Once upon a time, a man trekked into the wildest regions of the Himalayas in search of a wise master to answer his burning question.
After hiking for hours on end, he finally came across the old man he was looking for:
Man: “Can you tell me the secret of life?”
Master: “This [holds up his finger]”
Man: “Your finger?”
Master: “No. Not my finger. What is portrayed by my finger. One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and everything else will fall into place.”
Man: “That’s great but what’s ‘the one thing’?”
Master: “That’s what you’ve got to figure out.”
A foundation for great work
I haven’t figured out the secret of life but if there is one thing that really matters in business, my experience (many mistakes, a few failures and some successes) has shown me, that it is trust. If we focus on building trust, everything might just fall into its rightful place.
We like to have close relationships with the people we trust and we are willing to pay more (sometimes much, much more) for their products and services, even if they are very similar to someone else’s. Trust enables people to work together productively, communicate openly and move forward together effectively.
And yet, for most of us, building trust can be challenging.
Start with the Intangibles
People who do deals with us have certain expectations. We build trust by meeting or exceeding those expectations but there are things we can do even before a contract is signed to increase our chances of building trust. These concern the intangibles that are not communicated in writing as expectations but are part and parcel of how people perceive our services as well as us.
These intangibles include arriving on time for our meeting with our prospect or, perhaps more importantly, showing up on time and prepared, by doing all the necessary background work to show our prospect that we know and understand their industry, their business and above all their ‘world’.
Building trust, starts with a pleasant human conversation that goes beyond any deal making. Trust is fostered by our willingness to understand our prospects’ needs rather than an urge to sell our products and services at all cost. A personal connection and understanding are a priority. Discussions around price come second. We must be prepared to ask pertinent questions and listen to the answers and to show that we are not there to talk for the sake of talking. Besides, as the Chinese say “Talk doesn’t cook rice”.
In business, one of the best ways to gain trust is to add real value. Good entrepreneurs take before they give but great entrepreneurs give before they take. Show prospects how your value proposition can work for them, give them insights, ideas and suggestions about how they can become better than they are, even if they decide not to use your products or services. In other words, show that you really care for them, no matter what. For example, when one of my closest confidants came to ask me if the price he had quoted would be accepted, I immediately replied with a deafening ‘No!’ His quotation was just a regurgitation of his website offering without any effort to build more value for his potential customer. I told him, and this is the central theme of building and advising value, that he should not be submitting a proposal but rather a thesis. A “guide” on how to make his prospect successful. His question should have been the other way round. Instead of “Is the price I am about to submit worth it?” to “Is the offer I am about to submit worth it?”
The Patel Way
Better still, don’t be afraid to appear vulnerable or to be open about how you perceive yourself (and others). Online Marketer Neil Patel provides some great value through his online educational videos, as many others do. What is particularly admirable about him, though, is the fact that he is not afraid to admit that he observes and learns from his competitors. In a recent video on how to hack growth, he notes:
“Never stop learning. You can always be better at SEO [Search Engine Optimisation]. People look at me and they are like: ‘Oh my God Neil, you are so good at SEO!’ No, I’m not good at SEO, I could be better. My competitors like HubSpot get five, six, seven times more traffic than me. I could always be doing better. And you know how you do better? You constantly learn. I don’t look at my competitors like Hubspot and be like: ‘They suck, I’m better than them.’ Instead, I look at what they are doing and wonder how can I learn from them? How can I take some of their tactics, apply them to my business and grow faster?”
It is highly unlikely you’ll ever hear Neil Patel saying, “Trust me”. What he does say, though, is that he is willing to listen, learn and improve. A person who is willing to do all these is deemed worthy of people’s trust.
Is that too much to ask? Maybe, but nobody said that building trust is easy.
It requires work, dedication and commitment but it is certainly worth it.
Who knows, trust could be the secret of life as well.