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Unlocking Sales Success: The Power of Implicit Trust

Updated: Feb 27

While taking my dog for a walk and enjoying The Jordan Harbinger Show Podcast on Blinkist, I stumbled upon a fascinating discussion between Jordan and Malcolm Gladwell about perspectives. One concept that resonated with me was "Implicit Trust" and its potential relevance to the sales world.

Gladwell's hypothesis, as discussed in the podcast (please listen for the full details), centred around the idea that a well-functioning society operates on implicit trust. For instance, when hailing a cab, you trust that the driver will safely guide you to your destination, and in turn, the driver trusts that you'll pay for the service.

But what does this notion of implicit trust have to do with sales? Did salespeople ever cultivate, receive, or earn such implicit trust from their prospects? And if we once had it, when did it slip away, and why?

In contrast to visiting a doctor, where trust is implicitly embedded in the Hippocratic Oath, the sales profession doesn't possess a similar foundation of faith. So, what do we have?

We've never truly enjoyed implicit trust from our prospects. We lack official professional recognition, have no university degree dedicated to sales, and operate without a defined code of conduct or principles.

So, why bring this up? We understand that sales hinges on trust developed through relationships and the value we offer to our prospects, among other factors. However, how might implicit trust reshape the dynamics between seller and buyer, and what should sellers do with this insight?

Implicit trust is a contextual concept. Many businesses, from entrepreneurs to Fortune 500 companies, have historically operated under the presumption of implicit trust due to their reputation. "We are ABC company, so you can trust us," is the prevailing mindset. This attitude filters down to the sales teams, who sometimes believe the company's name alone will sell their offerings. Consequently, sales teams need more effort in earning and building trust, leading to lost sales, extended sales cycles, and lower order values.

So, what lessons can we draw from this? Unlike other professions, Sales don't inherently enjoy implicit trust, no matter who you are or what you sell. Trust must be demonstrated through actions. This entails:

  1. Demonstrating industry knowledge and insight.

  2. Genuinely showing interest in the prospect's success.

  3. Proving your care by actively listening before proposing solutions.

  4. Asking insightful questions to uncover hidden needs.

  5. Focusing on outcomes, not just features and benefits – remember, prospects care about what your offering does for them.

  6. Practicing patience: if you genuinely care, you'll wait until your prospect is ready.

  7. Offering something of value to your prospect without immediately seeking something in return.

So, if you struggle to close deals, fill your pipeline, or expand your customer base, it's time to reevaluate whether you're assuming implicit trust where it may not exist. Building trust takes time and effort but is the cornerstone of successful sales.

Bernard Kuhn

Sales Strategist | Solopreneur and SMB Catalyst | Fractional Sales Leadership

Honest and informed sales advice that speaks to your gut, aligns with your principles, and reflects what I stand for.

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