Tuesday, August 7, 2012

How to build trust

Trust is the foundation that allows any team to work together.  Without trust, there won't be any team work. Everyone will be acting to maximize their own interest, and shared goal will take the back seat to each team member's individual interest.

Back when I was at college, I used to commute to classes.  One day as I was walking toward my car in the parking lot, a woman approached me.  She greeted me and told me that she ran out of gas.  She asked whether I could lend her some money.  She looked like a student.  I seemed to remember that she had her backpack and even asking me to share my number so that she could repay me.  I trusted her, and gave her $10 without asking any question.  She never called back.

For some reason I ended up trusting her.  She seemed genuine and believable.  But if someone else approaches me the same way in the parking lot, I will remember this and hesitate to trust someone asking for gas money.

How can we build someone's trust?
Chinese character for trust is made by combining
person and word character.  It's our words
that inspire or lose trust.

When we trust someone, it means that we are willing to depend on her.  Her word becomes a currency.  Given her word, we can hang on to it and believe that it will in fact happen.

Here's how you can build trust seen from my woman in parking lot experience.

1. Decide whose trust you need the most.

The woman who approached me on the parking lot obviously wanted to win my trust.  She wanted to come across as trust worthy.  She asked for my phone number with promise of repay.  If I did not look like someone with cash, she would not have approached me.

First determine whose trust you value the most.  You cannot win everyone's trust.  So-and-so will always be enemy of such-and-such.  Thankfully, you don't need to have everyone's trust to be successful in your life.  Decide early on whose trust you need the most, and focus on those key customers to build the best trust relationship with them.  And yes, it does mean that some people won't make the list.

2. Demonstrate understanding.

One of the reasons why I trusted her was the fact that she was carrying her backpack.  She looked to be a student.  In hindsight, it's not clear whether she was in fact a student.  But what mattered was the fact that I could relate to her.

It is important to show that you are on the same side with your customer.  Go extra mile to point out the fact that your interest coincides with key customers' interest.  Share stories of how you can relate to their problems.  Demonstrate that solving their problem solves your problem.

3. When answer is no, say no.  Think of something else to say yes to.

It's impossible to say yes to all requests from all your key customers even if you keep them small in number.  There are times when you have to say no.  When you cannot deliver on something, say no.  Explain why you cannot deliver.  But always suggest something else that you can do.  Perhaps something smaller, something more immediate that can help ease key customers' pain.  And do that immediately.

There is no worse thing that you can do than promising something that you cannot deliver.  Ultimately the woman in the parking lot set a wrong precedence in my experience forever.  Now I will less likely to trust anyone that I come across in the parking lot asking to borrow some gas money.  If you cannot deliver, don't promise.

4. When you said yes, beat the expectation.

When you do say yes to something, get it done sooner.  There is no better confidence builder than beating the expectation.  We see that all the time from Wall Street.  Whenever analyst expectation is handsomely beat by earnings, everyone jumps on to boost the stock price.  If you said you will do it, do it early and do it well.

5. Don't get discouraged by preconception.  You have them too.  Keep at it.

Finally realize that there will always be preconception.  Sometimes preconception works for you from earlier positive experience.  Sometimes it works against you.  But remember you don't control these preconception.  Don't get discouraged by them.  Recognize that they are there, and continue building the trust.  Soon you'll find that you can be the exceptions to those negative preconceptions from your key customers.

Any tips you would like to share in building trust relationship?

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