Why We Don’t Trust Salespeople

image courtesy of shutterstock.com


If you’re a salesperson or leading a sales team, it will come as no surprise to you that trust plays a big role in whether a customer buys from a salesperson or not.

However, knowing that trust is important in the buyer-seller relationship might be obvious, but there is real doubt whether salespeople, when in the process of selling to a buyer, are behaviourally evidencing the importance of trust.

Recent research has found that the majority of Australian buyers (sixty five percent) in general regard salespeople to be untrustworthy and that thirty percent describe the ‘profession’ of selling as “morally and ethically challenged”.1

This begs the question why don’t we trust salespeople?

Trust Defined

To answer this question let’s first get clear on what we mean by trust. My definition of trust is this:

“Trust is a firm belief in the character, competence and consistency of someone or something to deliver an expected result or outcome.”

When people judge salespeople as untrustworthy, what they are actually doing is making an assessment of their character, their competence, and consistency.

In this post I will focus on character.

Typically, most people think of character in terms of someone being of ‘good’ character or ‘bad’ character.

Another line of considering character is to think of having ‘good’ character traits – like honesty, compassion, justice, gratitude, and forgiveness – or having ‘bad’ character traits – like dishonesty, cold-heartedness, injustice, ungratefulness, and resentfulness.

A Salesperson’s Intention

I propose yet another line of thinking about how we assess a person’s character, and that is we assess the intentions underpinning their actions. We are questioning the reasons or motivation for why they do what they do.

For buyers, they are wondering can they trust that the intention of the salesperson is to provide the guidance and advice on a purchase of a product or service that is in the best interest of the buyer.

For salespeople, if they want to fast-track trust with buyers, they need to get their intentions right, and one way to achieve that is to develop what I refer to as Applied Positive Intentions.

Applied Positive Intention

An Applied Positive Intention is to take intentional action to deliver on what you want for another person, rather than focusing on what you want from the other person.

In the case of salespeople, they need to first develop a clear statement about what they want for their customers and not just what they want from them.

This is a statement that clearly demonstrates their intention for what they want their customers to experience, feel, have, or know as a result of buying from them … it’s a statement of how they intend to make their clients’ lives better in some way.

What we know from evidence-based research is when sales and service providers sell and serve customers based on Applied Positive Intentions, the result is good for customers (they’ve been sold something that is in their best interests and will make their lives better in some way); good for the sales and service providers (they feel better about themselves, proud that they’ve helped the customer make a wise buying decision); and good for the business (more new, repeat and referral sales).

Align Customers-First Mantras with Intentional Action

If the sales ‘profession’ wants to change its image, mantras like “We place customers first” need to be demonstrated through intentional action that delivers on that promise. Otherwise, it is this question or concern that buyers have about the true and genuine intentions of salespeople that will continue to be one of the main contributing reasons why we don’t trust salespeople.

  1. The LinkedIn State of Sales Report 2020 Australian Edition.
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