It’s All About The Trust Equation

By September 27, 2017Blog

One of the “critical few” skills of business development is the ability to build trust.

Throughout the phases of contact with your prospect or client or partner you are looking to take steps towards building trust.  You do this partly through demonstrating your character and partly through demonstrating your competence.  It is as these two aspects come together that your prospects and clients will decide to trust you.

Think about the small things that demonstrate character in these early stages – being on time, your appearance, (even the state of your shoes!), your interest in them as an individual, the way you carry yourself.  Think too how you can demonstrate your competence early in the relationship – often this is more in your intelligent and well-informed questioning than in trying to impress them by telling them things they know already.

Clients choose to trust professionals for several reasons.  The argument here is that clients trust more as they find a professional credible.  The key is to be seen as a “deep generalist”.  Depth may come from technical, sector or application knowledge.  Breadth comes from commercial awareness, “business savvy”, one’s network of connections.

We need to find ways to accelerate the building of trust in a new business relationship. In his excellent book “The Trusted Advisor” David Maister (known as “the gurus’ guru”) offers this helpful formula that explains how trust is built with clients and partners.

  • TRUST is a combination of three factors but is diminished by the fourth.
  • CREDIBILITY comes when we can make connections between the client’s issues and our knowledge and experience.
  • RELIABILTY builds trust when we simply demonstrate that we do what we say we’ll do.  It’s about consistency and dependability.  Its about “no surprises”!
  • INTIMACY comes from frequency of contact and from the nature of that contact.  It is not helped by over-familiarity or “product push”.  It can be face-to-face or via social media.
  • SELF-ORIENTATION: All this is reduced by the extent that the client gets the impression that the professional is on their agenda rather than his or hers.  It’s all about customer-centricity not self-centeredness.

So think how your character and competence are building trust.  Reflect on how you are demonstrating credibility, reliability and intimacy with your contacts.  And keep on the client’s agenda not your own.  All this together builds trust.

One of the most exciting aspects of trust is the way high trust saves time and money and low trust costs.  It’s one of the central arguments of “The Speed of Trust” (written by Stephen MR Covey – Stephen Covey’s son).  He gives example after example where high levels of trust have meant agreements go through faster, where trusted relationships reduce delays and costs.

As Professor John Whitney of Columbia Business School puts it:

“Mistrust doubles the cost of doing business.”

If we can build trust and foster trustworthiness in those around us, then everyone wins.  The challenge is how do we do it?

Four Cores of Trust

Covey talks about 4 cores of trust:


Here are some questions to reflect on as we look to build trust-based relationships.

Trust Core 1: Integrity

The toughest challenge is around integrity.  As well as honesty, integrity means congruence (“walking the talk”, humility (“its not about being weak… but the opposite of humility is arrogance”) and courage.  Covey talks about ways to work on one’s integrity in 3 areas:

  1. Making and keeping commitments to oneself.
  2. ”Stand for something” – being willing to live by one’s values.

Be open – “to be open inspires credibility and trust; to be closed fosters suspicion and mistrust.”

Trust Core 2: Intent

Intent matters.  It grows out of character.  While we tend to judge ourselves by our intent we judge others by their actions.  Covey encourages us to declare our intent more and to reflect on whether people can easily judge our intent from observing our actions.

Trust Core 3: Capabilities

“Capable people are credible.  They inspire trust.  It’s that simple”.  Here are 3 “capability accelerators”:

  1. Identify and run with your strengths.
  2. Keep yourself relevant in a changing world
  3. Know where you’re going.  “At the end of the day people will follow those who know where they’re going” (Jack Trout)

Trust Core 4: Results

Results matter.  We trust people with track records, those who deliver.

4 accelerators of results-based trust:

  1. Take responsibility for the result not just the activity.  Hear Winston Churchill’s tough words: “It’s no use saying; “We are doing our best.”  You have got to succeed in doing what is necessary.”
  2. Expect to win  (“optimism with its eyes open”)
  3. Finish strong – win well and then be ready for the next steps.
  4. Be willing to be open about your results – not bragging but reassuringly confident.

Foster trust

The last words on building trust are two quotes to encourage us to foster trust by trusting others more.

“I have found that by trusting people until they prove themselves unworthy of that trust, a lot more happens”  Jim Burke ex CEO of Johnson & Johnson

Even an overdose of trust, that at times, involves the risk of being deceived or disappointed is wiser, in the long run, than taking for granted that most people are incompetent or insincere”  Warren Bennis “On becoming a leader”

If you want to look further into this subject, try reading:

  • David Maister et al “The Trusted Advisor”
  • Stephen R Covey  “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”
  • Stephen R M Covey “The Speed of Trust”
  • Solomon & Flores “Building Trust in Business, Politics, Relationships and Life.”

Or if you’d like to explore how building trust in this way can significantly accelerate your business development then contact us on 01392 274200 or click here to send us a message.