Trust Based Selling

Book Review: Trust Based Selling by Charles Green

Dave Kinnear1-On Leadership, Book Reviews

For years, I have believed that there was “something missing” in the sales programs to which I had been exposed. Despite all the words to the contrary, the many programs seemed manipulative with the focus on “getting the order.” The many different incentive programs I’ve seen employed simply drove that point home. It was always in my sales team’s best interest to “take the order off the buyer’s desk.” And even the more advanced relationship selling programs had that end goal as the reason for building the relationship. It is always about the seller’s point of view even as they claim to be customer oriented. The results is “manipulation,” and it is highly visible to the customer.

Green finally has given us the language to use that makes it clear how the various rungs on the sales competency ladder lead you to success: product-based to needs-based to relationship-based and finally to trust-based state of mind. The first three rungs on the sales ladder are seller oriented. The last rung is customer oriented. For other than commodity products and services, the old adage that “nothing happens without a sale” must be updated to add “and no significant sale will happen without trust.”

Each chapter in this must read book begins with a “Chapter at a Glance” box that sets the reader up for what to expect and then Green fulfills that promise. The chapters are broken down into reasonable chunks of information that are easy to find when referring back to previous material. The writing is clear and the message compelling. There are many very useful diagrams, tables, and lists.

Green states that there are four principles that drive trust-based selling: (1) A focus on the customer for the customer’s sake, not just the seller’s sake. (2) A style of selling that is consistently collaborative. (3) A perspective centered on the medium to long term. (4) A habit of being transparent in all dealings with the customer. Each of these principles is described in full, a list of what supports or encourages keeping those principles is given and then a discussion of what destroys the principles is also provided. The insight for the reader (especially those familiar with the usual sales training courses) is how much we are told we must do in sales actually destroys trust with our clients.

Green provides us with a memory prodder in the form of an equation: T = (C+R+I)/(S) where T is trust, C is credibility, R is reliability, I is intimacy and S is self-orientation. Credibility is about the words we speak and the domain knowledge we bring to bear. Reliability has to do with our actions and delivering what we promise to the customer/client. Intimacy refers to the safety or security that we feel when entrusting someone with information or feelings. Self-orientation is the perception of whether or not the person in question is only interested in furthering his or her own goals or is more focused on helping others achieve their goals. Each of these parameters are explored in depth.

Green then moves on to describe the “Trust Creation Process”: Engage-Listen-Frame-Envision-Action. Engage is a focus on understanding what the customer values and being prepared to discuss them. Listen at a higher level to themes and issues that are important and real to the customer. Frame the root issue, problem statement or opportunity statement in terms that both you and the customer agree to. Envision, with your customer, an alternate end-state (how things will look when resolved). And Action is a mutually agreed upon set of executable steps for both you and your customer to move toward the vision. Again, Green goes into detailed explanation of each of these process steps making it clear how important it is to maintain the customer focus throughout the trust creation process.

There are many lists throughout the book and I found myself going back to review them as Green built on the concepts he presented. I was very pleased to find that the Appendix has a complete compilation of the lists in the order they were introduced. This will be an excellent reference as the reader implements and integrates the principles in this book in all his or her relationships – not just sales!
This book is a must read for not only the sales professional but for any executive who deals with people and has to sell ideas, budgets or plans – so that’s just about everyone! For the sales executives and managers, you will need to run interference in your own organization so that your sales team can focus on more mid-term and long-term relationships. The day of stretching the rules and compensation geared toward short-term quarterly goals must go the way of the dinosaurs. Your organization would do well to: adopt the four fundamental principles of Trust-Based Selling; move from being seller-focused to being client-focused; collaborate rather than compete with your customers; care about customers for their sakes – thereby increasing your sales and customer retention rates; and develop the perspective that “the relationship is the customer.” Get it, read it and put it into practice.

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