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Trust Is Not a Trend

Yesterday I heard that rather than solutions selling, there is a new ‘thing’ called insights selling. The best description I could find for this piece of wisdom was, “The key to insights selling is to leverage a deep understanding of customers to establish trust and rapport.” So, the new ‘insight’ I just gained is that it’s just another word used to define how we should be treating our customers and not a strategic approach at all.

Here is where the whole concept of labels, strategies, leverage, selling techniques and definitions etc. completely loses me. Firstly, who in business can possibly succeed if the basic goal with a customer is not to first establish a relationship? Only then can you begin to understand them and learn how (if) you can help them. This is where I believe some business leaders have stopped thinking for themselves. A customer is not someone you leverage; I don’t even believe in selling anything either.

Nonetheless, labeling trends got me thinking.

I used to think that we were a solutions company and that we had interactional relationships with our customers. I understood solution selling a sales process that is a problem rather than product based and interactional rather than transactional relationships, the vehicle. Interactional relationships are when two people engage in a dialogue to truly understand each other and the problems the other may be facing and where the intention is for a lasting, not fleeting, relationship with the customer. In a transactional relationship, you’re going through the motions to get an order and the relationship with the customer has no real long-term value.

I now think that it is more accurate to say that we are focused on successful outcomes rather than on solutions. A successful outcome is different from, and more than a successful solution. For me, a successful outcome is achieving and maintaining trust with the customer over more than one instance of working together to find a solution. By this I mean that a successful outcome is possible even when something has gone or goes wrong with the manufacturing, delivery, or commissioning process, or even with the solution itself. Selling an outcome fits with who and what, as a company, we strive to be and do.

In any business, your product or service will either add value or it won’t. You don’t require leverage or sales techniques, just sit down and chat and see where you can help. Listen like you do when your family or friends need your support or expertise, it’s really no different. Trust replaces gimmicks every time. Its genuine and irreplaceable.

The only people I would like to call customers are the people I trust and who trust me and where our relationship is openly and transparently mutually beneficial. After all, we all know how this works. No need to disguise the reality by coming up with fancy names to define a good relationship. We have many relationships in our lives, we don’t read up on the next trend in order to sustain them. If ever you needed words to define a relationship, the only ones that should matter are trust and mutual respect.

To make the point, I looked up the definition of friend to see how it dovetails with the definition of customer. Friends and acquaintances, according to someone wiser than me, “support each other through the challenges of life and share their life experiences. The definition of a friend is someone who has your best interest at heart. True family and friends always have your back.”

Similarly, as a company, it matters to me that we operate to have our customers’ best interests at heart and to have their backs through challenging times. I want customers to treat me the same way.

The outcomes we want our customers to expect from us are:

1. A solution to an identified challenge.

2. Benefitting from our expertise and core competencies.

3. Having their best interests as our priority.

4. Being supported throughout and treated with respect.

5. Trusting and enjoying working with us as people who keep their promises.

You can label a relationship anything you want, but at the end of the day the definition of a great relationship is one built on the old ‘thing’ of trust. In our company our entire culture is built around this one single word that we define as:

Having confidence in the honesty, reliability, competence, judgement, and integrity of the EMCS team.

In my experience over the last 40 years, I have learned that to maintain trust there are a few basic rules:

  • To own my mistakes, apologize sincerely, and fix the situation immediately.
  • To show compassion and demonstrate that I care. (Warning: you had better genuinely mean it, you cannot pretend to be compassionate.)
  • To have a company values system that guides and empowers everyone involved to act in line with these values without hesitation.
  • To lead with trust: you can’t expect to be trusted if you don’t trust others.
  • To tell the truth! The truth will set you free.

In the Apollo 13 story, the movie captures the perceived failure of this mission as NASA’s finest hour. They made mistakes, but they went to extraordinary lengths to fix an almost impossible situation and returned the astronauts safely back to earth. You will have many opportunities to prove you can be trusted, but none quite like when things go wrong.

We can debate the usefulness of labels such as product, solutions, insight, or outcomes focused selling, transactional versus interactional relationships and of strategies such as leverage, discounting price etc., but in the end, I think its very simple. Who do you trust to be there when it counts?

Trevor Tasker (President & CEO)

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