No Trust, No Deal

Before selling is a transfer of goods or services in exchange for money selling must first be a transfer of trust. Seems to make sense, but many salespeople assume because they deem themselves as trustworthy, their customers will trust them too. Or worse they confuse being liked with being trusted. I’ve worked with plenty of salespeople that could secure a meeting because they were liked, but then struggled closing a deal because they weren’t trusted. Don’t misunderstand, these salespeople weren’t bad, or even necessarily untrustworthy; however, the buyer’s perception (they only thing that matters) was the seller was less than trustworthy for some reason or another.

For perspective let’s start with my favorite description of trust. In his book, The Thin Book of Trust, Charles Feltman describes trust as, “Choosing to risk making something you value vulnerable to another person’s actions.” He goes on to describe distrust as, “What is important to me is not safe with this person in this situation (or any situation).” In that light trust is revealed to be far more subtle and nuanced. Building trust, like building rapport, is typically done, not with one or two significant actions or gestures, but is built over time though dozens of smaller acts and gestures. The opposite is true in losing trust, in that trust can be eroded or destroy with just one action, or inaction.

Transferring trust between a seller and a buyer requires the seller to do all of the work. You, as the seller, must continuously demonstrate your trustworthiness in three ways; Competence, Candor, and Concern. Let’s take a look at each of the three.


It is essential to demonstrate your competence not just in your product or service (that’s their minimum expectation—you know your stuff!), but through your knowledge of them and their industry, their issues, their concerns. Additionally, you demonstrate your competence, or lack thereof, by how you show up, when you show up, your attention to detail throughout the relationship, your follow through, the questions you ask, and countless other ways. In sales everything matters! Think about it—five minutes late to a meeting, trust diminished. Small typo in your email, trust diminished. Not taking notes in a meeting, trust diminished. Missing a commitment by a day, trust diminished. Trust is built by meeting or exceeding expectations. Their expectations, not yours!


Candor is defined as; the state or quality of being frank, open, and sincere in speech or expression, freedom from bias; fairness; impartiality.

In other words, candor is about more than just telling the truth when asked. It can take courage to be candid in the sales cycle. For example, you may find what a customer says they want is not what they need, or what may be in their best interest. Demonstrating candor in a situation like that isn’t easy and saying “no” when necessary is another example of something that takes courage and candor. Walking away from a prospective customer because you aren’t the right solution for them, even though they think you are, takes courage and doing so demonstrates candor. Candor is the currency of trust that pays dividends over the long haul.


In sales, concern can most easily be demonstrated through empathy. Empathy means your ability to understand another person’s point of view and the emotions behind them. Your prospects, customers, and clients need to feel like you care. The fastest and often best way to demonstrate you care is by listening more than talking. The easiest way to listen is to ask well thought out, relevant questions about them, their business, their needs, pains fears, and desires – not by telling them about your awesome products or services.

You can never build trust in a single act, or by saying, “You should do business with me because I am competent, candid and concerned.” You have to show those qualities through your actions. One of my favorite quotes is by Ralph Waldo Emmerson. “Your actions speak so loud I cannot hear what you are saying.” So, what are your actions saying about you?