Do Your Customers Trust You?

Last Updated Dec 6, 2007 8:23 AM EST

Trust in Customer RelationshipsThe core of a business relationship is trust. When you do business with somebody, you're trusting him or her with your career and reputation - and vice versa. Therefore, if you want to have strong customer relationships, you need to be trustworthy. According to sales guru Jerry Acuff, in a business context, trustworthiness has four dimensions:
  1. Professionalism. People want to do business with individuals who are serious about what they do, and willing to take the time to achieve a deep understanding of their craft. And in this context, that means both an understanding of the industry in which you're selling and the specific work that you do, which is selling.
  2. Integrity. Integrity means being as good as your word. Integrity is also exhibited when you're willing to take a stand, even when it's unpopular with your customer or your company. That does not mean being that you must argue about everything, but the ability to make decisions based upon what you know is right.
  3. Caring. Pretty basic, but while most people know how to exhibit this attribute in their personal lives, it's not typical to emphasize this aspect to trustworthiness in a business context, at least on the United States. Hint: The way to show that you care about a customer is to really listen to what the customer has to say.
  4. Knowledge. People trust people who have some kind of unique knowledge - when it comes to that area of knowledge. You don't have to be an expert on everything you sell, but to be worthy of trust, you must have some knowledge that is of value to the customer.
With the above in mind, here's a quick exercise for you. List out each of the four elements above and rate yourself (be honest; nobody is watching you anyway) from 1 (lowest) to 10 (highest) on each element. If you're like most people, you'll rate higher in some areas than others.

Now think about your customer relationships for a minute. How have your strengths and weaknesses in this area influenced the quality and depth of those relationships? Something to think about, eh?