a salesperson succeed.
Unless that salesperson violated IBM’s rules of conduct.
If it was found that you violated IBM’s ethical standards, you were “fired in a nanosecond.” You were “literally escorted to the door.”
The trust that a brand builds is really the trust that their salespeople—and all of their people—build with their clients. The reason my dissenting friend feels as though IBM could be trusted regardless of how a salesperson behaved is because IBM doesn’t allow their salespeople to behave unethically. They know that once that hard won trust is lost, it is damn difficult to reclaim (and sometimes, impossible).
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