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Buyer’s trust of sales people

Whenever researchers use “meta-analysis” to draw conclusions, you can be sure of 2 things: First, the results are worth taking seriously and second, only someone with a PhD in Statistics can decode the research!

With this in mind, it’s no surprise that Wood & Bole’s work on trust that was published in 2008 in the Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management did not diffuse further into popular selling know-how. Whilst the conclusions were quite sound, the presentation of them to the outside world was not so simple.

In essence, the authors distilled 3 core components that drive buyer’s trust of sales people: Expertise, credibility and compatibility. The surprise finding was that expertise was actually quite a minor contributor to trust. The other components were much more important, and if you break them down, it gives us excellent insight into how we can generate more trust.

Credibility for example, included such statements as “keeps promises” and “is reliable”, both of which are easily trained and heavily dependent on good time management and personal organisation (perhaps aided by technology).

Compatibility has to do with “is friendly” and “approachable”, again, basic behaviours which can easily be trained.

Organisations that have long sales cycles with multiple customer contacts would do well to invest in behavioural programmes to set the standard for attitudes and behaviour that actively drive trust: After all, would you buy from someone you do not trust?

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