Several years ago I was interviewing for a job when the CMO told me that, should I work with him, we were going to have to trust each other before it was earned. But, trust - it is a hard concept to define, especially in professional relationships. As we talked, his definition of trust became clear: trust is knowing that you have my best interests at heart. For so long, I, like most people, approached the concept of trust as something intangible and hard to define that is earned over time. That our words – and, more importantly, our actions – produce a gut instinct that allows us to let our guard down and know someone else has our back. But when I started to view trust through this new definition, things became a lot clearer.
When you have trust, you have a safe place to be open and honest. When you share exactly what is happening to you - and its impact - with another person, you better equip that person to help you. Take, for example, a visit with a new doctor. This person is a complete stranger. You have never met her before and not had the time to form an opinion of her, much less develop trust. But something is definitely wrong, and you want a solution that will relieve your pain. Now is not the time to say, “I do not trust this person; therefore, I am not going to share these specific symptoms that may be embarrassing.” Now is the time to trust the doctor - trust that she has your best interests at heart – and lay it all out. What you have already tried, the pain, the consequences, how it impacts you, and how it impacts others. But trust is a two-way street. Not only do you need to trust the doctor with the information you share – the doctor needs to trust you. Are you telling the truth? Did you leave out any details that may be pertinent? Will you follow exactly the recommendations she prescribes? The doctor needs to know that you were truthful about what you shared so that her remedy will not cause further harm. (Or a malpractice lawsuit.) Trust certainly did not have time to be earned, but it needs to be present.
The same applies to professional situations, including sales. It is easy to discuss how you are going to win more work from a client or prospect. But ask yourself: are you putting your client’s best interests front and center? Do they look at your conversations, your direction, your decisions, your advice – and your actions – and know that you have their best interests at heart? Business is built on relationships, relationships are built on trust, and trust is built by putting someone else’s interests first. When meeting with a salesperson, most people’s instinct is the opposite of trust. But to reach trusted advisor status, we need to prove that we can be trusted. In the above situation, just replace the patient with the prospect and the doctor with the salesperson. Sometimes the solutions we offer do not directly benefit us, but we still offer the solution because it is in the best interest of the other party. That – right there – is trust. Trust was placed in us before it was earned – but trust was earned the moment we proved we put someone else’s needs first.
I did not take that job. But I did take that advice. Since then, I try to enter every professional relationship from a place of trust. Most of the time it works out. Sometimes it doesn’t. Being trusting does not mean blindly following someone and ignoring your gut. Trust is a two-way street and it can always be revoked. But the more you know, and the more you share, the more you are able to collaborate. Rarely do we solve problems in the solitary confines of our minds. Rather, our best outcomes often happen when everyone actively contributes to finding a unique solution that solves our unique challenges. And that doesn't happen without trust.