People Buy Trust Before They Buy Products

All enduring customer relationships are built on a bedrock of fundamental values that the continuous stream of CRM trends and gimmicks can't hold a candle to. Chief among these values is TRUST. What do I mean by trust? I ask because it is an overused word that to some has lost its value, its punch. But the customer knows what it means when they see it. They know how to treasure and reward it with a lifetime of loyalty. They view it as trusting, in human terms, the companies they do business with, the sales and service people that represent those companies and the products and services they purchase from them. All of these companies exceed their brand promise. All go beyond the expected. All surprise their customers by demonstrating a level of commitment one generally associates with family as opposed to business. All build a deep reservoir of faith. And therein lies the true power and opportunity to be perceived as an extraordinary business. An exceptional salesperson. Once people have faith in a business, once a company and its people understand the power of faith, that business commands the greatest competitive advantage in the world. I don't mean faith as a religious term. But I do believe that the great religions of the world have demonstrated how to capture "customer" relationships, grow them and win their loyalty for life better than any other organizations on the planet. It is important, as business people, to understand the dynamic behind this Faith-based marketing that prompts 6 billion people worldwide to believe in a God without any empirical evidence of His existence. Without the standard trappings of salesmanship and customer service. Without elevator speeches or product catalogues. Most important, Faith-based marketing understands that People Buy Trust Before They Buy Products Or Services. They have Trust that they do more than transact with the business. Instead, that they have a family-type relationship with them. This past October, I addressed the Siemens global CEO conference in Berlin, speaking on just this very subject. Why God Is A Salesman and how this is a metaphor for Faith-based marketing. In my talk, I mentioned that I had recently purchased my fourth Mercedes SL and that I did so always having faith that Daimler Benz would make subtle improvements that may not be obvious in the showroom but would thrill me once I began to know the car. And I noted that once again this proved true and I told dozens of friends about my journey of discovery with the newest SL. I was unaware that Daimler's CFO was in attendance that day. After my talk, as we were all set to board a yacht to dinner, he approached me to ask what "little" refinements I found in the newest model. When I told him of such features as the air-conditioned seats, he seemed truly delighted. And then he told me something even more important. "We drive the cars ourselves, not only because we make them, but so that we can look for ideas, big and small, we can recommend to the engineers. It is the best way we know to stay ahead of the curve with customer satisfaction. We have the insights before our customers do. And we act on them." The classic customer satisfaction questions are:
  • Do you like our product/service?
  • Would you buy it again?
  • Would you recommend it to a friend?
A far more meaningful and profound question to ask is "Do you have faith in us as a company?" And "Do you have faith in me as your salesperson?" This is rarely asked because it is not now part of the business lexicon. We must change that. Until we do, we are missing an enormous opportunity. A final thought, the best salespeople never look like they are selling anything. They engage in Invisible Selling. They work to earn our trust, knowing that once this is secured, they will have built a barrier to entry no competitors can penetrate. Ever. About the Author
Mark Stevens (mark@msco.com) is CEO of the global marketing/management firm, MSCO, and the author of the just published book, God Is a Salesman (Hachette Book Group/Center Street, January 2008).
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