Top Ten Reasons Organizations Don’t Teach Trust

This recently from Tom Hines of the Monitor Group.

"My question to you, Charlie, is simple, but something that I’ve been struggling with for some time now. If every CEO or other senior leader (or at least the great majority) seems to agree that success in selling is in some part attributable to trust based selling concepts, then why do they spend virtually all of their training $$ on sales process, closing techniques, etc. It seems like a dirty little secret that this is nothing but a waste of money."

"I have worked with literally hundreds of sales people over my career and no process, qualification questions or closing technique ever works without establishing trust as the foundation of any client relationship. So the question then is why don’t organizations prioritize and invest in helping their organization understand the dynamics of trust and use that as the foundation of any other program they try to implement? It seems to me that they spend a great deal of money on "quick fix" programs that do nothing to change behaviors and belief systems about the importance of trust and how it is the only way to improve performance."

Well, Tom, no surprise, you’re preaching to the choir. But I know you mean the question seriously too, and I too take it as a serious question.

Why is it that things are that way?

Here’s my Top Ten list for why organizations, especially sales organizations, don’t invest more in trust. 

10. Fear–of looking wussy, as in Real Men Don’t Play Trust Games.

9. Thinking that business is about competition. It’s not. It’s about commerce.

8. Fear—of someone taking advantage of us; hence do unto others before they do unto you.

7. Bad long-term logic. We are dominated by financial logic, internal rates of return and present-value discount rates. That belief outlaws any investment beyond about 25 years. The parent of a child operates on a longer timeframe, not to mention entire nations in Asia.

6. Inability to defer gratification.

5. A Hobbesian hangover. The continued belief, fostered by ideologue economists and politicians, that the world is an evil place—life is nasty, brutish and short–and therefore the best defense is a good offense. Even if the premise were true (I have no position on it), the conclusion certainly is not.

4. The cult of rationality. Belief that only “scientific” management works; forget passion, belief, relationships—and trust.

3. Over-emphasis on measurement. The belief that “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” Just think about that. False on the face of it.

2. The cult of short-termism. Here-now, bird-in-hand, payback time, fees-not-interest, outsource, monetize—it all adds up to transactions, not relationships. Not good for trust.

1. Fear—that someone will find out who you really are if you don’t manage your image. So tighten up, spin everything, and get out of Dodge before they can spot you for who you really are.

What’s your answer to Tom’s question?

4 replies
  1. Barbara Garabedian
    Barbara Garabedian says:

    Charlie: Terrific response. Here are a couple of others (albeit not phrased as eloquently as yours) to throw into the mix:

    • A basic question that many sales organizations refuse to address : is sales ability innate or can anyone (especially SMEs) be taught to sell? If one believes in a certain innate or baseline DNA – that’s means a lot of work, effort, resources  and coordination needs to occur between leadership, line mgmt. sales organizations and HR. That gigantic & expensive effort goes against the "grain of current acceptable thinking",  as it would mean identifying the appropriate "DNA" attributes and then recruiting, hiring  and mentoring against those. Let’s face it, hiring a warm SME body that can be thrown into a few classes and given a lot of glitzy tools –  is much easier and a much more acceptable business practice. Personally, I belong in the  former camp. I honestly believe if one has a well honed sense of curiosity – the rest can be learned but hey, that’s me.
    •  Quite a number of CEO’s these days are from the CFO world. As such, a number  never  actually had to sell anything – or if they had any sales training, it was the traditional type of  program. In other words, they don’t know what they don’t know. Many sales organization directors (and SVP HR)  believe sales is formula driven  – and they are the people the CEO’s are relying on for advice and counsel.  If a leader buys into  trust-based concepts, how many SVP sales, VPHR, CLO’s  would be able to respond accordingly?
  2. Andrea Howe
    Andrea Howe says:

    Definitely a great list – especially the emphasis on fear.  I’d also add a few things:

    – "Teaching" trust requires a different level of facilitation mastery than most tactical sales skills and, in fact, most soft skills.  Things to deal with include self-awareness, self-management, limiting beliefs and mindsets, etc., which require a whole ‘nother level of Emotional Intelligence in the person doing the "teaching."

    – The kind of learning programs that make this kind of learning possible are anything but traditional — for example, they require a combo of classroom time and out-of-the-box learning interventions.  This different learning paradigm necessitates innovation and risk.  Most organizations aren’t wired that way … or don’t realize it so don’t take the leap.

  3. Tom Hines
    Tom Hines says:

    I would also add to Barbara’s second bullet that the flaw in the thinking of most CEO’s/CFO’s is that while there is a process to sales, sales in not a process.

    By trying to break down sales to a science of "follow these 5 steps and you’ll be successful" is insanity (as defdined as doing the same thing lover and over and expecting a different result).

    The way the customers buy today has changed dramatically but the way most organizations (and people) sell has remained unchanged (i.e. "the sales process").  There has also been a tremendous amount of new information in the area of social neurscience that helps uncover how people make connections (develop trust). 

    The sooner organizations, leaders and people responsible for developing business get the courage to accept this fact, the sooner they will see success.

    The way we have historically sold (Birth of a Salesman: The Transformation of Selling in America, Walter A. Friedman) has led and continues to lead to cynicism and dis-trust  on the part of anyone buying your product or service which makes trust based selling a true differentiator.  The difference is that trust based selling has to be a trait that you believe in and are commited to, not another trick, ploy or sales strategy.



  4. Charlie (Green)
    Charlie (Green) says:

    Great stuff!  This deserves some further discussion.

    Barbara is not smoking something when she opines that if you have curiosity, you can get the rest.  Read "If you’re open to growth, you tend to grow" in today’s NYTimes; I’ll be blogging more on it.

    I love Tom’s line, "while there is a process to sales, sales is not a process."  Bingo. 

    Which is why Andrea’s thoughtful comment on the teaching of trust is so on-point.   (by the way, read Andrea’s current hosting of the Carnival of Trust).

    Trust-based selling is not about behaviors, mechanics, micro-measurements or process.  At root it’s about curisioity, heart, and a belief system that accommodates others.


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