According to Harvard Business School professor Amy Cuddy, “Trust is the conduit for influence…Having the best idea is worth nothing if people don’t trust you.” Trust is central to developing and maintaining relationships, but trust can be difficult to establish because it involves someone taking a risk on you and vice versa.

As a salesperson, earning the trust of your customers is crucial. Unfortunately, research conducted by best-selling author Daniel Pink reveals that people still tend to be suspicious of salespeople, describing sales with adjectives such as dishonest, sleazy, and yuck.

So how can you overcome these negative perceptions and genuinely establish trust?trust-fall

Start off being genuinely helpful

Research presented in the Harvard Business Review found that being helpful first fostered feelings of gratitude in others. The norm of reciprocity makes the people you’ve helped want to continue the relationship and be loyal to you in return. Whether you share useful information through a link to an article or connect two people by making an introduction, starting a relationship with a genuine desire to help gives someone a reason to like and trust you.

Highlight similarity

The same HBR article also found that we tend to use a simple mental shortcut when it comes to deciding who to trust: whether someone is similar to us. Finding something in common with someone does more than give you material for small talk, it increases the chance that he or she will perceive you as someone worth building a relationship with.

Listen effectively

Surveys indicate that one of the biggest mistakes salespeople make is not listening to their customers’ needs. Focusing on your customer’s point of view requires you to genuinely listen. As Keith Rosen argues in his article on effective listening, listening is a learned skill that requires effort, patience, and practice. His 8 tips on how to listen properly includes listening for information, which “prevents you from wrongly prejudging or misinterpreting the message that the client is communicating to you.

Be honest

Honesty requires keeping the promises you make to your customers. But when that’s not possible, taking responsibility and admitting when you made a mistake doesn’t make you look bad, in fact, it has the opposite effect. No one wants to hear excuses when you screw up, what they want to know is what you’re going to do about it.

Trust yourself first

It doesn’t matter how hard you work to establish trust with others, you need to trust in your abilities and believe in what you’re selling first.

Agree? Disagree? Anything important I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments or tweet @ideal.

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Ji-A Min

Ji-A Min

Head Data Scientist at Ideal
Ji-A Min is the Head Data Scientist at Ideal. With a Master’s in Industrial-Organizational Psychology, Ji-A promotes best practices and data-based HR. She writes about trends and research in talent acquisition, people analytics, and workplace diversity.
Ji-A Min