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The Single Fastest Thing You Can Do to Increase Trust

Trust takes time.

Well, as I’ve said countless times – that’s the biggest myth out there. Trust can be built in a matter of moments. It’s all about how you go about it. And I can share with you how you can build trust…fast.

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That’s quite a claim. But I think I can back it up. (This thing also requires little time or money, meaning it’s also high ROI).

First, let’s define terms.

• By “increase trust,” I mean something Person A can do that increases their probability of being trusted by Person B;
• By “fastest,” I don’t mean easiest, nor most powerful. I mean least elapsed time between interaction and resultant trust.
• By “trust,” I mean legitimate trust, trustworthiness on the part of Person A. No fakery.

It’s simple, though not easy. Let me tell you what it is; then give you 11 reasons why it is indeed the single fastest way to increase trust.

It is simply this:

Return calls and emails really fast.

That’s it. Doesn’t sound like much, does it? But let’s explore further.

First, here’s the basic template for doing it:

Joe, I want to let you know I got your message. I may not get to it until Thursday, but I want to let you know I’m on it. I’ll be working it between now and then. It’s on my to-do list, it’s in my mind first thing in the morning and last at night. You can take it off your worry list, I’m on the case.

Now let’s explore what this does for you and your client.

1. It immediately removes FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) from your client’s mind. All those concerns (did he get it? why hasn’t he answered me yet? was it something I said? Is he avoiding me? is he fighting me?) are gone. Cut off. Stopped cold. You have committed to engage.

2. It allows you to proactively schedule things out to Thursday. (Don’t worry—if they actuallydo need it Tuesday, they’ll be back to you about it).

3. By making a commitment to engage, you create a chance to improve your perceived reliability and integrity—by proceeding to do just what you said you’d do.

4. It demonstrates your attentiveness to the client’s issue.

5. It demonstrates your sensitivity to the client’s time needs.

6. It forces you to address an issue. The tougher and more difficult the issue, the more important this is. How many people have not returned your call in the last three days? The more uncomfortable an issue is, the more likely we are to delay, or avoid, facing it. Unfortunately, the other person knows it. They in turn silently accuse us of passive-aggressive avoidance. And they’re right.

7. By dealing with tough issues—putting them squarely on the table—we show that we are not afraid to constructively engage. The work of John Gottman in marriages shows the enemy of relationships is not confrontation, but disengagement. Returning that difficult phone call forthrightly builds relationships.

8. By scheduling it for Thursday, you show that you’re in charge of your schedule, therefore an efficient server of clients.

9. By scheduling it forthrightly, you show confidence that you can deal with the issue, and confidence itself is confidence-inspiring (I’m assuming here you can back it up).

10. By responding quickly and directly, you validate the client’s sense of the issue as being accurate and timely.

11. You’re going to have to deal with this thing anyway. You can do it efficiently, effectively and confidently and gain all the above benefits; or you can put it off hoping either the issue will die, the muse will descend from the heavens, or the client will forget about it.

Do the right thing. Return that call or email really fast.

Win a Free Copy of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook Redux

We’re excited about the early success of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook: A Comprehensive Toolkit for Leading with Trust. It’s gotten a #4 ranking on The Washington Post Book World paperback bestseller list, a five-star Amazon review, and a growing list of features and media mentions.

Find out what all the hoopla is about―reply by Friday, December 2, 2011 midnight EST to win your free autographed copy of the book. Details below.

And the Winner Is…

Last month we ran a contest inviting readers to tell us about your favorite Trust Tip based on the daily countdown of #TrustTips on Twitter (144 in total from the time we started till October 31, the day The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook was officially released). We listed a few of our favorites, then turned it over to you to share yours.

The lucky winner is Dawna Houston, who gets a copy of the new book autographed by both of us, as well as this opportunity to be singled out on our site (also known as “eternal fame”).

Dawna’s favorite Trust Tip was #TrustTip 8: Trust enhances innovation: it allows people of different views to convert conflict into collaboration.

Dawna observed, “I have watched fear and anxiety absolutely shut down creativity, both personally and professionally; this tip is a great reminder that when we cultivate trust, our minds naturally open and our awareness expands.” Well said, Dawna. Congrats!

Are You Feeling Lucky?

You’ve got another chance to win. Simply take a look through the free download of chapter 1 and tell us how much money Charlie gave the taxi driver. If you get it right, you’ll be entered in the drawing. Send your answer in an email by Friday, December 2, 2011 midnight EST.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Ian Brodie Takes the Trust Quotient Test: Video Interview

Ian Brodie is a sales and marketing consultant to professionals. Based in Cheshire, England, Ian’s low-key, self-effacing style belies some deep content mastery.

Ian and I crossed paths years ago at Gemini Consulting, and have gotten back in touch in recent years.  As part of our promotion for The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook, Ian agreed to be a guinea pig and take the TQ (Trust Quotient) Self-Assessment test.

Not only that, but he agreed to share the results – on video! – with TrustMatters readers.

If you’ve been curious about the TQ test, have a look at what Ian (and his wife!) gleaned from it in this YouTube video.

Andrea and I thank Ian for his participation. If you’re interested in the TQ test, you can find out more about it here.

And as long as you’re onsite, have a look at The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook.

Working On Trust: David A. Brock

To anyone who doubts the power of social media, I tell them how I came to know David A. Brock. Dave’s resume is old-school – IBM, Tektronix – and I have a feeling he’s even (gasp) older than I am, but Dave is all over twitter (http://twitter.com/davidabrock), he writes a fine blog, and he knows the inner workings of WordPress.

Much more importantly – David is just a delightful human being. Generous, warm, self-effacing, quick to pick up the phone, always about the customer. Dave is a superb management consultant.  Nominally, his subject is sales; in truth, it’s about making business and organizations better.  And he is very, very good at it.

Working on Trust

Which is why I’m so pleased that Dave interviewed me and Andrea Howe about our new book.

In the interview, Dave gets the conversation going about the role of trust in sales coaching.  We also talk about what someone can do when stuck in the company of untrustworthy others.  We finish up talking about what can actually be done to make customers trust us (hint: think Bonnie Raitt).

If you aren’t familiar with Dave Brock, please get to know him. His blog is called Making a Difference.  I can attest that he does.

Story Time: Risky Business

Our Story Time series brings you real, personal examples from business life that shed light on specific ways to lead with trust. Our last story told of the upside of being willing to walk away. Principle pays off in today’s story.

A New Anthology

When it comes to trust-building, stories are a powerful tool for both learning and change. Our new book, The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook: A Comprehensive Toolkit for Leading with Trust (Wiley, October 2011), contains a multitude of stories. Told by and about people we know, these stories illustrate the fundamental attitudes, truths, and principles of trustworthiness.

Today’s story is excerpted from our chapter on risk-taking. It vividly demonstrates the potential upside of sticking to your guns.

From the Front Lines: Telling a Difficult Truth

Lynn P., a career systems consultant serving largely government clients in the United States, tells a story about taking a risk under pressure.

“Eleven years into my career, I took over a major project. A key phase, testing, was way behind schedule, and the Testing Readiness Review was only two weeks away. Passing the review was a very big deal: it meant completing a milestone and getting a payment for my company.

“I was due to present to all the clients and the senior managers of my own company. It was intimidating—and I was intimidated.

“I was under significant pressure to keep the program moving by passing the review. I also knew that we were not ready to pass.

“Knowing it could cost me my job, I went line by line through our assessment, citing the facts as I saw them. I said we did not pass the review and that we would need to delay to correct the critical items.

“There was complete silence in the room.

“My top executive asked, ‘Are you sure?’

“I said yes.

“After the meeting, both my client and my senior managers approached me informally to commend me for ‘sticking to my guns’ and recommending what I believed to be right.

“Apparently, I had created trust—a lot of it. Over the next 18 months, I was given roles of increasing responsibility, and was eventually promoted to program manager.

“I now believe it was this event that drove the client to increase my role. The experience gave me greater confidence in my own judgment and skills. And finally, it was this program’s success that ultimately propelled my career to the next level.”

The willingness to take a risk by being principled can pay off hugely—as long as you’re doing it for the principles, not the payoff.

—As told to Charles H. Green

When have you stuck to your guns? What payoff did you get?

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Read more stories about trust:

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Listen to a podcast interview with Andrea Howe and Charlie Green on Trust Across America Radio.

“Consult This” Consults Us

Charlie and I recently recorded a podcast interview with Mike McLaughlin on the subject of trust and professional services. We covered a lot of ground in 16 minutes, including the one piece of advice we’d each give consultants about building trust with clients.

Consult This

Mike is an accomplished thought leader in the world of professional services. A former partner with Deloitte Consulting, he’s the author of two books (Winning the Professional Services Sale and Guerrilla Marketing for Consultants, in collaboration with Jay Conrad Levinson), the founder of MindShare Consulting LLC, and the publisher of Management Consulting News, a monthly newsletter that delivers practical ideas to thousands of professionals around the world. He also writes another monthly newsletter, The Guerrilla Consultant, which extends the concepts and strategies in his first book.

Mike regularly taps into experts on a variety of relevant topics, and posts his own insightful content on his blog, Consult This. Some examples include:

  • Let Them Take Credit. How, by giving up the credit, you actually earn credit (and more business).
  • What’s in a Name? How the job titles we use on business cards, email signature lines, and web sites convey a world of meaning to others, some of which isn’t helpful.
  • When it All Hits the Fan. Why we should consider ourselves lucky when a client calls us on the carpet for a customer service failure.

We were honored to be among the likes of Peter Block and Peter Bregman, whom Mike has interviewed in the past, among others.

Q & A

Mike asked us some interesting questions. He wanted to know:

  • Do buyers trust professional service providers more, less, or about the same as they did when The Trusted Advisor was published?
  • If you’re meeting a client for the first time, what are the best steps to take to begin to build trust?
  • On the flip side of the coin, what common behaviors do you see that detract from building trust?
  • What do you say to the pushy sales manager who wants you to “accelerate” the sale before trust is established?
  • If you’ve lost trust with a client, what can you do to regain it?
  • If you could give a consultant just one piece of advice about building trust with clients, what would it be? (Charlie and I had different answers for this one.)

Check out his blog post today to find out how we answered.

Connect with Mike on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Hot off the Presses: The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook

We are very happy to officially announce the publication of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook: A Comprehensive Toolkit for Leading with Trust. Published by Wiley Books, it is now being sold at fine bookstores worldwide and online at major booksellers.

Whose shoulders does it stand on? The book’s pedigree begins with the classic The Trusted Advisor, by Charlie with esteemed co-authors David Maister and Rob Galford in 2000.  In 2005, Charlie wrote Trust-based Selling, which squared the circle of trust and sales.

What’s up with the leadership emphasis? Since 2000, the world has gotten flat, connected and linked—trust drives success. The relevance of trust to leadership has increased 470% (our subjective estimate). We connect the dots.

What’s new? Material on creating a trust-based culture; networking; risk-taking; selling to the C-suite; rapid trust creation; leadership. And more.

Why a “fieldbook”? It’s practical, tactical. Loaded with how-to’s. Deals with the nitty-gritty of situations from business development to dealing with untrustworthy partners. It has so many lists it has a list of lists.

Who likes it? Tom Peters, David Maister, Chris Brogan, Neil Rackham, Jim Quigley, and more…

Find Out More

We want to make it easy for you.  You can:

Tell Us What You Think

Making a Trusted Advisor of the Procurement Function

The procurement function in an organization can play an important role—potentially both strategic and advisory. It can also, however, be dragged down into petty negativism. It’s in everyone’s interest to get it right.

Getting it right is the subject of a new article by the two of us, called The Role of Procurement as Trusted Advisor to Management. Link to a.pdf version here.

Following is a quick overview.

Procurement as Strategic Partner

Ideally, a firm’s procurement function helps broadly. Of course it manages the buying of commodity stuff cheaply.  It should also design good overall purchasing processes.  But ultimately it should also help an organization invest its expenditures wisely.

That last is a mandate most CPOs and CEOs alike would welcome—in principle. But they rarely get there, because procurement gets bogged down in a classic trust conflict: the conflict between transactions and relationships.

Procurement has pushed hard to attract brighter and better staff, but capability is not enough.  A genuine understanding of and concern for clients’ ambitions and goals is needed: procurement needs to be benevolent as well as capable in the way it works with clients.

The Transaction Trap

Most organizations measure procurement by how much they can cut cost.  This simple fact—the focus on cost savings as a metric—has outsized influence.  It means discussions are always about price—but not value.  Expenses—but not expenditures.  Cuts—but not contexts.

The cost savings focus drives procurement to excessively favor market-based, impersonal processes—which too often prevent the value of trusted relationships with suppliers. The transactional focus implied by cost metrics also favors explicit contracting, rather than the constructive use of implicit contracts on occasion.

This focus also leads to destructive gaming: you can’t prove savings if you’ve already cut the source of waste by strategically redefining processes, hence procurement organizations are tempted to “squirrel away” savings to appear the biggest.  The cost focus also means that purchasing’s clients know that ‘savings’ just means their budget is going to get cut.

The whole ‘savings’ focus drives dysfunctional, non-strategic behavior by everyone.  And it’s gotten worse since 2009: CPOs and CEOs alike, in a bad economic environment, have said, “Just go find some savings.”

The Trust Cure

It’s not often that we should start with metrics instead of strategy, but this may be the cart that should drive the horse.  Instead of focusing so extremely on cost savings, we suggest procurement focus on a Spend Control Index.  Details will vary by organization, but the gist of it is a unified scorecard that makes procurement accountable for all external spend—based on revenue, adjusted for items like salaries, interest, and above all, linked directly to strategic decisions.

Such an approach is easily linked to strategy; it enhances strategy implementation; and it is easily auditable. Most importantly, it allows for reframing of discussions between management and procurement; allowing the latter to behave like a trusted advisor.

Read the whole article here, or in .pdf form here.

The Trusted Advisor: Still a Top Ten Business Book After Ten Years!

Late in the year 2000, The Trusted Advisor was published. It was my first book (Galford’s too), and lead author Maister’s 3rd. We had high hopes for it–but so does every author.

It did well over the years. I think somewhere around senior associate level in accounting firms, 6th year associates in law firms, 5th year managers in consulting firms, some old partner takes the youngsters aside and says, “You should go read a book called ‘The Trusted Advisor.’ You’re ready to need it.”

How else to explain that, 11 years after initial publication, the estimable 1-800-CEO-READ book seller rated The Trusted Advisor number 7 on the March 2011 list of Top 25 Business Books.

And that’s not all. March 2011 was not a fluke. That number 7 ranking was in fact an increase from 2009, where it ranked #12–for the entire year 2009.

Today is typical: it ranks number 4,229 on Amazon’s all-book list as of 9PM. That’s pretty good for any business book, up against Harry Potter and Tina Fey. For a ten-year old business book, it’s quite unusual. Cialdini’s book on influence is of the same vintage, and does even better. And of course Steven Covey’s Seven Habits is a Monster.

But that is nosebleed territory company to be in.

I am humbled and honored to have co-authored The Trusted Advisor. I hope you’ll forgive me a little crowing about it, and I hope the upcoming Trusted Advisor FieldBook can achieve a fraction of its success.

Are You Just Selling a For Sale Sign?

For sale by OwnerKierkegaard described philosophy as, “You see a sale sign in a store window. You go in, but find it is only the sign that is for sale.”

I sometimes feel that way in our increasingly online world.

I got a notification that I had a new twitter follower—let’s just call him Mr. X. I usually give those notices a quick glance. In this case, the person is “following” 11,844 others, and has 13,253 “followers.” (For comparison, my numbers are each under 2,000).

Punch line: he has written a grand total of one tweet, made back on August 28 (thanking Nattisco Artists for all their hard work). That tweet was then re-tweeted by 8 others whose ability to perceive value clearly exceeds mine.

Now, I’m an active twitter fan: I use twitter to point my readers to trust-related content I think is interesting, and to follow similar ideas from others. But this is different.

One might ask what he’s doing “following” 11,844 people; a much better question is, “what do 13,253 people think they’re doing ‘following’ him?” Not to mention the eight re-tweeters.

On the TweetLevel rating service, this makes Mr. X (a self-described actor in Sydney) even more popular than Tony Iannarino, who just won the Annual Top Sales Awards for best sales blog (congrats, btw, Tony!).

In fairness, TweetLevel rates Mr. X far lower in effectiveness and trust—as one would hope. But–then again, the highest-trust-rated twitter users on TweetLevel are Justin Bieber and Kim Kardashian (sis Khloe lags at number 3). That’s not TweetLevel’s definition of popularity: that’s their definition of trust in an online world.

The Kardashians are the modern-day equivalents of Zsa Zsa Gabor, the first one I think of as having been “famous for being famous.” They’re selling For Sale signs and calling it sales. You too can be like them. Just Do It. (And stop asking what ‘it’ is, it’s not important).
“For Sale” Signs Abound

Enough shooting fish in a barrel: Twitter, much though I love it, is fully of quirky adolescent silliness like that. But the Kierkegaard critique doesn’t just apply to Twitter.

The logic of social media is simply mimicking the recent logic of business—the gospel of first-mover advantage. Don’t worry about what you’re selling—get the For Sale sign out there. You can pick up the expertise after you’ve been labeled an expert. Ready, Fire, Aim is too damn slow. Just Fire.

It was 1968—ancient history—when Andy Warhol first said, “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” Later, that concept came to be known as “so 5 minutes ago.” Oops, I’m dating myself.

The sales vs. For Sale issue is most notable in the media. It wasn’t that long ago that newspapers published what were meaningfully called “letters to the editor.” At some point, I suppose they worried about whether to print emailed letters before snail-mail letters had had chance to arrive. In any case, they were carefully written, and then they were vetted by real ‘editors.’

Today’s NY Times has an interesting piece from the Public Editor about what it’s like to keep up with the tsunami of commentary that comes in online these days. And the Times’ letters are nothing compared to the instant psychic-dumping that fills so many megabytes on so many news-and-commentary websites these days.

For Sale signs are all over the place: the logic and thought and reasoning behind what is being sold—not so much.

The publishing industry is about to undergo what the newspaper industry is already feeling—a meltdown of the curating function that institutions used to play. When “publishers” and “books” lose the social arbiters of how we define such terms, the first thing to happen is grade inflation.
Everyone becomes an author. Everyone can write a book. There’s a book out now on how you can write a book in a weekend. The For Sale signs are out all over. There’s just nothing being sold.

Grade inflation confuses the thing being measured with the measurement itself. For years now, the website TheWiseMarketer.com has un-self-consciously documented the slide of “loyalty” marketing from something vaguely resembling an emotion to an entire industry based on behavioral price-driven statistics. “Loyalty” itself is no longer being sold: it’s been inundated with For Sale signs.

David Brooks cites this work:

In 1950, thousands of teenagers were asked if they considered themselves an “important person.” Twelve percent said yes. In the late 1980s, another few thousand were asked. This time, 80 percent of girls and 77 percent of boys said yes.

The great thing about empowerment is that you free a lot of good people who have great ideas to tell and to sell.

The bad thing about empowerment is that you free a great deal more fools who think they’re selling when all they’re doing is holding For Sale signs.

And Good Luck trying to explain the difference to them.