I find myself inspired today by a book, recommended by a colleague, called "The Speed of Trust" by Stephen M. R. Covey. You are probably familiar with Covey's father, who wrote The "7 Habits of Highly Effective People."
The "Speed of Trust" dissects what is truly at the heart of great leadership. Trusted leaders accomplish more at a faster rate and at a lower cost. In other words, as trust goes up, speed goes up and costs go down.
Covey shares an example of this premise in action. Warren Buffet acquired McLane Distribution from its parent company Wal-Mart for $23 billion in 2003. With Berkshire Hathaway and Wal-Mart both being public companies, this magnitude of acquisition would typically cost millions in fees from attorneys and accountants and take six months or more to complete. Due to high levels of trust between key players at the two companies, however, the terms of this deal were agreed upon in a two-hour meeting with a handshake, and the whole acquisition was completed in less than a month, saving millions.
How do leaders create trust? It begins with a foundation of both character and competence. I find myself drawing parallels between the role of trust in leadership and its role in sales.
You've no doubt run across salespeople with whom you feel connected and comfortable. Some call this charisma or an "X factor," but it's likely a combination of character and competence that eventually leads to trust.
Sales professionals finding price and features to be regular sales obstacles may not be developing sufficient trust with their prospects. When there is trust -- as long as your price and product/service offering are competitive -- you are likely to be highly considered for partnership.
Creating trust with a prospect begins with actively listening and demonstrating your genuine interest in what they have to say. Equally important is taking a consultative approach to every prospective partnership. This means you recognize that buying from your firm may not be in a prospect's best interest. You won't know this, of course, until you get to know your prospect, their vision and their needs. If your firm isn't the right fit, you won't hesitate to say so and help your prospect find the right partner, which demonstrates your character.
Lastly, you must demonstrate your competence. You need to know your industry, product/service offerings and competition inside and out, offering pertinent knowledge that is more meaningful than what your prospect could find out alone, either through an Internet search or during a conversation with your competition.
Naturally, there is much more to building trust, but focusing on your listening skills, consultative approach and advanced product/industry knowledge can create a strong foundation for a long-term trusted partnership.
Lori Turner-Wilson can be reached at www.redrovercompany.com.