Selling Promotional Products: Why 'Know, Like and Trust' Matters More Than Ever
I’ll tell you, with the way the world is right now, it’s feeling somewhat appropriate to head for the hills, maybe fold up and run. But for those who are sticking it out for the long term, many of us have doubled down on our efforts to reimagine our businesses. Inevitably (and on varying timelines, mind you) we’ll have to get back to things that are intended to make money for you and your family. In that return, one of the things we’re all going to have to reconsider is the element of trust.
It’s a universally held truth that people do business with people they know, like and trust. While it may seem cliché, the reality of most universal truths is that they are so widely accepted as true that they no longer are studied and considered as key elements in relationship building. They have a tendency to become trite and/or cliché in the process. It does not, however, make them wrong.
This discovery, when applied to our current idled economy, has proven to be a key finding when seeking positive outcomes in this selling environment, impacted as it has been by our current public health threat. During our collective “period in pause,” many of us have been party to or witnessed instances where traditional sales activities were not only frowned upon, but responded to with hostility. Worse, in those instances where those errant sales attempts had often been seen as a forgivable stub of your toe, errors in judgment in this sales environment are black marks in the eyes of the prospect—black marks that may be permanent.
Consider the journey to trust akin to climbing a pyramid of necessity. It’s difficult to arrive at Trust with someone without typically having made incremental stops in the process at Know and Like. (The caveat being those instances when the need for something you sell outstrips the buyers need for trust. In practice, that looks a lot like our efforts to get by selling PPE. Buyers may not care whether or not they trust you if they’re desperate for products you can source for them.)
You’ll remember this all started with The Great Sanitizer Debacle of 2020. That got to the point where things got a little ugly and not very nice. Unpleasantries were being hurled at industry suppliers on message boards across the internet, driven by the classics: fear, uncertainty and doubt. Relationships in those moments were most assuredly not exhibiting strong levels of trust.
Absent those instances when demand overpowers the need for trust, the only remaining consideration to begin with centers around your ability to be widely relied-upon for what you do. When you’re interacting with others in a business setting, train your brain to first consider the current level of trust you’ve established with those counterparts.
In times like these, with scarce resources and greater need for confidence in decision-making, people will typically revert to dealing primarily with people they trust. If you haven’t established a trust relationship with the person you’re dealing with, your first responsibility in the encounter should be focused on trust-building. By focusing first on trust, you can train yourself to pick up on specific identifiers that serve as clues for success as you make your journey.
Consider, as a reference to convert this approach to a formula, the book “The Speed of Trust” by Stephen M.R. Covey. It’s a fantastic read, and I think it would be a great one for anybody who is faced with this trust paradox. In the book, Covey explains that in moments of peril, people seeking assistance in solving their problems look for two specific character traits: character and competence. When people seek to grant you the trust necessary to work together as buyers and sellers, they’re looking for that combination of character and competence to give them the confidence that you would be someone worthy of their trust.
As you consider yourself in your interactions and you’ve realized it’s transactions you seek, the best way to minimize the risk of those permanent black marks in your search is to stay as close to those who trust you as much as humanly possible. You’re not going to have to overcome trust gaps in ways that you will with people who don’t know you or give you the opportunity to earn some semblance of trust in the process.
How to Get There: a Framework
Prospects are loathe to be pitched by someone they’ve never met before. Instead of taking that gamble, why not consider an approach that puts this new relationship on the path to trust as quickly as possible with displays of what makes you who you are and why you do what you do?
More so now than ever, idled buyers are stuffing themselves with videos, podcasts, blogs, interviews, books, educational sessions, Zoom happy hours and more. By giving these folks ways to connect with you, you’re paving a path to trust. And by recognizing those signs of progress, you can improve your chances of becoming a trustworthy companion. Consider this framework:
Low trust relationships. These are nurtured by educating, informing, entertaining and inspiring. Focus your attention on ways to communicate your value in ways that check these boxes. The more boxes checked, the better your chance for success.
Neutral trust relationships. These are nurtured with person-to-person revelations of ways this new relationship most closely mimics other relationships with clients in your existing client base and displays of expertise specific to the problem your new buyer is facing.
Strong trust relationships. These are fortified by repeated and consistent efforts to design and deliver client-specific strategies based on your growing understanding of their specific problems and the problems of other similar clients. “Ohana,” the Hawaiian word for “family,” carries special meaning, in that non-blood relatives are openly welcomed and accepted as family. Your Ohana called you for help when things fell apart, and Ohana will look for you to bring them solutions they didn’t even know existed or could imagine being valuable. Your Ohana status grants you the right to bring your best ideas to the people most meant to receive them. Ohana is also a trap, as many of us realized recently how few Ohana there are when all your weaker trust relationships have evaporated.
Negative trust relationships. Negative opinions should never be ignored, but they should also not be feared. It’s important to recognize those instances when another’s opinion of you has gone south and build a strategy to address and recognize those instances when you’ve blown it. Pretending your missteps didn’t happen prevents the opportunity for reconciliation with the dissatisfied few, at the potential future expense of the ecstatic many clients who you want to become Ohana. Don’t let stubbornness or the desire to be right today cost you those who will be there for you in the future.
Commit yourself to the climb to trust and watch as your brand grows in reputation, importance and value in the markets you serve and with the clients who seek what you know. I’ll see you on the pyramids.
PS – As you move up in your trust levels with clients, don’t leave the framework behind. Your Ohana wants to be educated, informed, entertained and inspired more than anyone else. The framework supports you at every stage of the journey.
Roger Burnett has spent 20-plus years making complex concepts more understandable for both buyers and sellers alike, and has devoted the majority of his recent career to injecting purpose via philanthropy to his sales and marketing efforts. He’s intent on making the world a better place, and his nirvana exists at the intersection of Mission, Passion, Profession and Vocation. He loves the outdoors and seeks memorable experiences whenever possible. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (810) 986-5369.