How to Sell to the C-Suite

We’re pleased to announce the release of our latest ebook: How to Sell to the C-Suite (pdf).

It’s the second in the new Trusted Advisor Fieldbook series by Charles H. Green and Andrea P. Howe.

Each ebook provides a snapshot of content from The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook, which is jam-packed with practical, hands-on strategies to dramatically improve your results in sales, relationship management, and organizational performance.

How to Sell to the C-Suite reveals:

  • What’s different about selling to C-level executives
  • A powerful 3-part preparation plan for C-suite sales
  • 9 best practices for successful C-suite selling.

Did you miss out on Volume 1 of The Fieldbook Series eBooks? Get it while it’s still available: 15 Ways to Build Trust…Fast!

Take a look and let us know what you think.

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Chris Brogan, Meet Jack Hubbard

Superficially, they couldn’t be more different. One is old (and old school), one isn’t.  One is in middle market banking, one in social media. Tie, open collar. Midwest, East.

I don’t think they know each other—but they should.  They’re two peas in a pod—in a great pea patch.

The Banking Guy

Jack Hubbard is CEO (that’s Chief Experience Officer) and Chairman of St. Meyer & Hubbard. Along with President Bob St. Meyer, they run a Chicago-based training performance change firm. They serve the banking business, mostly medium-sized. They serve up some astonishing numbers, with very loyal clients.

But that’s just the description. Jack is known for starting his day by sending out emails to clients highlighting specific news items of interest to them.  When you talk to Jack, you discover he is on a mission to discover everything about the most interesting person in the world—you.  His upbeat curiosity and low self-orientation is infectious; he doesn’t sell you on their work—you buy it. Gladly.

Jack’s not really in the banking business–he’s in the people business.  Banking is just his regional accent; his language is human.

The Social Media Guy

Readers of this blog are more likely to know Chris Brogan.  I did an interview with Chris last year. He’s all over social media; a demi-god of Twitter, an emerging guru of Google+, co-author (with @julien Smith) of Trust Agents, co-founder of Podcamp, involved in New Marketing Labs, collaborator with Hubspot Marketing—and so on.

But that’s his day job. Chris has a phenomenal ability to remember faces and names (even twitter addresses). More importantly, he is inherently drawn to people—and they to him.

He is genuinely modest, even self-effacing.  He’s the one who taught me “tweet others 12 times for every time you tweet about yourself.” He may be a rock star in social media—but he’s the exact opposite of “rock star” in the way he conducts himself.

Chris isn’t really in the social media business—he’s in the people business. It’s no accident his main identity these days is Human Business Works. Social media is just his regional accent; his language is human.


Chris, meet Jack Hubbard.

Jack, allow me to introduce Chris Brogan.

Y’all have a nice day now.


Are You a Connector? A Catalyst? A Steward?

Are you an ENTJ?  An ISFP?  An Aries or a Pisces?  You may know your Myers Briggs Type Indicator, and you no doubt know your birthday–but what about your Trust Temperament™?  How do you go about building a trustworthy relationship with another person?

Our research has identified six different Trust Temperaments™, or preferences, describing how different people go about building trust.

You Might Be a Redneck If…

To borrow from Jeff Foxworthy’s famous comedy routines (though on a more serious subject), we’d like to offer you a little self-assessment opportunity.  Here are the six Trust Temperaments™ based on the Trust Quotient to check out below.  Each one represents two strengths from the Trust Equation.

What’s Your Trust Temperament?

If you like being the smartest person in the room, if you solve the hard problems, if you care about what other people think of your work, or if you’ve ever said “Lead, follow or get out of the way–”

You might be an Expert.

If you’re organized, dependable, sincere, if you’re the PTA president or Little League coach, if you’ve ever been called a kindly (or not-so-kindly) drill sergeant–

–You might be a Doer.

If you love ideas and framing the big picture, how things are connected, collaborating and brainstorming, and if you like to play by your own rules–

–You might be a Catalyst.

If you’re magnetic and caring, if you accomplish things through others, and if people come to you to find out what’ really going on around here–

–You might be a Connector.

If you care about the group and the mission, if you’re willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done, if the phrase ‘servant leader’ has a positive ring for you–

–You might be a Steward.

And if you love the subject matter of your work (maybe more than you love people?), if you get sidetracked by insights but never by ego, if anyone has ever said to you: “Hello, we’re over here–”

–You might be a Professor.

Where do you see yourself?  To find out your type, take the Trust Quotient test.

But Enough About You–Let’s Talk About Us!

As we’ve said, these are natural styles, or tendencies, which draw on different strengths in becoming trustworthy.  Over the coming weeks some of us from Trusted Advisor Associates LLC are going to share our personal perspectives on what it’s like to be a…

Stay tuned.

Why Hard Trust is Gained from Soft Skills

I was in Toronto. Barely glancing at a $10 bill, I thought, “Ha—they misspelled the word ‘dollar,’ those silly Canadians.”

An instant later, I realized the fault was mine, not Canada’s. But before that realization happened–I had made a judgment. And much trust works that same way.

Think hard data causes trust? Think again. Hard trust is gained from soft skills.

The Myth of Rational Trust

Based on 14,000 takers of the Trust Quotient self-assessment test, we can confidently say most businesspeople overrate the importance of credibility in establishing trust. In practice if not in theory, they believe they can induce trust through PowerPoint. The fact is, more expertise ≠ more trust.

Most also believe that trust takes a long time to build and only a moment to destroy. In fact, trust takes about as long to destroy as it took to build—the time for each is a function of the depth of trust involved.

Both these beliefs—over-stating credibility and misunderstanding the speed of trust—are part of what I’ll call the Myth of Rational Trust. Simply stated, the myth says:

“The decision to trust is a conscious and cognitive process of weighing risks and returns, seeking the option most suited to increase the present value benefits of the one potentially doing the trusting.”

And monkeys fly.

How People Really Trust

People make decisions to trust, or not to trust, well before cognition can show up on the scene. Consider my immediate judgment that the Royal Canadian Mint had neglected to use spellcheck on its currency.

We make many trust decisions not on the basis of analytical criteria, but on the more autonomic instincts of whether something accords with deeply ingrained habits. Is he frowning or smiling? Is he holding out his hand to shake mine? Is ‘dollar’ spelled with one L or two?

Who was I to believe—my spelling instincts, honed since elementary school, or the Canadian government, with whom I have far less experience?  It was, pardon the pun, a no-brainer. I’m a very good speller; and I trust my instincts. Just like you do.  And if that meant Canadians couldn’t spell, I was for an instant willing to conclude that must be the case.

That is how the brain comes to trust.  In the case of currencies, the rational mind can quickly step in and say, “Wait a minute, are you kidding–how likely is that!? Does not compute. Hey, lying eyes, go take another look at that loonie bill.”

Easy enough when it comes to currencies.  But what happens when it comes to more complex phenomena? How do we come to trust in nurses, in salespeople—in politicians and institutions?

Lessons for Trusting

I recently saw an online comment to an economist’s article.  It started out, “I am open-minded, but when I got to your second sentence about the Bush tax cuts I quit reading—you are obviously a fool.”

Not open-minded at all—but neither are most of us.  We all have opinions on the issues du jour, and we dangerously tend to read only those who agree with us.

Which suggests that very few people’s minds are changed by confrontation with disconfirming data.

Instead, they are changed by the deeply-ingrained instincts we have come to rely on.

Personal Trust

In the personal-trust arena, our TQ research shows that the “intimacy” factor is the strongest of the four in the trust equation. Whether someone feels safe and secure sharing information with you is more powerful than your hard-won credentials, fancy slides and long list of past clients.  The saying, “People don’t care what you know until they know that you care” is not some idle sales line; it is deeply grounded in psychology.

A recent Wired story (Why Brains Get Creeped Out by Androids) suggests that we may trust robots doing people tasks, and we may trust people doing people tasks, but we get deeply suspicious if we see robots who look like people doing people tasks.  It has nothing to do with robots or tasks, but simply to an incongruity (“Wait, they’re not supposed to look like that, what’s going on here!?”)

How to be trusted? It lies in connection, focus, good will, hand shakes, empathy, listening, caring, bedside manner.  The road to hard trust is paved with soft skills.

Social Trust

How can Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation regain trust? Not by hiring a PR firm.  How can the US Congress recover from the debacle of its recent circular firing squad exercise? Not by more speeches.

The decision to trust often happens in an instant.  But that instant is just the reaction to a lifetime of conditioning experience.  If we are conditioned to think that all politicians are self-dealing bloviators, we didn’t get there overnight.

Trust takes as long to lose as to gain; and as long again to get it back. The answer to low trust in our companies and our institutions will not be found in quick hits, PR campaigns, new ideologies, changed incentives or new leadership.

It will come about as a natural result of sustained, across-the-board changes in beliefs, attitudes and behaviors. Companies actually have to behave responsibly; Congress actually has to make things work; advisors actually have to have their clients’ best interests at heart.  There is no quick fix. There is no reason to trust someone if they have created a history of being in it for themselves and untrustworthy.

But it can be done. Institutions used to be more trusted than they are now. We un-did that work, we can re-do it again.  And if we do, the instinct to trust can work as quickly as the instinct not to.

15 Ways to Build Trust…Fast!

In case you missed it, here’s your opportunity to get a copy of our latest eBook, “15 Ways to Build Trust … Fast!”

It’s the first in the new Fieldbook series, celebrating the forthcoming release of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook: A Comprehensive Toolkit for Leading with Trust (Wiley Books, October 31, 2011), by Charles H. Green (@CharlesHGreen) and Andrea P. Howe (@AndreaPHowe).

These eBooks are distillations of some of the content from our Fieldbook, which is designed to provide you with a complete set of tools to improve your ability to lead as a trusted advisor. “15 Ways to Build Trust … Fast!” debunks the myth that trust takes time to develop, and provides concrete tips for accelerating trust in any business relationship. Next up: selling to the C-suite—how to put the executive first, the relationship second, the sale third, and your own ego last.

If you’re not already receiving these in your inbox, please sign up here.

Don’t forget to check out our Trust Tip collection for more quick tips on building trust.

Trusting Delta

From Delta Airline’s Website, Delta’s Force for Global Good

“Delta is firmly committed to our environment, safety, and social responsibility. We demonstrate these commitments in hundreds of ways throughout the world on a daily basis as we partner with our employees, vendors, customers, civic, and non-profit organizations to make a difference in the communities where we live and work. Many of our programs are award-winning and industry-leading. We don’t do them for the awards. We do them because they’re the right thing to do.”

Richard H. Anderson
Chief Executive Officer, Delta Airlines

From the Atlanta Business News, July 27, 2011

Airlines Spoil Fliers’ Unplanned Tax Holiday

Airlines have complained for years that taxes added to ticket prices drive up the cost of travel. But when those tax collections stopped last weekend and airlines had a rare chance to give fliers a break, most opted to keep prices the same and pocket the difference.

For Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines, that amounts to be $4 million to $5 million a day in extra revenue, the company said Wednesday.

A Congressional stalemate led to a partial shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration Saturday, preventing the agency from collecting about $200 million a week in ticket taxes.

Delta and other major carriers then increased base fares to cover the lapsed taxes, saying they need the extra money to cover high fuel costs. The result is that travelers are paying roughly the same total price as before, instead of getting a discount from the unplanned tax holiday.

“It just seems like it was the perfect chance for the airlines to throw a bone in consumer satisfaction,” said CEO Rick Seaney…

…Delta’s official statement on the matter: “Given the high cost of jet fuel, Delta has been competitive with other airlines that increased their base fares following the expiration of funding for the Federal Aviation Administration to adjust for the taxes no longer being collected.”

Real People, Real Trust: How One Account Executive Stands Apart

Ralph Catillo is an Account Executive with Gallagher Benefit Services, one of the largest employee benefit agencies in the northeast region of the United States. Read Ralph’s no-holds-barred replies to questions about what it really takes to be a trusted advisor—and how the lessons he has learned apply at home as well as at work.

First Impressions

I know Ralph because he was a champion for a Trusted Advisor immersion workshop I led for his company in 2010. The first time we ever spoke on the phone, I was immediately struck by two things about him: his humor and his candor. Within minutes of interacting with Ralph, it’s crystal clear that he has nothing to hide. You get the sense that he’s quick, yet not in a rush; he’s knowledgeable, yet more interested in what you have to say than what he knows.

I began the interview for this article by asking Ralph a simple question: What does it take to be a trusted advisor? With characteristic dry wit, he immediately said, “I show up with a brown bag full of cash. It’s all been laundered.” Then he got serious for a moment, because more than anything he’s a thoughtful guy. His answer was simple: it takes honesty and purpose.

The 1-2 Punch of a Trusted Advisor: Honesty and Purpose

“You have to be 100% transparent, and 100% with no agenda other than doing the right thing. That’s really all there is. If you put aside your agenda, and your role, and really just come from the perspective of what is the best thing for this situation, whatever it may be, then you’re on the right track.

“The challenge is, the best thing for this situation might not be clear from the onset. So you have to get comfortable being in a zone of not knowing, where others are sometimes uncomfortable, and just put it all out there. You don’t have to have the answer, and you definitely don’t have to be the smartest one in the room. Everyone—me included—gets tripped up trying to be the smartest in the room, as opposed to coming at it with open ears and eyes. The best idea usually comes when you don’t come at it from an angle.”

As for honesty, Ralph says, “We’re in the services business, so it’s all about relationships. You have to be yourself. When you’re not, it’s unhealthy and unproductive.”

I asked Ralph about the courage it takes to do what he prescribes. He laughed. “Courage? I think it’s a lot more courageous to try to skirt an issue or be someone you aren’t—you put yourself at much greater risk. If I put all my cards on the table and I don’t get the business, well, at least I know I did everything I could.”

Nature or Nurture

I asked Ralph if he came by his approach naturally, or if he had learned it over time.

“I’ve evolved to it. When you’re in school, you’re trained to get the right answer. No one teaches you how to have conversations and day-to-day interactions. Then you take that right-answer mindset into business and it doesn’t work. In fact, that’s why I think so many managers struggle and fail—because they try to force what they think is right on others.

“I’ve definitely butted heads with people a lot along my own learning curve. Fortunately, I had a great role model and mentor along the way.”

Mentoring and Stewardship

Ralph credits David Friedman with his mindset about building trust in relationships. David, who joined his father and a part-time secretary 28 years ago in a small insurance practice located above a storefront on Main Street in Moorestown, NJ, later became the company’s first and only President when they incorporated as RSI in 1994 (later merging with Gallagher). Ralph says, “My first foray into trust-based relationships was through the RSI Fundamentals, which David created.”

The Fundamentals, which have since been published as a book, are 30 tenets that inform every employee’s day-to-day behavior. They include directives like:

  • Work from the assumption that people are good, fair, and honest.
  • Create a feeling of warmth and friendliness in every client interaction.
  • Take responsibility.
  • Be quick to ask and slow to judge.

“Those 30 Fundamentals changed my whole thought process and approach. Because of the Fundamentals, we’re deliberate about the mindset we bring to our interactions. We use a common language. And we have the right people too—we’re careful about hiring.”

Ralph credits David for David’s personal mentoring and stewardship of Gallagher Benefit Services. “It’s thanks to David that our company has developed and sustained this kind of culture. I’m not a lone ranger in my organization; it’s a top-down thing. That doesn’t mean it isn’t sometimes a challenge. It’s still uncomfortable to walk the talk, and not everyone is great at it. But at least we have a shared understanding about what we aspire to.”

It’s Business; It’s Personal

Ralph sees a lot of parallels between trust in business relationships and in personal relationships.

“Consistency breeds trust. I see that as a professional, as a friend, and as a father. With my kids, all I want them to do is communicate, without fear of repercussions. That takes a lot of time and experiences and leading by example.

“Just yesterday my teen-aged son had his buddies over after school, before I came home from work. They’d come from the pool, and one of my son’s friends sat in my chair in his soaking wet suit. As soon as I got home, my son pulled me aside, told me what happened, and took responsibility for it. He was surprised when I thanked him for being up front and direct about it, instead of getting angry. I reminded him what I want more than anything is for him to just keep talking to me. A chair is a chair; it can be cleaned up. But the next time it might be something far more worrisome, like someone approaching him with drugs. I want to be a parent, and a resource, not the judge and jury.”

Keeping it Simple

Ralph’s perspective on leading with trust in all his relationships is a lot like the guy himself: uncomplicated, direct, thoughtful, real.

In the words of the famous artist, Leonardo DaVinci, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Thank you, Ralph, for sharing your art with all of us.

Connect with Ralph on LinkedIn.


The Real People, Real Trust series offers an insider view into the challenges, successes, and make-it-or-break-it moments of people from all corners of the world who are leading with trust. Check out our prior posts: read about Chip Grizzard, a CEO You Should Know.

Getting Up Close & Personal with Trust Tips

We’re about halfway through our countdown of Trust Tips leading up to the release of  “The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook: A Comprehensive Toolkit for Leading with Trust,” a new book written by the two of us—Charles H. Green  and Andrea P. Howe—to be published by Wiley Books, on October 31, 2011.

We try to keep our tips applicable to nearly every workday. That way you can apply them now and see positive results quickly.

You can get the Trust tips delivered straight to your Twitter feed by following us directly (@CharlesHGreen and @AndreaPHowe) or by searching with the hashtag #TrustTip.  I’ve really been enjoying the thought-provoking discussions we’ve been having and I would encourage you to join us.

But as Twitter isn’t for everyone and as we don’t want to leave anyone out in the cold we also keep a running list of the tips here on the site—see below:

If you need to catch up, see our recaps of Tips:

Below are the most recent, Tips #80-75

#80: Two sure trust-killers: a tendency to blame, and an inability to confront

#79: Name one trigger or fault you have; decide how to coopt it

#78: Don’t interrupt. If you do, apologize. Even if you’re a New Yorker.

#77: Did you just name-drop? Why? Who did it help? Check your motives

#76: Call your client once in awhile just to find out how he/she is

#75: Reduce your APM count (acronyms per minute)

#74: If you can’t present it without PowerPoint, go work on your presentation skills

#73: Spend time in your client’s shoes–imagine what it’s like to be him/her; role play with a colleague

#72: Cultivate an attitude of curiosity–think in advance about what questions you want to ask

#71: Try doing your thinking out loud; with your client. Don’t hide it away.

A Couple of Our Favorites

#72: Cultivate an attitude of curiosity–think in advance about what questions you want to ask.

In much of our professional life, our dominant attitude is one of self-focus.  We may be worried, or excited, or intent—but in all such cases, we are self-absorbed.  But the key to success in much of our professional life is to be outward-facing, customer-focused, other-oriented. Fine, you say—but how do you do that?

One way to do it is to cultivate an attitude of curiosity. You can cultivate it by intentionally setting aside time to wonder—wonder why this situation is so, and why things work that way, and where this other thing first came from.  Wondering can lead to questions, and once you have questions, you have a great basis for an other-oriented conversation.

You can make curiosity a habit that way; a habit that results in an attitude. And an attitude results in behaviors that are client-focused.  Your clients will notice.

#80: Two sure trust-killers: a tendency to blame, and an inability to confront

Phil McGee coined this one, and we love it.  Blame—the tendency to deflect bad news onto others, while disproportionately taking credit ourselves.  Blame violates several principles—it is greedy and self-oriented, but it is also deceitful, since it incorrectly assigns responsibility.

The flip side is an inability to confront.  If you can’t constructively confront issues, you can’t speak the truth.  And if you can’t speak the truth, you can’t be trusted.  Note that you don’t have to be brutal to be a truth-teller, that’s not much better than sugar-coating.  But with good intent and careful communication, you can nearly always speak to any issue truthfully.

If you can do that, you can be transparent, open, and have direct and powerful conversations with everyone.  And if you can constructively confront, by the way, there is no longer much reason to blame.


3 Minutes to Create a Great Impression

It was five months ago, but I remember it like yesterday.

I had given a speech for an important Fortune 500 client. The event had about 300 attendees, and I was one of several speakers.

The person preceding me overran his time, cutting 15 minutes into mine. That is rude to other speakers, and to the audience, who have the right to view an agenda as a promise. I never do that to others, and don’t like it when someone does it to me.

I let it throw me off a bit; I didn’t give my worst speech, but it wasn’t my best either. This bothered me for the next two days.

A Turnaround Impression

Until, that is, I received a card in the mail. It was from my client’s senior-most person in attendance, the host of the meeting I’d attended.  The card was hand-written, and clearly written by him (at least, that’s what I think).

It was personalized, gracious, and thoughtful.  If it was scripted, my compliments to the staff writer, because it felt very genuine to me. I was floored.

3 Minutes to Impact

It can’t have taken my client more than 2 minutes to write the card, perhaps less—though clearly he’d given it more than a moment’s thought.  Let’s say he gave it a minute.  That’s a lot of thought; and yet only a grand total of 3 minutes.

And remember, this was a client, sending me, the speaker/consultant a thank you note—I should be the one sending it to him!

Again—I was floored. And very touched.

Can You Find 3 Minutes Per Week?

How often do you encounter opportunities to send someone a note?  Let’s be conservative and say once a week.  At once a week, that feels like a pretty special event—there are only 50 or so per year.

That’s about one-tenth of one percent of your weekly time. What other three minute weekly activity could generate that kind of personal impact, make somebody’s day, reach out and touch someone so powerfully?

You Can’t Write an Insincere Note

And don’t tell me it’s insincere.  I defy you to sit down and write a thoughtful thank you note to a business connection and tell me you did it with a greedy scowl.  I don’t believe you’re that cynical (and I don’t even know you!).  And if you’re sincere, then the odds are very good indeed that your sincerity will come through.

I used to get occasional handwritten notes from the folks at Continental Airlines’ One Pass organization. Were those notes part of an organized plan? You bet. But insincere? No way—someone sat down and hand-wrote a note to me; that is an act of respect, and I felt it.  Are you listening, United?

Try it. Plan on writing a 3-minute note to someone next week.  Who will be the lucky recipient?  And how will you feel about it?

Write and tell me—I’d like to hear about it.

Think Before Sending

What would you do?

That’s what my daughter’s 8th grade class was asked last year. The subject: texting secrets.

One girl had texted to a friend another friend’s embarrassing secret. But she didn’t just send it to one BFF— the text went out to everyone in the class—including, of course, the hapless girl whose secret was no longer.

Sound familiar? I recently received a message sent from one educator to a couple of colleagues regarding a student.  It also went to the institution’s entire mailing list.  This happens a lot in business too.  “Reply all” inadvertently pressed sends messages to the wrong person or people, or to entire lists.  Sometimes those slipped messages lead to a career and/or personal life hurt or destroyed.

The cause: carelessness, haste, anger? Doesn’t really matter. Who would think a simple button on a screen marked “send” could cause so much havoc?

Not Just Another Reply-All Horror Story

We could talk about how to recover from the gaffe via an apology. We could talk about how to use email properly.

Or–we could discuss how these types of issues affect trust.  And they do.  Think of this from the perspective of the Trust Equation.  Sending to the wrong person or group of people reduces Credibility and Reliability.  What gets inadvertently shared decreases Intimacy–after all sharing a secret shows a lack of discretion, even if done by mistake.

Here’s what my daughter learned as a result of this exercise with her class:

  • Double check everything before sending any electronic message (email, text, Facebook, IM)
  • Consider the medium–should the message be sent electronically, or is it better delivered in person or by phone
  • Should it be sent at all, by any medium (is it gossip or otherwise inappropriate to share)
  • Be prepared to do the right thing in the event things don’t work out.

The Big LessonLess Is More

As I thought about it, I think the third point—“should it be sent at all”—is by far the more powerful lesson my daughter learned that day.  Think it through.  Take a deep breath.  Count to ten. What’s your role in the situation?  What will the consequences be? Will saying anything really matter in a positive way?

These are profound lessons for all of us.  Adults suffer all the time from not having learned these lessons earlier in life.  How often do we act out and regret later?  How often do we say hurtful things even when we don’t mean to and suffer remorse?  How often do we hurt those we love?

Some time ago I learned from a lawyer colleague I respect and trust, that when it comes to the written and spoken word, less is more.  Shouldn’t we at least think about this before we hit Send?

I think my daughter learned a few rules of email etiquette that day—and one massive lesson about living life as a human being.

I’m pleased it was a topic for an 8th grade class, and it’s not the first time her school addressed real world issues.  I just hope we don’t have to wait for this generation to grow up before these valuable lessons are commonly used in the business community.