The Trick to Building Trust is … Honesty

In business, in sales and customer relations the trust that you build is the key to ongoing, fruitful relationships. If you can’t be trusted, people will find someone else they can trust.


The key to building a quality relationship, in life and in business is honesty. Any advice column can tell you that. However there is a secret to building this honesty faster that people don’t tell you. That secret is more honesty. Specifically honesty about your limitations. In other words, you have to be vulnerable.


This vulnerability is a problem for most sales people for a couple of understandable reasons. Salespeople have an innate need to please. Pleasing customers is how we close deals. Add this need to the pressure to fulfill quota numbers and the concept of doing anything other than promising the moon sounds like death.


There are two problems with promising the moon, the first is that you can’t deliver the moon. The second is that the customer will expect the moon, and you will have over promised and under delivered. That’s actual death in sales.


You’ll also be living up to the worst stereotypes that people have of salespeople, that they’ll say anything. Bold statements can be the correct thing to say, especially when they are accurate. They are reassuring. They are even more reassuring when you’ve expressed your limitations. Think, “I can offer you this feature and that feature, but not that one.” Or think, “I can deliver this, but not in this time frame or that price.”



Let me give you recent example, of sales trust that I experienced. I was shopping for a hobby car online and found a vintage model that looked good. In the ad the seller had a laundry list of items that had been repaired, restored or upgraded. He also mentioned one item that needed to be repaired. It wasn’t major, but it wasn’t insignificant. The impact of hist statement was that I immediately gave more credence to this seller. I now understood the price and his motivation for selling. He was revealing the downsides of the purchase before I could even get to any of those questions.


Being honest is is part of the implied contract you are building with the client.


It is a technique that I have employed for years, in a variety of roles, I’ll tell them immediately when I can help them and when I can’t.


Next time you’re engaging with your client, feel free to make your boldest assertions more confidently, but also plan to open up about the downsides.