TRUST is an integral part of the sales process.

Once your customers trust you, they will remember you and refer you to friends, family and colleagues.

“Go to this person, you can trust him”, is one of the most valuable endorsements someone can give you.

As trust becomes harder to earn, it becomes more important. And salesmen who can build trust are the business saviours in this new financial environment.

The best way to build trust is to demonstrate it — and in the current economic climate, it has become harder to do that.

You feel the right thing to do by your business is to be wary. Your default becomes “don’t trust”. And it’s this attitude that starves the sales relationship — depriving it of the nourishment of trust that it needs to grow.

Demonstrating trust — or the lack of it — sometimes takes just the tiniest thing, and sometimes involves very little actual risk. Here are two examples from my own experience.

In a café after a very satisfactory lunch, I went to the counter to pay and noticed an open bowl of mints. Now, this would normally be seen as a friendly gesture by the management. The difference this time was that in the bowl of mints was a piece of cardboard with a handwritten message: Free Mints — Take ONE only.

Now, I’m no handwriting expert, but the word “one” seemed to be written in a very aggressive way. Needless to say, I didn’t take one. I wondered what might happen if I dared to take two. Would I be accosted as I left the premises with a demand that I hand it over?

The clear message patrons took away was that the owners didn’t trust us. And if they didn’t trust me with their mints, I wasn’t inclined to want to continue the business relationship with them, and I made a mental note never to go back.

Just a few weeks ago, I wanted to purchase a piece of specialised computer equipment. I discovered one supplier who explained that he didn’t usually stock the model I wanted, but could show me another one.

When I visited and explained the usage, he agreed that the model I’d asked for was the right one for me.

It would have to be ordered in and would take three to four days. I asked how much deposit he required to confirm the order and he said, “Nothing. I trust you. Just pay for it when you pick it up.”

I was with a business colleague and we were both shocked at this. Neither of us could remember a recent occasion when someone whom we had met 10 minutes earlier would take such a risk.

We spoke about him to many people over the next few days. Four days later he called to say it had arrived and when I picked it up I also purchased a whole lot of consumables without even comparing prices — because I trusted him! I will now support and recommend him whenever possible.

Now, when you think about it, what was his real risk? He may have been left holding this item he didn’t usually stock — which he would have to sell to someone else or trade back to the distributor for credit or alternative stock.

Either way, his chances of an actual loss were minimal. So, a small risk he took left a lasting impression and created a loyal advocate of his products. This equals a great outcome!

I am not suggesting that you take unnecessary risks, but the alternative is to lose the ability to trust.

As Samuel Johnson said in the 18th century: “It is better to suffer wrong than to do it, and happier to be sometimes cheated than not to trust.”

While it didn’t take much risk to build trust, it took something as tiny as a mint to destroy it.

Take the effort to build trust, take the initiative to demonstrate it, and you will take the lead in customer loyalty and sales performance.