Trust is a crucial aspect of business and relationships. Developing trust over the duration of a customer relationship takes attention and focus. Creating a good first impression can go a long way in establishing trust in business relationships. The initial encounter sets the tone for future interactions and can significantly impact how others perceive you or your company. 

I’ve shared how the concept of trust was uniquely presented to me as I went through airport security on an international trip. After responding to the standard questions, the security agent asked a final question, “Should I trust you?” I answered in the affirmative, of course, but the unconventional question got me thinking!  

Reflecting on the experience – which was used to gauge my response under pressure and assess my overall demeanor – I gained real insight into how trust is perceived and established. In business and personal relationships, trust develops through a combination of communication, consistency and demonstrated reliability. Verbal and non-verbal cues also play a significant role in establishing trust.  

When meeting with a prospect for the first time, how do you establish trust? This is not the same type of trust you have with a family member or friend. It’s the trust that allows someone to have a candid conversation about their business issues. 

Plenty is written about what not to do, such as being pushy, talking too much or just falling into stereotypical selling behavior. But in that critical window of time (which can be as short as a minute) how do you make a connection that allows the prospect to feel comfortable sharing information with you? How do you show that you genuinely care about understanding their business situation? 

Here are three actionable steps to help establish trust during your initial interactions.  

  1. Be prepared with questions about the prospect’s organization and needs, not statements or brochures about your product, service or organization. 
  1. Allow the prospect to set the pace of the meeting. Help the prospect discover their needs by listening to what they say. A few well-constructed questions will help the prospect come to their own conclusion. And only offer suggestions for items to review after they have expressed their priorities. 
  1. Be sincere. Being sincere means doing what you say you are going to do. The first way to establish sincerity is a prompt, written follow-up after that initial meeting that captures the important components for the prospect and their organization. 

You can shape the trajectory of a long-term customer relationship by establishing trust early on. While some think trust takes years to cultivate and develop, the agent at the airport thought it could take one second, a reaction to a question. One thing is certain; establishing trust is a central component of all healthy relationships. Successfully lay the foundation and watch a lasting and fruitful customer relationship unfold.   



We live in a cynical world. Americans trust government and politicians less and less, but it’s not just Washington D.C. that has shaken our confidence. American trust in the media has declined, and even our trust in each other. A study done in 2013 found that almost two-thirds of Americans trusted each other, and we can safely assume our trust levels have declined since then given the political climate of recent years.

The reasons behind that decreasing level of trust in institutions and each other are complicated and sometimes unclear. But the result is the same: People trust less and that makes your job harder, because you need trust to sell.

Sales Requires Trust

Although you didn’t do anything to make the prospect not trust you, it’s still your job to earn that trust. Yes, it seems unfair, but consider this: If you take the time to earn that prospect’s trust and your competitor doesn’t, who will get the sale when that prospect is ready to buy? The person they trust. So be that person.

It’s easier than it sounds because trust is not to be taken lightly. In order for someone to trust you, they must take a risk. And once trust is violated, it’s that much harder to re-establish the trust you’ve lost. You no doubt recognize this to be true in your personal relationships where trust is vital, but it is true in your professional relationships too—especially when you’re in sales.

7 Ways to Earn Trust in a Cynical World

So what are you to do when you’re the victim of a societal drop in trust that’s affecting your ability to sell? Takes steps to be a trustworthy person in the eyes of your prospects. Below are seven ways you can easily do so:

  1. Be genuine. Our days are full of fakes, from the staged images on Instagram to the phony posts on Facebook. Although we’re immersed in social media which in theory means we’re connected to all kinds of people, most of what we see is misleading because people are rarely authentic in such a public arena. The last thing your prospect wants to deal with is yet another poser. So be yourself. Authenticity can’t be faked.
  2. Be a person of integrity. Follow the rules. Be polite to strangers. Say please and thank you. Respect your prospect’s time. Don’t bad mouth other people or companies. Be someone above reproach.
  3. Keep your word and do what you say you’ll do…even if it’s a little thing. If you schedule a phone call for 10:00 a.m., don’t call in at 10:03. If you say you’ll email a document by the end of the day, get it sent, even if you have to stay late to keep your promise.
  4. Ask questions. Ask what you can do for the other person. Ask about their jobs and what they struggle with and wish they could do better or differently. Show a genuine interest in the other person as a person, not a potential sale.
  5. Keep people informed. Let’s say they have placed an order and there is some kind of delay. Let them know about the delay, even if you think it won’t really matter in the long run or the delay seems like a minor issue. It will mean a lot to the customer that you kept them in the loop.
  6. Be kind. This world is sadly short on kindness these days. Be kind even if you get nothing in return for it.
  7. Trust first. Trust requires risk and vulnerability. If you trust first and open yourself up in that way, it will be easier for your prospect to trust you in return.

None of these is an overnight solution to your (and our) trust problem. Rather these are seven “ways of being,” if you will, that you must make daily habits so you’re seen as a trustworthy salesperson all the time, not just when it matters most because money is at stake.

But it’s worth the time and effort, because people buy from people they trust. So be that person…and help to make the world a better, less cynical, place at the same time.

Your Sales Attitude: Aggressive or Inquisitive? 

Trust is the foundation for success in sales. And the more complex the sale, the higher the dollar value of the sale, the more important trust is. Unfortunately, the general perception of salespeople causes buyers to be wary. As a result, the trust factor is very low initially—if any trust exists at all. Therefore the seller starts out at a distinct disadvantage and faces an uphill battle to earn trust. He or she has to first dispel the idea that their primary goal is to ensnare the buyer.  

To compound the problem, many salespeople show up with a misguided attitude. They come across as saying, “I’ve got the best solution available, and my job is to convince my prospects that I’m right. To do this, I will offer a precise, logical argument supported by as much data as necessary to prove my point. I will become skillful at overcoming their objections and if they don’t buy, I will be persistent and follow up relentlessly until I win their business.”  

This is the “try harder” approach: If you don’t get the sale, just try harder. These aggressive salespeople win points for effort, but not for effectiveness. This attitude just doesn’t fly. And certainly doesn’t build trust! 

An alternative approach: Ask questions

Contrast that attitude with an entirely different one, such as, “I firmly believe in my product or service. But I also realize not everyone is a prospect for what I sell. And I realize that the harder I try to sell, the less receptive my prospect will be. Therefore, my best strategy is an inquisitive approach, to ask questions and encourage the prospect to tell me about his/her situation without fear that I might take advantage of them. Coming to a point of understanding without the pressure of trying to sell will meet both the prospect’s needs and my company’s needs most effectively.”  

Put yourself in the prospect’s shoes. Which salesperson would you prefer to deal with, the aggressive one or the inquisitive one? Which person would you trust the most? Which attitude takes the pressure off? Most people would prefer—and be more likely to trust—the inquisitive salesperson. 

What kind of attitude are your salespeople taking? How’s that working for you?