When It Comes to Trust, You Are Always on Stage
By Jeb Blount
A trap many account managers fall into is assuming they have more trust in the emotional bank account than they really do. They falsely believe that charm, charisma, and likability are more important than showing up to meetings on time, being prepared, meeting deadlines, solving problems, being truthful, or following through on promises.
Most people want to find reasons to trust you. This is why your customers watch, scrutinize, and analyze your every behavior and every action. Imagine standing on a stage in an auditorium. In the audience are your clients. Your every behavior is being analyzed. You are being observed to see if your actions are congruent with your words. Perhaps you are polite to some people, but not others. Perhaps you become agitated at a minor inconvenience. Maybe you were late to a meeting and did not call in advance or didn’t return an e‐mail or voice mail in a timely manner. You could have missed a key piece of information your client asked you to remember. Maybe there were typos on your last report. You told a little white lie and got caught. Took a shortcut. Covered up a mistake. Judgments are being made about how much to trust you.
In account management and customer service, you are always on stage. You must exert a tremendous amount of self‐discipline to manage every behavior, promise, and action while in front of your audience. This is where the rubber meets the road. This is where emotion collides with logic. The foundation of trust is built one brick at a time based on the consistent and ongoing evidence that you are trustworthy.
Because trusting you puts your customers in such a vulnerable position, inconsistent behavior is a huge red flag. When you are unpredictable, it is hard for people to trust you. This brings us full circle to the metaphor of business as a stage. Upon this stage, your behaviors are front and center. When you act out of character (for example, if you normally have a relaxed, professional demeanor but in a moment of irritation lose your temper), it affects your clients’ trust in you.
If repeated, these instances combine to crumble any foundation of trust you’ve built. Inconsistent behavior can cause irreparable damage. As we are all aware, it has derailed promising careers, ruined political campaigns, and sank business deals. You control what others are allowed to observe. Think before you speak. Learn to pause and consider the consequences of rash action. With trust, you are always on stage.
Sweat the Small Stuff
When it comes to trust, especially when dealing with customers, little things make a big difference. Although there are situations in which one big lapse in judgment injures trust to such an extent that there is no going back, these events are rare. As a rule, it is the culmination of many small breaches that weaken or destroy the foundation of trust.
Things such as showing up late for meetings, not returning phone calls, disorganization, missing project deadlines, spelling and grammatical errors on written documents, being unprepared for meetings, inaccurate facts, inconsiderate behavior, failure to follow up, and constantly making excuses all seem very small. However, over time they add up and build the case that you cannot be trusted.
In today’s competitive environment, hungry lions (your competitors’ salespeople) are clawing at the door. For this reason, you cannot afford the luxury of a slipup. There is just too much at stake. Little things quickly turn into big things, so you need to put systems and support in place to keep you organized and manage time, projects, and relationships.
Leverage Your Support Team
Imagine this: It’s vacation time. Your family eagerly piles into the car. Earlier, you filled the car up with gas, packed a picnic lunch, and loaded the luggage. As you pull out of the driveway, one of the kids in the backseat asks, “Where are we going?”
You shrug your shoulders and say, “Somewhere.”
“Well, how will we know when we get there?” asks the small voice from the backseat.
“I’ll tell you when we get there,” you say emphatically. “Now be quiet and let me drive.”
Sound ridiculous? It happens far too often with customers when account managers do not have a clear plan for their accounts. A strategic account plan is especially important with large accounts that are supported by a team. This ensures that everyone knows where they are going and has a map to get there.
Account managers who fail to clearly articulate the account plan to their team or company fail as advocates for their customers, because they do not effectively align internal resources to best solve customer problems. Inexplicably, they believe everyone should just know what to do.
Sometimes, they hand the keys to an account to their support team and say, “Drive.” Then, they are flabbergasted when their team doesn’t drive in the right direction and their customer becomes upset. The account manager yells and screams at the driver for going in the wrong direction. When the support team says, “Okay, which way do you want me to go?” the account manager’s only answer is, “Not this way! I don’t understand why you aren’t getting this!” Eventually, the support team loses faith in the account manager and disengages.
There are few lone wolves in business these days. You count on other people for support. The most successful customer service professionals and account managers have learned how to leverage their support teams to build trust with prospects and customers. They maintain ongoing strategic relationships with the people in their companies who have the resources and know how to back them up and get things done for their customers. By involving a diverse group of people who have specialization in key areas, they are able to offer more robust and relevant solutions to their customers’ problems. Most importantly, because they delegate tasks to their support staff, they have more time to spend developing relationships.
Excerpted with permission of the publisher, Wiley, from “People Love You: The Real Secret to Delivering Legendary Customer Experiences” by Jeb Blount. Copyright (c) 2013 by Jeb Blount. All rights reserved. This book is available at all bookstores and online booksellers.
Jeb Blount is an expert on how human relationships affect account management, customer experience, leadership, and sales. He helps many of the world’s leading organizations accelerate revenue growth and profits through a focus on interpersonal relationships. He is the author of six books, including “People Buy You: The Real Secret to What Matters Most in Business,” “People Follow You: The Real Secret to What Matters Most in Leadership,” and “Power Principles.” He has published more than 100 articles on account management, leadership, and sales, and his audio programs have been downloaded more than 6 million times on iTunes. More than 200,000 business professionals subscribe to his weekly newsletter.