The Two Immutable Laws Of Trust Building 

Being trusted is a sales reps most valuable capital.


But it's not limited to sales reps, trust between individuals is the glue that holds a society together.


Without trust everything falls apart.


Think about it, why do you trust your doctor? (if you do, that is).

Have you seen his or hers diploma? Grades? Criminal records?


There's tons of stuff we don't know about people and yet we somehow decide whether we can trust them or not.


We are all begging to be fooled.

We read sometimes about people that are victims of charlatans and schemers. 


If your'e like me, we also think: that could never happen to me. I would never be fooled that easily.


Think again.


Our brains are hardwired to seek trust.

Because we depend on it. 


Life would be a total misery if we stopped trusting other people.

And we have a kind of a mental system that helps us with this.

It kicks in automatically when we meet other people.

And it's quite black and white.

Trust or no trust.


The two things we're looking for

Wouldn't it be great to know what it is our brains are looking for when deciding whether we can trust a person or not?


Because if you knew what they are, you can make sure to display them when meeting customers for example.


Wouldn't that be great?


Behavior psychologists have been studying this phenomena for years.


And they found that in order for us to trust someone, that person needs to signal two things:competence and warmth

With signaling I mean demonstrating. Verbally and non-verbally 


So let's dig a little deeper into the two areas competence and warmth.




Work on Your Competence

I guess you think you know what you are doing, right?


And by that I mean, you think you are competent.


Keep in mind that there are people out there in world suffering from what is called the Donning-Kruger effect.


This is a cognitive bias that makes incompetent people not understand that they are incompetent. These people overestimate their competence all the time. They are not fun to work with.


But that doesn't apply to you, after all you are here to learn stuff. This tells me you are not one of these people.


To understand what competence really means we need to break it down in to three separate skill sets, namely:

  1. Technical knowledge
  2. Operational knowledge
  3. Political knowledge

This all sounds a bit boring and stiff, but it really isn't that complicated.


Let's take them one by one.


Technical knowledge (or what I know)

This is perhaps what we associate mostly with competence.

A doctor knows about diseases.

A financial adviser knows about financial markets (or do they...?)

An engineer knows how to build things.

And so on.


This is knowledge we acquire through education and work experience.

It's often what employers pay for when hiring people.


What is your area of expertise?

Are you up to date on the latest developments?


Would you be able to engage an expert in the same field and have a rewarding exchange of ideas?


If you want to be successful in anything, you better be good.

You better keep investing in building that knowledge.


Because your customers wants to work with people that knows stuff, stuff they don't know themselves.


Give me new ideas and perspectives

A survey of more than a thousand high level decision makers revealed their number one request when it came to what type of sales reps they wanted to meet.


What they wanted?
Sales reps that told them something that gave them new ideas and perspectives.


So there you have it.

Your first step to build trust is to tell your customers exactly that.


Not easy?

Nothing is easy in the beginning.

If you don't know where to start, I suggest you start to read up and boost your knowledge.

You need things you can share.


Operational knowledge (or how you get things done)

This is where your experience and character comes into play.


Are you effective?


On time?



I could go on and on.

When we perform in our work we keep sending signals to those around us.


The same is true when you're in front of a customer.

To get it right, just think about what you yourself appreciate in your co-workers. 


Write them down and try to stick with them.


Political knowledge (or how to get things done)

When talking to a decision maker this competence is crucial.


You need to know how to get things done in a complex organization.

How are decisions made?

Who are the decision makers?

Who will most likely stand in the way?


If you want to help your customer to buy, your savviness in this areas will be much appreciated.


They too are struggling to get things done.

So make sure to recommend effective ways of getting a decisions through an organization.


Ok, so that covers competence.

What about warmth?




Turn Up the Heat and Signal Warmth


To start with I have to ask you to go back in time.

Go back to the time you met your current partner and you fell deeply in love.


Do you remember how it was?


Beside all the physical activity that went on, your were also mentally super-charged with warmth.


Let me explain.


In the 50-ies there was a clever British professor (John Bowlby) that studied how attachment was formed between a mother and a new born child.


He later formulated what is called the theory of attachment.

Basically, it says that we human beings have a natural tendency to create strong emotional bonds to other human beings.

Like we do when we fall in love.


Signaling warmth

So what are we doing when we fall in love?

First of all, we can't stop thinking about the other person, right?

And we are also very, very interested in understanding what makes the object of my emotions tick.


What do they like?

What's their favorite food?

What are their hobbies?

And so on.


One way of looking at it, is that we are hungry for knowledge because with this knowledge we can demonstrate that we truly care for them.


We put their interests before our own.

I cooked my wife's favorite meal so many times in the beginning so now she can not stand it. But that's another story...


It's all about showing that you understand and care

Basically it comes down to this.

When we show the person in front of us that we understand and care we are signaling warmth.


There's one caveat though.

It has to be genuine.

If you fake it, you will be caught immediately.

I think you know how that feels. There's just something that's off with these peoples behavior.


I'm not telling you to fall in love with your customers.

Far from it.

What you want to do is to create a professional attachment.

It's not about you. It's about them.


The professional attachment

What you need to understand is that if you go into a customer meeting with the objective to fulfill your own goals, your are NOT signaling warmth.


If you do that, you are showing your customers that YOU are more important than them.

And it should'nt be about you. It should be about them.


In contrast to when we form attachments in our personal lives, when we meet customers we focus on the work stuff.


For example, your knowledge and insights about a customer tells you what it's like to sit behind the that desk.

The strain they are feeling.

The difficult decisions they have to make.

What keeps them up at night.


To find stuff like that out you have to be curious.

You have to be inquisitive.

You have to invest time and mental energy.


But ones you have it, you can use your customer insights when discussing things that matters to them.


This means leaving your own agenda in the backseat for a while.


An example

You can say something like this: I have understood that you are currently prioritizing the digital transformation of your marketing department. And considering how complex that might be, it can't be easy to also manage the current business.


If what you are selling is connected to something related to the transformation of an organization, it's a perfect topic where you can let your competence shine.

If not, it doesn't matter.


What counts is the trust you are building.

Once trust is established, you will have more than one go talking about your product or service.


Even more likely is that they will ask you in return for your interest in them.

That's how attachment works.

It's reciprocal.


And this is how you effectively build trust.

It's not hard.

And i'ts not easy.

How good you get at it depends on how much you invest.


To Summarize:

  • To build trust we need to signal competence and warmth
  • Competence consists of three things:
    • What you know
    • How you get things done
    • How to get things done
  • We signal warmth by:
    • Putting our own objectives in the back seat
    • Genuinely showing that we care and that we understand what it's like to sit behind our customers desk.


Now it's up to you.

Remember, we learn most effectively by doing.

So don't put this on hold.

Start immediately.


Good luck and let me know how things work out for you.


Mats Fogelqvist

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