There is a trust and transparency conundrum. There is no transparency without trust. There is no trust without transparency. How do you start?
Depending on the other person, you could be lucky and they’re the type who decides to trust others until they see evidence to the contrary. In this case, the person might create some transparency about their situation and you could use that to demonstrate genuine listening, and start creating relevant transparency about your situation and experiences. When you start, however, you don’t know if someone’s naturally inclined to trust others or not.
If the other person is skeptical when it comes to trusting others, they might not be inclined to create transparency before knowing that they can trust you.
Oftentimes, a good way to start is for you to create transparency first. In consulting and services sales, where there is much flexibility in terms of the service provider’s capabilities, the trick is to create some transparency so that the other side feels a sense of trust and safety in providing their own transparency. The risk you run is that the transparency you create might lead the target to qualify you out. If you start talking about services A, B, and C, and the other person says none of those apply to them because they’re dealing in domains X, Y, and Z, then you’re left with a few choices on how to engage the other person.
- The first choice - have a good segue to explain how A, B, C and X, Y, Z are not that different; in fact, in your experience, organizations who are using X, Y, Z found A, B, C to be quite relevant as well. Depending on how smooth this is, you might have saved yourself from being qualified out of engaging the target in the sales conversation. If you cannot think of the smooth and credible segue from A, B, C to X, Y, Z, you must look to your second choice.
- The second choice - ask the target about their journey in X, Y, and Z. This gives you the opportunity to increase your likability. People love being listened to, especially when the listener demonstrates that by asking challenging yet safe questions.
- The final choice - engage with the target in areas that are clearly not related to one’s service offerings or business. Say you are selling embedded engineering services (for IoT, smart whatever, ML, etc). Based on the context that might exist, however, it might be natural to inquire about the target’s interest in golf or tennis or space travel. These non-biz conversations can provide opportunity for either side to create transparency and trust, as well as getting to know the person’s intellectual abilities, athletic abilities, musical or artistic abilities, and more. These can be leveraged later in the conversation as you steer conversation into business areas, because many (if not all) of the fundamental elements of competence and success in non-business areas overlap with those in business life as well.
Given that transparency is the currency that creates trust in most cases, it’s worthwhile to think as to how you could accelerate transparency creation. One way that we’ve looked at it is by engaging the target in a conversation that is a function of time. Assuming the conversation is progressing productively in creating transparency, over time, more and more transparency (and thus trust) should be created. Besides direct conversation, there are other clues that help create trust as well: follow up, follow through, creativity, resourcefulness, etc. Generally, all of these are a function of time. In other words, one basic ingredient you need to create trust with someone is allowing for the passage of time in your interactions.
There is another way to increase trust and transparency faster. That is what I call via space (as opposed to via time). As an example, you can introduce more people from your team to the target. This builds trust faster. You can do the same with introducing your existing and past customers to the target. When you do this, the person will subconsciously learn to trust you at a faster rate than if you weren’t bringing the other people in.
The next time you’re pursuing a new client or target, consider how transparent you’re willing to be, and be ready to engage in different kinds of conversations. Trust takes time, but with the right approach, it will be built before you know it.
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