Friday, March 13, 2009

Overcome obstacles to sales by building customers' trust

In a recent article, corporate trainer Zig Ziglar wrote, “Every sale has five basic obstacles: no need, no money, no hurry, no desire, no trust.”

He goes on to explain that as business owners, while you can’t control the lack of need, money, urgency or desire, the one thing you can control is trust.

We can all agree that in recent months there has been a loss of trust in business – all you have to do is skim the newspaper headlines to see that.

In fact Edelman, the world’s largest independent public relations firm just released its 10th annual Trust Barometer for 2009. Not surprisingly, trust in U.S. business is the lowest it has ever been in Edelman’s tracking history - at 38 percent compared to 58 percent a year ago. It’s lower now that it was in the wake of Enron and the dot-com bust.

The study, which can be accessed at, only confirms the wisdom that Ziglar imparts - trust affects consumer spending. Here’s a quick glimpse at some of the findings:

• “In the past year, 91 percent of 25-to-64-year-olds around the world indicated they bought a product or service from a company they trusted, and 77 percent refused to buy a product or service from a company they didn’t trust.

• Trust is one of the most important factors in determining a company’s reputation. It ranks just below quality of products and treatment of employees.

Likewise, in the first ever BBB/Gallup Trust in Business Index survey commissioned recently by Better Business Bureau, nearly one in five respondents said their trust in the businesses they regularly deal with has decreased in the last 12 months. Our national statistics support this trend. For the past five years the number of consumers both inquiring and complaining to BBB has steadily risen.

So if customer trust is something companies can control, why is it declining? And more importantly as a business owner, what can you do about it?

Define trust as it relates to your company. What does trust mean to you and how does it relate to your mission? What does it mean to your customers? Employees? Once you have a definition, live by it. It doesn’t work if you say your business is trustworthy. You have to act on it.

Below are the Standards for Trust that all BBB supporting businesses agree to uphold as a condition of their membership. If you’re not a member, consider pulling from them to develop your own internal standards. If you are accredited by BBB, now would be the time to let the world — or at least your potential customers — know these are the standards you uphold.

BBB Standards for Trust

• Build Trust: Establish and maintain a positive track record in the marketplace.

• Advertise Honestly: Adhere to established standards of advertising and selling.

• Tell the Truth: Honestly represent products and services, including clear and adequate disclosures of all material terms.

• Be Transparent: Openly identify the nature, location, and ownership of the business, and clearly disclose all policies, guarantees and procedures that bear on a customer’s decision to buy.

• Honor Promises: Abide by all written agreements and verbal presentations.

• Be Responsive: Address marketplace disputes quickly, professionally, and in good faith.

• Safeguard Privacy: Protect any data collected against mishandling and fraud, collect personal information only as needed, and respect the preferences of consumers regarding the use of their information.

• Embody Integrity: Approach all business dealings, marketplace transactions and commitments with integrity.

“Trust affects the quality of every relationship, every communication, every effort in which we are engaged … by behaving in ways that build trust with one, you build trust with many.” - Stephen M.R. Covey.

(Better Business Bureau of Southern Arizona)

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