Misconceptions about Trust-based Selling: Naivete

I find people have three primary misconceptions about the idea of Trust-based Selling™.

• One is that many people are not naturally "good," and that trusting people is naïve; doing so will bring you grief, if not danger and penury.
• The second misconception is that being trusted takes a lot of time and effort; too much, by their view. “We can’t afford to spend that much time and resources to be trusted.”
• The third misconception is that it just doesn’t work. It can’t be measured, it can’t be profitable, it doesn’t make sense.

I’m going to address all three of these misconceptions in separate postings. This is the first, aimed at the “naivete” argument.

There are some lovely counter-examples; see a blogpost called “Do You Trust Your Customers” by Rebecca Morgan, at Grow Your Key Talent  about the use of honor boxes and self-assessed service guarantees.

But counter-examples usually don’t convince doubters. So let’s try logic.

I’ve noticed that the “naivete” objection to Trust-based Selling is perversely aimed at buyers, not sellers, as in, “I could get really hurt by trusting others—they might take advantage of me.”

They miss the point: they confuse trust with trusting and with being trusted.  Trust-based Selling is mainly about the buyer trusting the seller, not vice versa.  While you can’t be trusted without being willing to do a little trusting yourself (the blogpost from Rebecca Morgan is just such an example), the bulk of the risk in trust-based selling is not taken on by the seller, but by the buyer. Trusting is but one strategy for being trustworthy— not the only one, or even the most important.

If indeed it’s naïve to believe that people can trust a seller, then the right question to the seller would be, “if even only a few people are willing to trust—are those few willing to trust you? And if not, why not?”

I have never heard a seller say “the trusting-buyer segment is too small to be worth it.” Instead, most recognize a trusting buyer is a wonderful thing.

I think the naivete argument is much more about the one making the argument than about any objective behavior. “You’re naïve” is typically said by someone who feels their beliefs are being attacked; someone who is personally vested in a fear-based psychology.

They are being truthful, in their own personal way. For them, trusting others feels risky. They attribute that same perception to others, so as not to feel alone. Therefore they don’t behave in a trustworthy manner, because then someone might trust them–thus proving their self-vested worldview wrong.

It turns out counter-examples are valuable—they force us to say, “well, it is possible to trust, and be trusted, and not get burned. So why are people not trusting me? Is it because I’m not selling in a trustworthy manner?”

Trust-based selling works, because most people respond very favorably to someone who consistently behaves in a trustworthy manner.  One such behavior is, occasionally, to do some trusting of others.