According to @Benioff: TRUST better be #1

6 minute read

I have written about Trust a lot over the years, but was prompted to revisit this important subject having just watched In Technology We Trust, a panel discussion from Davos. Before I get into the topic here, it’s worth watching this short video extract of Marc Benioff of Salesforce talking about the importance of trust in business.

Similarly, in a press February 1 2018 press release from Altify, entitled Trust Trumps Profit For Business in 2018, highlighting the results of the 2018 Business Performance Benchmark study, it is clear that trust needs to be high on the corporate agenda.

Customer Retention, the most obvious sign of trust for a business, is the number one 2018 strategic imperative.”

Trust is the fulcrum upon which every relationship pivots. Trust is a valuable currency that must be earned, but never spent. Trust is built one step at a time, and unless protected, can be blown away in a moment. Complete trust between people is infrequent, and between companies and individuals even more rare. Trust is not attainable by request or appeal and it is not transferrable. It has to be earned. Trust sits on the three pillars of authenticity, integrity and honesty; promising only what you can give, and giving what you promise. Attitude and preference, as they relate to how a customer or employee thinks about your company, are as likely to be informed by whether the customer or employee feel they can trust you as by the capabilities your company can provide or the salary you pay.

However, in many cases, companies have defaulted on their obligations to customers and employees, who feel ignored, poorly treated, and often perceive that their concerns as customers or consumers or employees are rarely heard. I refer to this as the Trust Default. As a consequence of the Trust Default, developing trusted relationships has never been more difficult. On the one hand the consequence of this is that the task of establishing true affinity might seem a little ambitious. But, on the other hand, if you are prepared to make the journey, you will find that not many others have joined you on the voyage. When you arrive at the destination you may well find that your only companion will be your trusted partner and those like you.

From my perspective, what happened during the economic turmoil of the last decade was not so much a recession as a fundamental restructuring of the economic order. This is a good thing! It has forced us once more to focus on true difference versus positioned differentiation. To address the Trust Default, it has demanded a focus on values and ethics, underlining the value of trust as an asset.

We should recognize that, while honesty and integrity as propellants of commercial energy have not necessarily always been the most comfortable bedfellows with the pursuit of profit and revenue, what is scarce is valuable. If you are prepared to address the Trust Default, you have the opportunity to gain a considerable advantage, but above that – it is the right thing to do.

If you are hoping to influence a customer’s or employee’s attitude towards you then you better be sure that what they hear about you from peers, academics, company technical experts, and [other] employees is what you would like them to hear. The reality is that what you, as a business, might broadcast in your public statements is of diminishing value. The actions you take and the value you add to the community in which you and your customer exist is what will fundamentally determine your reputation, and how you are perceived.

7 Thoughts on Trust

  1. Invest your time to understand. If you’re to advise, you must be a subject matter expert.
  2. You need to give value first and expect nothing in return. You are building a relationship for the long term, and it is only OK to ask for something when you’ve earned the right.
  3. You need to be authentic, honest and fair – in everything, always.
  4. You must focus on areas of Mutual Value, where what’s good for them is also good for you – in that order.
  5. Choose your trusted partners wisely – they need to have a similar set of values.
  6. Trust is a two-way street. If you are delivering on your promise, then it is fair to expect the other party to hold up their end of the bargain.
  7. Recognize that not everyone wants a trusted relationship with you.

Trust is Personal

Lasting relationships are built on a foundation of trust that for each of us is fundamentally personal. While always important, trust as a determining factor of interaction efficacy increases or decreases in amplitude at different phases of the relationship, because risk of the trusted relationship transfers from one party to the other. Be conscious of that shift, bearing in mind that while you and your employee or customer may be engaged in a commercial interaction, trust is fundamentally personal.

Nothing Else Matters is a very personal song written by James Hetfield, singer and rhythm guitarist with the American heavy metal band Metallica. He wrote this song while he was on the phone with his then girlfriend. There are four lines in the song that go to the heart of establishing a trusted relationship:

Trust I seek and I find in you 
Every day for us something new 
Open mind for a different view 
and nothing else matters.

Nothing Else Matters, Metallica, Metallica, 1992, reprinted with permission

If you want to be trusted by your customers or employees, you will need to trust them first.

Now you can flip the Trust Default on its head. It should refer to the default position you take – a willingness to trust. If this is not currently your default approach, you will need an open mind for a different view. You may feel uncomfortable about this – but it is a major point that will deeply underpin your future success.

Trust is so important in developing long-term customer relationships that it is not too much of a stretch to say “… and nothing else matters.” Thank you, James Hetfield.

As I wrote at the start, over the years I have written about Trust a lot.  Much of the content in this post comes from my Amazon #1 Best-seller Account Planning in Salesforce where I discuss in more detail the nature and value of trust in building long-term relationships with customers.

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