Do not wear this T-shirt in Public. Ever.

Why You Can’t Earn Your Customer’s Trust

Sometime ago, I asked a rather large client for a referral.

They gave to it me.

Upon thanking them, my main contact there — the one who I originally pitched to — said “Don’t mention it, I trust you guys would do a great job for them.”

Feeling strong, I puffed out my chest and said “Well thanks for that — I worked very hard to win your trust from the very first meeting.”

Then this happened:

After I wiped my face, I said to my customer/showerhead, “What was that all about?”

Pouring another glass of water, my customer said,

“We didn’t TRUST you PERSONALLY in the beginning. We took a risk and made the judgement call you knew what you were talking about. An educated risk mind you — based on your presentations and solution — but it was still a risk. We only started TRUSTING you AFTER we became a customer.
And honestly Derek, the only reason we still trust you because you and your company keep proving you’re worthy of our trust.”

I read a LOT about how sales reps are SUPPOSED to DRIVE to WIN TRUST in the beginning of the sales process. It’s ALL OVER THE INTERWEB!
The advice is pretty much the same:

  • Be consistent
  • Offer Social Proof
  • Have a real dialog
  • Be professional
  • Brush your teeth before bed. Whoops that’s not supposed to be there — or IS IT?

Yes, those are all decent and good things to do when you work in sales.

Or in healthcare.

Or in car detailing.

Or margarine manufacturing.

Newsflash — If you’re human and interact with other humans, you should do those things.

But if that’s all it is, why can we do all this and still not win a customer’s trust?

Or we can gain the trust and then LOSE IT after one false move.

One mistake.

One time we missed a flight and not I’m not allowed to drive to the airport anymore! Really, Janet, are we STILL talking about that? (I digress)

Why is trust so elusive and slippery?

Well, because it’s not ours to earn or win. Like grace, trust can only be given.

Yep — I know in this alpha dog, winner take all, Glengarry Leads world ofB2B sales, it’s all about #WINNING! About pushing forward, about being the best!

It’s all up to you and if you can’t win someone’s trust you can’t sell!

But I’ve been around 47 years and I’ve learned an inconvenient truth — everything I’ve ever WON in my life is measurable.

When I’m competing for something, I have the knowledge up front that I need to make a certain SCORE or POINT TOTAL or QUOTA to WIN.

But trust?

How much “stuff and things” do we need to do to WIN trust? How many points? What’s the number?

There ain’t one. It’s that simple.

Trust isn’t a coin that you either get or don’t. It’s not a number on a score board.

I think of trust as a bank account. You do “good things” it’s money in the bank.

You do bad things, it’s money taken out.

Have you ever heard this in a sales 1:1?

“I’ve done everything I can to get this guy/gal to trust me/us/our Value Prop, but he/she is still not convinced.”

Know what the warning sign is in that sentence? It’s our favorite word in Sales.


NEWSFLASH #2! In B2B sales, trust is a total cooperative project — between you, your entire team and, most importantly, the person you’ve looking to have trust in you.

Every human being has their own, unique barrier to trust — we all have a mental checklist someone must meet before we give them our trust. And those lists change as we change. Our past experiences form our future actions.

Ever deal with a customer who had been REALLY burned by a vendor? I mean we love hearing those stories while we prospect — about how poorly another vendor (our competition) did and how bad their product or service was.

We like winning those clients — right? Money in the bank. The actual bank, not the Trust Bank…stay with me here….

But how about working with them? My experience has told me that over a longer period of time, these customers were some of the HARDEST to please.

To make happy. To gain and keep their trust.

Here’s the thing — there is NOTHING you can do to EARN people’s trust.

There’s no magic formula. No elixir. No list or book or sales course that will teach you what it takes to win or earn people’s trust.

Take my example of trust being a bank account.

You have to understand someone, you have to understand his or her desires and wishes in order to make a deposit instead of a withdrawal to their [trust] bank account. — Mitja @thinksuccessproject

Each person is different and when you approach trust as something that is GIVEN not WON or EARNED, you will listen and learn what each person needs to make the decision to give you that trust.

In sales we love to talk to people with problems — problems our product or solution can fix. We love to talk to people seeking our help.

But without understanding them, it’s all for naught.

Someone can have a problem and actively seek out our help. But if we don’t understand them, understand their point of view, we can’t help them.

And they’ll never be enough in the bank for them to give us their trust.

And if you think this is just for sales and not every other part of your org or company — I’ve got news for you….every single point of customer interaction between your company and your customer is an opportunity to either make a deposit or withdrawal in that Trust Account.

My customer didn’t give me a referral because he liked the cut of my jib. He did it because everyone in my company, everyone he and his org dealt with — every point of interaction and Customer Experience, made more deposits than withdrawals in his Trust Bank Account and he felt comfortable giving me a referral.
I didn’t win it or earn it — it was freely given to me. Just like his trust.

Homework, if you choose to accept it: If you’re interested in getting customers to TRUST you, ask your manager or your leadership how much they’re investing in customer success, customer support and customer experience.

Got that number? Great — now read this — it’s my article on how your company’s LACK of focus and investment on CUSTOMER SUCCESS is killing your #Sales #Pipeline.


Derek Wyszynski is Chief Sales Hacker at ZynBit, a company dedicated to the proposition that salespeople shouldn’t have to spend 8 hours a week entering data into their CRM- in fact salespeople shouldn’t work for a CRM, the CRM should work for them.