Sales follow trust

Increased profits and reduced competition are both by-products of operating your business in a transparent and trustworthy way. Hannah Samuel explains. notes companies using transparency to build consumer trust is one of the biggest trends for 2013. Yet many businesses fail to understand the importance of building and maintaining trust, and the positive impact this will have on their profits, staff retention and customer loyalty.
In his video Social Media Revolution 2013, Erik Qualman notes that 90 percent of consumers trust peer recommendations whereas just 14 percent trust advertisements. Yet the vast majority of businesses continue to direct the bulk of any budgets they may have for marketing or promotion into paid-for advertising. Few, if any, spend time or money on developing and executing a ‘Referrals and Recommendations’ budget. That’s not to say one should replace the other, advertising has its place. But in the new economy of Facebook ‘Likes’ and social media marketing, the power of personal recommendation cannot be ignored.
Qualman isn’t alone in pointing out how important trust is in influencing buyer behaviour and purchasing decisions.
Findings from a survey undertaken by Concerto Marketing Group found that when people trust a brand:

• 82 percent will use its products and services frequently.
• 78 percent will look to it first for the things they want.
• 78 percent will give its other products and services a chance.
• 50 percent will pay more for its products and services.

So why don’t more businesses focus on building high-value/high-trust relationships with their clients and customers? The benefits are huge. Organisations that are highly trusted have the opportunity to sell higher value products and services more cost-and time-effectively with less buyer resistance. They can re-sell, cross-sell and on-sell – not only to existing clients or customers, but to others who are recommended to them by existing happy clients.
Although building and maintaining trust may feel like an abstract concept it’s relatively ‘E’asy to do in practice. The key is to focus on four important areas:

Emotion – As a product or service provider, logic will make you a contender, but emotion seals the deal. All other things being largely equal, including product, price, place and promotion, buyers will choose to engage with, and buy from, people and organisations they like and trust – with trust being the more important of the two. Engage with your clients and customers in a way that’s emotionally positive for them and you’re more likely to win not only their personal patronage but the patronage of others they recommend you to.

Experience – For many consumers, almost 75 percent of a purchase decision is based on the experience they think they’ll have. The perception of a positive, enjoyable, hassle-free experience will tip the balance in your favour when being compared against other providers the buyer feels less sure about in terms of the customer experience. Of course perception and expectation is subjective, so make sure you’re truly in touch with your clients and able to deliver on your promises – perceived or explicit. If you do you’ll find yourself becoming ‘remark-able’ for all the right reasons and benefiting from free, independent word-of-mouth recommendations.

Esteem – As customers and human beings we all want to be respected. We want to be made to feel both valued and valuable. Treating people like a commodity will make it easy for them to treat you in the same way. Treating people graciously and respectfully, before, during and after an interaction helps build trust and encourages customers to not only use you again themselves, but also willingly put their reputation on the line and whole-heartily recommend you to others. In spending our hard-earned time and money we want to feel respected in the process.

Ethics – Engaging with providers that behave in a way that’s transparent, fair and ethical is increasingly important for many consumers. Perfection isn’t necessarily expected, but being transparent and honest is. When things go wrong, as they undoubtedly will on occasion, acting with integrity in putting things right will help demonstrate your client-focus and commitment to making amends genuinely. Plus, consumers are generally happier to pay a slightly higher price for ethical products and behaviour which can have a significant impact on profitability.
Other practical steps you can take to enhance the level of trust existing and potential customers have in you include:
• Avoid being too different; instead be distinctive. Being different can be risky; being positively distinctive is valuable.
• Avoid making wild claims and promises you may not be able to deliver on. Ensure all claims you make are appropriate and achievable.
• Encourage new users to try your product or service at minimal or no cost if possible so they can experience you directly and you can build trust.
• Whether using written or verbal communication, use words and phrases that will reassure your customer and reduce perceived risk.
• Identify, and tap into, any ‘grapevines’ that may impact you and keep up-to-date with trends and concerns amongst your customer base. Clarify with your customers what fears and doubts they have and work on reducing them.
• Demonstrate your awareness of the pressures customers face and pre-empt common questions to build confidence.
• Position yourself as a trusted advisor, provider and partner, based on past customer feedback and a proven track record of delivering on your promises.

Trust targets
Instead of focusing solely on meeting sales targets, develop and focus on meeting ‘Trust Targets’. If you do the sales will follow. If trust is something you’ve never thought about, the chances are you’ll find yourself increasingly stiff competition and you may not be around in three to five years time.
If, on the other hand, operating in a transparent and trustworthy way is fundamental to your business philosophy, expect to be busy for years to come. The truth is, the currency of trust has never been more valuable. Are you capitalising on the trust people have in you?

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