Five Ways to Build Customer Trust

Increasing the trust your customers have in you, your company, products, and industry is one of the most cost-effective ways to sell more

When your customers trust you, you can charge higher prices than your competitors do, offer a different feature set than your customers are looking for, and require a longer wait for delivery—and customers will still buy from you. Customer trust is that powerful.

When salespeople lament that they didn't win the big sale they thought they deserved, the reason is often because the customer had more trust in another vendor. This is actually good news for everyone who is not the low-price purveyor or who doesn't represent products with the latest bells and whistles. It means that sometimes the salesperson who wouldn't get the sale based on measurable criteria like speed and cost actually wins the order based on an intangible — like trust.

Don't get mad—get smart. Here are five suggestions on how you can earn more trust. Don't forget, it's far more powerful to demonstrate reasons to be trusted than to just talk about it.

1. Build trust in your company. If your company has any type of certificates that attest to the trustworthiness of how you do business, make sure all sales reps carry color copies. If customers or vendors come to your office, post copies in the reception area of your business. These certificates are "silent sellers."

For example, I recently had a salesman from a heating and air conditioning service call on me. During his presentation, he showed me his company's city business license, HVAC license, and Better Business Bureau certificate. Each document was in a plastic page, which increased its value to me. That selling step increased my trust in his company.

2. Build trust in your products and services. Testimonial letters are a great way to build customer trust in what you sell, especially those letters that describe how life or business changed for the better after a customer bought from you. Make color copies, put them in plastic page protectors, and, again, have all the sales reps carry them and frame them for your office walls, too.

Hiring outside companies to measure your results is also a great way to increase trust. When I see an Underwriter's Laboratory tag hanging on any electrical device, I trust its safety more. When I see statistics with a footnote that the results have been approved by a certified accounting agency, I trust the facts more. Think of simple ways you can help your customers trust your offerings more completely and quickly.

3. Build trust in you. Earning a customer's trust in you as a person starts with the basics. Are you on time? If you say you'll be there at 9 in the morning and you show up at 9:10, how do you expect your customer to believe you when you say your copier makes 25 copies per minute or your products are within 0.001 mm of the specifications?

You may not think being on time and the quality of your offerings are related, but when a customer is just getting to know you, they don't have a lot of history to evaluate, so every bit counts.

I hope I don't have to say it, but be über-ethical in all your business dealings. Many years ago, I owned a company that sold safety products. One of my customers ordered and paid for a product, but when I delivered it a week later, it had gone on sale and I didn't refund the difference. Several years later, a friend of hers told me about my lapse in judgment. I bet in that intervening time my customer told more of her friends about what I did and, as a result, they all had less trust in me. Ouch.

Learn from my lesson and be scrupulous in how you deal with your customers, especially with regards to pricing and money. Also note how my customer didn't confront me for her refund; rather, she told her friends about the situation. Your customers may not confront you when you do the wrong thing, either.

4. Build trust in your marketing. Don't stretch the truth in any of your sales or marketing materials. Customers have their radar on for "sins of omission and commission," so stick to the truth. This applies to all your marketing— materials, sales presentations, press releases, advertising, business cards, and Web sites.

5. Build trust in your industry. Sometimes, entire industries have a bad reputation. Even if you run a trustworthy operation in such an industry, you have a selling challenge persuading your customers to trust your industry as well as your particular operation.

Be on the lookout for articles in respected media that show the good side or the progress in your industry. When you find them, make copies available to your customers so they can judge for themselves based on current information.

There are many ways you can increase your sales. Increasing the trust your customers have in you, your company, your products, your marketing, and even your industry is one of the most cost-effective ways to sell more and close faster at better profit margins. Happy selling!