06/09/2015 02:42 pm ET Updated Jun 09, 2016

A Matter of Trust

When given a choice, no one will buy anything of importance from you unless they trust you.

The qualifiers in that statement are critical: I once purchased an auto repair from someone I didn't trust because I was stranded on a highway far from home. Likewise, I have made minor purchases that did not rise to the level of importance that my trust was actively required.

If your business is built on one-time sales where people have no choice or you are selling something that is not important, you may be able to disregard trust. But if your success is based on a strong reputation, trust is essential.

Building Trust One Person At A Time

My ongoing loyalty to Sewell Automotive Companies is rooted in trust. I don't just buy my cars from them. Short of an emergency where there is no choice, they are the only people who work on my cars for any reason at any time. I trust them--and your customers trust you--because of these five factors:
  • Character: Every discussion of trust begins here. Character defines your approach for treating yourself and others. It demonstrates basic principles such as honesty, trustworthiness, and duty. I never doubt that the Sewell team is acting with complete integrity. That's why there is no question about their motives when they tell me my car needs a specific service.
  • Competence: A reputation for honesty is useless if it is matched with incompetence. The Sewell service team was so good at their job that they recognized an abnormal wear pattern on a tire with less than1000 miles of use.How good are you at your job? How much do you know about your product? Can you answer my questions with confidence and authority?
  • Communication: Communication that builds trust is about listening. Outstanding presentation skills and the "pitch" are important. But, the ability to understand others creates a bond that encourages interdependence and enhances commitment. We tend to trust those who appreciate our goals, struggles, joys and situation.
  • Consistency: The sales professional who sold me my first Sewell auto impressed with his competence and communication. My first service encounter was a case study in character and competence. Purchases two through eleven and all subsequent service are the result of consistency. Confidence in your consistency frees customers from worry.
  • Courage: Are you willing to do what's right when it is not convenient? Barry Pryor was as he assured me that Sewell would make a mistake right. There was no "let us look into this" statement to buy time and deflect responsibility. There was only a commitment to do what was needed to make it right regardless of the cost.

A Special Message to Leaders

Successful brands are built on trust in products, services, and relationships. That doesn't happen unless leaders apply the same five trust factors to relationships with their team. Linda, the Sewell associate from whom I purchased many vehicles, told me: "I owe this company a lot. They stood behind me during my mother's illness. I have a huge sense of loyalty and desire to help them succeed."

Does your team say that about your company?

Do This Now

  • Be very clear about the values for which you stand. What are the principles that are so important that you would never compromise them ... even if it meant losing the sale?
  • Be consistent with your messages. Communication is everything and everything communicates when building trust. Great presentations are nice. A reputation for listening and caring is the stuff of legends.
  • Get better at your job. Customers always have a choice. You have to be better tomorrow than you are today. Learn more, grow more, and invest more in education.
  • Never sacrifice trust for short-term gain. There is no "long-term" without delivering results right now. But, companies like Sewell are delivering results today because they are obsessed with earning every customer's long-term trust.

Your customers are smarter and more vocal than ever. They will find out and let others know if they can or can't trust you. Most important, they will reward your trustworthiness with their loyalty.

Randy Pennington is an award-winning author, speaker, and leading authority on helping organizations deliver positive results in a world of accelerating change. His keynote seminars and workshops are informative, engaging, and memorable. To learn more or to hire Randy for your next meeting, visit, email, or call 972-980-9857.