Top Ten Reasons Organizations Don’t Teach Trust

A little while back I was asked a simple yet profound question by Tom Hines from the Monitor Group. It’s a question that over the years, I continue to get from clients – and clients from all over the globe, no less.

It seems no matter where you are from or what services your organization offers, there is a focus on closing the sale through the official “sales process.” And yet, everywhere, people are either already aware or starting to take notice that its the softer side of sales that pushes the “sale” towards establishing a lasting client relationship.

So – why don’t more organizations teach trust? Well – here’s my top ten list that may shed a little light on the subject.


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?

12 replies
  1. Mike Garrison
    Mike Garrison says:

    Great article! The only thing I could add would be that most people (in my experience) that ‘sell’ sales training…aren’t very good at challenger selling. They are really offering ‘mirrored’ products that address short term needs and aren’t comfortable or skilled at offering transformational training concepts.

    • Larry
      Larry says:

      So true Mike. I truly believe in sales, a digital sales transformation mindset and skill set need to be developed. They don’t invest in trust because unfortunately years of bad behaviors.

    • Charlie Green
      Charlie Green says:

      And, I would add, many that do “challenger selling” get it wrong by focusing just on the cognitive challenge. While that’s necessary, it’s far from sufficient – and if unaccompanied by the non-cognitive part of trust, it’s actually destructive.

      The necessary complement to challenging content is a prior emotional connection with the customer that lets the customer know you actually ‘get’ their problem.

      Nobody has repealed the fundamental law of human buyer-behavior: “People don’t care what you know UNTIL they know that you care.” The challenge comes AFTER you show that you care; typically you do that by doing a fine job of listening.

  2. Barbara Kimmel
    Barbara Kimmel says:

    Charlie- while I don’t agree, someone recently told me that the reason trust is not taught is because no corporate silo actually “owns” trust and therefore there is no budget for training.

    The real reason is that for trust to be taught, there has to be an understanding and acknowledgement of its stature in the organization. Trust is not a “siloized” function but rather a holistic leadership approach to doing business and it can’t be delegated. It starts right at the top (Board of Directors & C-Suite) and flows down through the organization. It’s a deliberate business strategy that is practiced and reinforced daily.

    Companies don’t teach it because in the majority of them, leaders view trust as a soft skill, not a hard measurable asset. It’s simply taken for granted. Leaders believe that if they meet their quarterly numbers, keep the crises at bay and the analysts happy, they’ve got that “trust thing” covered.

    Our 7+ years of research on the integrity of America’s 1500+ largest companies points in the direction that, over the long term, the most trustworthy are also the most profitable. In the majority of cases, you can follow the bread crumbs right back to leadership. Perhaps it is this elite group’s “best kept secret.”

  3. Sonja
    Sonja says:

    Great article Charlie. Thank you. I agree with your first point – trust is frequently seen as soft and fluffy (I was recently labelled ‘flowery’ for even mentioning it as a concept when it came to selling and marketing!). Barbara’s comment strikes a chord too – most often it’s not on the agenda. Well done for battling to give trust the stature it deserves!

  4. Jeff Molander
    Jeff Molander says:

    Worse, the world of “social selling” and digital sales spreads poisonous ideas: Simply “share valuable content” (recycled information your client already knows) and become more trusted. It’s a meme. And its getting worse. Because most sales people are looking for short-cuts to building trust. Thus, building trust is becoming a quantitative (rather than qualitative) knowledge-sharing game. Of course, this is not a worthwhile (nor effective) strategy… as Sonja knows. Nice to see you here, Sonja!

  5. Jim
    Jim says:

    Here’s my take on the matter. Salespeople are a commodity, they are short term, they are a necessary evil. This is unlike the financial pros, the manufacturing engineers, the management bunch — all of whom are long-term and clearly deserve careful treatment. So slog those sales wienies, set high expectations, then set the goals higher still when they meet some set of goals. Don’t even think of providing them with skills that might outlast their short tenure at our company — why they might prove dangerous at the next place they go. Trust salepeople? — it’s an oxymoron! That’s how I see it out there in sales land.

  6. Bill Corbin
    Bill Corbin says:

    Another aspect of the oddity — with a deflection of 1/2 of one percent of sales/marketing budget, a meaningful test of the impact of trust-based selling could be executed. Through history, companies have been willing to sacrifice Fort Wayne or Sioux City for a test of ideas that are often bizarre or doomed by casual analysis — more confirmation that trust-based selling isn’t on most radar screens as a legitimate element of sales strategy.

  7. John gies
    John gies says:

    Great post and comments. I resonate with the idea that business is about commerce not competition.

    To Barbara’s point with all of the change management programs and culture building,why wouldn’t trust be in that budget? I have not seen many mission and or value statements that do not include trust.

    Trust starts at the top and with a recognition that we are all in relationship with each other. Relationships thrive on trust.


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