Does Your Customer Trust You? The Acid Test

Most salespeople will agree—there is no stronger sales driver than a customer’s trust in the salesperson. And, I suggest, the best way to be trusted is to be trustworthy—worthy of trust. You can’t fake it.

Is it possible to know if your customer trusts you? Is there one predictor of customer trust? Is there a single factor that amounts to an acid test of trust in selling?

I think there is. It’s contained in one single question. A “yes” answer will strongly suggest your customers trust you. A “no” answer will virtually guarantee they don’t.

The question is this:

Have you ever recommended a competitor to one of your better customers?

If the answer is “yes”—subject to the caveats below—then you have demonstrably put your customer’s short-term interests ahead of your own. This indicates low self-orientation and a long-term perspective on your part (I’m assuming sincerity), and is a good indicator of trustworthiness.

If you have never, ever, recommended a competitor to a good customer, then either your product is always better than the competition for every customer in every situation (puh-leeze), or—far more likely—you always shade your answers to suit your own advantage. Which says you always put your interests ahead of your customers’. Which says, frankly, you can’t be trusted.

Here are the caveats: don’t count “yes” answers if:

a. The customer was trivially important to you
b. You were going to lose the customer anyway
c. You didn’t even offer a product in the category
d. You figured the competitive product was terrible and you’d deep-six them by recommending them.

The only fair “yes” answer is one in which you honestly felt that an important customer would be better served in an important case by going with a competitor’s offering.

If that describes what you did, and it is a fair reflection of how you think about customer relationships in general, then I suspect your customers trust you.

If not—well, then why should they? Would you?