By R. Christopher Haines, President and CEO
Trust is very simple but, at the same time, very complex. It’s said trust takes a lifetime to build and a moment to destroy. While this is true, sometimes we don’t have a lifetime to try to build trust. Many times it’s a leap of faith to trust someone. Some of you trust everyone until they prove you wrong. Others of you never trust anyone until they give you a reason to trust them or you make them earn it. Whichever of these approaches you employ, it’s probably based on your experiences with trust.
As a services company, all we have to sell is trust. Sure we have knowledge, experience, and all those kinds of things. But without trust, none of those assets ever gets a seat at the table. And selling a service isn’t always easy. In my opinion, it’s much easier to sell a really good “thing”. If you have a product that’s really cool or a software system you can demo, that makes people who see it say, “Oh, I want that,” and half your job is already done. But if you’re trying to convince people to buy an intangible, you have your work cut out for you.
When you go into business as a services company and you’ve had no previous clients, one of the only approaches is to find a customer willing to take the leap of faith to hire you. Many times this is without really even knowing if you can deliver on what you’re selling. They allow you the opportunity to earn their trust with basically no way of making a down payment. If you deliver for them and they are happy, then you can use them and their experience to sell more. You can use their reference or experience as the down payment with future customers.
No matter how big you get or how successful you are, there will never be a time when it’s not intimidating to sit across the table from a skeptical prospect. In reality, I can’t blame those prospects for their skepticism. For many of them, their jobs depend on not making bad decisions or hiring the wrong partners. For every one vendor whose image is built on trust, there’s at least one other vendor whose image is built on stretching the truth. Not always flat out lies but bending the truth to see how far it can take them.
If you’re lucky enough to gain someone’s trust, never forget the preciousness of that trust. Once it’s broken, the ripple effect will go far past just them.