A Matter of Trust

In which we're reminded: It isn't so much about 'what you say.'  It's about 'who you're being.' In clinics and sales training sessions, I am often asked, "What can we say to our clients so they'll trust us?" the askers thinking that I might give them verbal pixie dust - quick turns of phrase or "pick up lines" - that would enable them to quickly inspire prospect trust, carve more notches in their sales canes, and move on.

In our experience, words can inspire trust…and one of the key factors is who you are being rather than what you are saying.

Last Tuesday night. LA Airport. Rental car return lot. I cruised in, time to spare. Grabbed my gear. Headed to the shuttle bus. Eased into Terminal 6. Cruised up to the check-in counter. Reached for my… … for… my…. .. for … my….. wallet….. that I’d LEFT IN THE RENTAL CAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!. Immediate cold sweat. Nausea. Short breath.

Wheeling around, I jogged through the terminal, out the door, looking for the rental car bus. None in sight. I telephoned the rental car company. No answers. Voice mail No good. Tried again. Nothing. More cold sweat. Got to find wallet. Can’t get home. Need wallet.

Rental shuttle arrived. Door opened. Breathless, up, steps two at a time. Right turn. Found driver. Blurted, “Hi, I need your help. I’ve left my wallet in my car and I need to call someone and tell them and ask them to look for my wallet. Can you call someone at the lot, please?”

The driver fixed her eyes on mine, the smile disappearing from her face, and she said, “I will take you to the lot. I will help you find your car. I will help you find your wallet. Sit down, right there. I am taking you now.”

I sat. “Isn’t there anyone we can call,” I asked? “Some one at the lot?”

“No. I am taking you to the lot now. We’ll be there soon. I will help you. How long ago did you drop it off? Do you have you rental contract? What kind of car was it? What color was it?” I answered.

Twice more during the few minutes ride to her lot, she said, “I’m taking you there right now. We’ll be there soon. It was a silver Sonata. I’ll help you.” I relaxed several notches, dropping from “gasping panic” to “attentively concerned.”

And, do you know, she dropped me off near the return lot, dropped off the rest of the passengers at the main terminal, and came chugging out into the car return lot, recruiting three associates as she came, until there were four people looking for my wallet. Two minutes later, they found it.

So, what does this have to do with getting our clients to trust us?

I trusted her in the bus because…

(1) I could see in her face and hear in her voice tones and words that she understood the panic I was feeling and that she took me seriously,

(2) she gave me a specific action plan I could understand even though I was a little uncomfortable with it and

(3) she reassured me several times that she had a plan and that it would work. In short, I felt saved….

As I’ve watched salespeople and consultants over the years, the ones I really respect, I’ve watched them take a similar approach with clients and prospects. They have developed the ability to listen… and internalize….and reflect back to their clients and prospects the emotional signals they’re receiving, articulate a plan, and reassure clients that it will work, by talking them through the steps and giving examples.

Another driver, with less empathy or emotional sensitivity, could have said the same words my driver said, and I would have felt patronized or ignored.

So, no snappy verbal pixie dust turns of phrase, although good phrasing can be important. It’s less about “what you say” and more about who you are with someone that gains their trust and enables you to begin a working relationship.

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