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How to Uncover Your Customer & Prospects Trust Criteria
Blog / For Sales Pros / Feb 17, 2017 / Posted by Jermaine Edwards / 9186

How to Uncover Your Customer & Prospects Trust Criteria


It was 18 months ago when I stepped into a large cold conference room with seven executives and a good friend of mine named James who was in a tough negotiation. Imagine a long dark wooden table stretched from one end of the room to the other. Us on one end and seven executives on the other. Not the best way to start a meeting.

Surprisingly the first part of the meeting went well. They were in impressed with what he could do. The solution we demonstrated showed the immediate results for them but there was still a hesitation. It wasn’t that my friend could deliver, it wasn’t the price or the package. It was him.

Prior to this meeting I didn’t appreciate the level of interaction and engagement he and his company had before I arrived that Tuesday morning. We immediately knew this was a trust issue and he had failed to build enough of it. Respectfully, he honed up and we started the process together to reengage and look for specific ‘trust criteria’* for moving forward.

The situation with James only affirmed my observations that we all have what I’ve called Trust Criteria™ – this is the consistent evidence another needs to see, hear and feel to know you are safe and trustworthy.

We can mistake good will and sales opportunity for strong enough trust to win over a customer or prospect. That is a dangerous position to begin.

Someone’s confidence in you is a measure of the evidence of what you can do (your ability, competence, skill and aptitude). Trust is something much deeper and in many ways more powerful. Trust is about who you are to others (your authenticity, consistency, reliability and honesty).

• Confidence that you can
• Trust that you will and are someone who does (X)

You need both in business to really see accelerated results in your relationships.

The challenge of trust

The challenge with trust is that the behaviours of trustworthy people are accepted by most such as honesty, integrity and accountability. These behaviours alone do not help us get past the walls of past experience and the unknown evidence and expectations our customers look for to feel safe. Safe enough to make consistent commitments of what we’re asking of them.

Most people believe themselves to be of great character but yet fail to win over their customers, friends and prospects. We experience those moments where a customer doesn’t want to go ahead, a prospect makes an excuse and so on. These are indicators that fear has not been addressed.

Unless you know what fears, past experiences and expectations you need to address with your customers and prospects you’ll be working on your own assumptions. No trust can be created or deepened.

“How someone experiences you today will reflect who you’ll become to them tomorrow.”

What do we do?

If you really pay attention to the relationships you’ve built that are close and the ones that aren’t. You’ll probably find that the difference in the relationship is because you haven’t identified their Trust Criteria™.

For some it may be a demonstration of conviction, for others in may be results first, others its status with others of the same seniority (reputation). For many it may even be subconscious. This is why my study of trust criteria is proving to be fascinating which I’ll be releasing soon.

Here are three immediate actions you can take to uncover your customers’ Trust Criteria™”

Number 1 – Focus on questions before understanding the answers

One of the most powerful approaches to uncovering a customer or prospects trust criteria begins with understanding their values

Example: “What experiences have you had with other suppliers that have caused you not to trust they could do the job for you?”

Number 2 – Make actions incremental and collaborative

The feeling of having control is a deep need inside of all of us. Maslow calls this certainty and that’s what your clients and prospects want to experience. You can give collaborative control to your customers and prospects. This allows them to have a sense of control that elevates their confidence and reduces the feeling of risk.

Example: look at the actions you typically ask from your customers and prospects. Ask them what specific actions would be reasonable at this point in time to move forward. Observe what they say and you’ll notice the level of risk they’re willing to take. If in those moments you take control of those areas that have high risk. This will demonstrate you have their best interests, you want to see them win and they will feel safer.

Number 3 – Get clarity of expectation

There is really no point in pushing forward with a customer relationship without having very clear expectations of work. We can often believe that because a customer has bought from us that we’re important to them. As much as I want this to be true it just isn’t most of the time. They have other challenges, priorities and suppliers they’re managing. You’re not the centre of their world.

This is a very freeing thing to know because it gives us a clearer perspective of their world, needs and how to approach them best. If we’re not clear on the expectations of how they want to work with you. You’ll look like you’re trying too hard, you’ll move the relationship forward at a pace that is not helpful for what they need and you’ll focus on the wrong things.

Example: Get to know what the expectations they have of your relationship is. What do they need from you right now at this stage in your relationship? In the beginning they may need you to do more of the heavy lifting to get things started. At another time they may need you to help them influence and look great in their business. You won’t know about the appropriate journey if you don’t understand expectations upfront.

What next?

“Every time you’re in front of your customer, you’re in the greatest competitive position to increase your value and deepen trust.”

You should never stop working on your ability to produce results and build confidence but here’s the truth. There is no easy route to trust, but the clearer you are about the result you want from your relationships and what that is for your client, spouse or other the more intentional you can be.

About Author

Jermaine is an Inc magazine featured Author and most interviewed customer growth and B2B relationship expert. He help Key Account Managers, sales leaders, account directors and consultants around the world become irreplaceable advisers and repeatable profit sales growth from their value customers.

Author's Publications on Amazon

Based on the study more than 200 customers and 150 successful key account managers, sales professionals, and customers. You can be confident that this book will be practical and real-world in its examples.
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Comments (2)

I completely agree with your “Trust Criteria”… as long as Sales People know… whenever they don’t close a sale, it’s still very likely they did a poor sales job. I don’t know about you, but I’ve met my fair share of “Trusted Bad Sales People” … I guess that will happen more as I get older.

So having a Bad “Trust Crireria” moments with your clients is worst than having a “Bad Hair Day” with them… it’s very important Sales people learn to be more self-aware… and not just assume they need to work on their “Trust Criteria” every time they don’t make a sale.

Agree completely Frankie. Appreciate your comments. It’s very clear but unfortunate in sales where many sales reps do not spend enough time to really understand their customers. It’s the discipline of patience observations of your customers that lead to more meaningful and profitable conversations later. Wishing you success.

Jermaine Edwards

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