I find myself inspired today by a book called “The Speed of Trust” by Stephen M. R. Covey. You’re 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, when 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 parent company Wal-Mart for 23 billion dollars in 2003. With Berkshire Hathaway and Wal-Mart both being public companies, this type of acquisition would typically cost millions in fees from attorneys and accountants and take six months minimum to complete. However, due to high levels of trust between key players at the two companies, the terms of the deal were agreed upon in a two-hour meeting with a handshake, and the whole deal was completed in less than a month savings millions in due-diligence costs.
So how do leaders create trust? It begins with a foundation of character and competence. It’s not enough to simply have high integrity. You must also be competent in your role as leader.
I find myself drawing parallels between the role of trust in leading a company and its role in sales.
You’ve no doubt run across salespeople with whom you feel instantly connected and comfortable engaging. Some call this charisma or an “x factor,” but in reality it’s likely a combination of character and competence that eventually leads to trust. Countless studies support that most buyers make purchase decisions first with their hearts – based on emotion – and then with their heads where they seek rationale justification for the decision they’ve all but made already.
Sales professionals who find price and features to be regular obstacles to sales are likely not developing trust with their prospects. When there is trust, as long as your price and product/service offering are competitive, you are likely to be a preferred partner.
Creating trust with a prospect begins with actively listening and demonstrating your genuine interest in what they have to say. If you fake it, they can tell. Equally important is taking a consultative approach to every prospective partnership. This means that you recognize that buying from your firm may not be what’s in the prospect’s best interest. You won’t know that until you get to know them, their vision and their needs. If your firm isn’t the right fit, you shouldn’t hesitate to tell the prospect so and help them find the right partner.