Belief and Trust

Belief and trust are not the same. Sometimes they interact, sometimes they conflict. Once upon a time people believed in fire breathing dragons, but science has never documented their existence. Beliefs change over time, especially with experience and knowledge. In those days of dragons, Kings and Queens ruled the land … but in modern times people believe more in self-rule.

Trust – is a simple word that can be much more than belief. Trust sometimes occurs without empirical or scientific evidence – what we call proof. We understand it as it relates to our personal relationships. Trust is vital with families and friends, because we believe they will not harm us.

In some instances, “doing no harm” grows to putting other’s interests ahead of our interests, such as the relationship between parents and their children.

In business, what defines trust and why is it important?

We believe that trust in the workplace is not automatic – it must be earned. For employees, trusting an employer is the result of not only personal experiences with the owners and executive team, but includes the collective perceptions of fellow employees. It extends to observing how the company treats vendors, customers, and others in the marketplace.

Because of widespread social media, negative perceptions of company actions can adversely affect an employee’s mindset, and consequently their productivity. Business research proves that highly motivated employees – those who believe in the company’s Mission, Vision, Purpose, and Values – become far more productive employees.

Many articles and blogs describe toxic managers, employee disengagement, and dysfunctional company cultures. This is the evidence of beliefs ruined, and trust removed. These realities cause financial losses for the company.

Loss of internal trust … extends to perceptions of mistrust outside the company – with vendors, prospects, and even clients who begin to consider other options.

Workplace trust is intensely personal and collective. It is the relationship between employees, and the company they represent. It is the relationship between a manager and a team member. It is the relationship among a company’s sales and service representatives, prospects, and existing customers. Every one of those relationships is strengthened and maintained with TRUST.

For any business to succeed, it is not just in what all players can BELIEVE, it is in what they can TRUST.

 

Prospects and Persuasion

Every business starts with a belief that they have a product or service that others need and will buy. The business usually starts slowly, as time, energy, research, and an untold number of conversations with friends, colleagues, external advisors, and potential customers begins to congeal into a Vision, Mission, and Purpose.

Assuming the business has achieved a reasonable measure of market traction, and as the business pushes through its initial months and years, the structure, strategies, and tactics of the business solidifies. Processes and practices are formed, refined, integrated, and executed by employees, each with specific roles and responsibilities to create and retain customers. We call it Customer Building.

But, it’s not just about creating customers. Ultimately, it is about thrilling your customers to promote retention and long-term advocacy. To create, thrill, and retain customers is, truly, a never-ending set of activities.

What is included in the process of customer creation? It must involve:

  1. Understanding the opportunity and the prospect’s business needs and concerns,
  2. Creating trust in you and your company,
  3. Solving prospect problems aligned to your company’s offering,
  4. Effectively communicating how your company can and will accomplish the objectives, and
  5. Building an ongoing relationship.

Some would describe the above process as selling … the requisite steps in closing a sale.

In certain business settings and industries, these individuals would be titled as Sales Representatives, Sales Managers, Vice President of Sales, and similar titles. These companies are business-to-business oriented, and are in industries that are more typically product-driven and transactional.

Other businesses would prefer to describe the same process as customer or business development, and have the same objective – closing a sale.  These individuals frequently have titles that either say Business Development or Customer Development, or offer no indication that a core role and responsibility includes “selling” – regardless of the label assigned to it. These companies are also business-to-business oriented, but are in industries that are services-driven and far less transactional.

Many companies that emphasize “customer development” are lawyers, accountants, bankers, wealth advisors, consultants, architects, and engineers – and in other professions that have a longer vision of customer creation. Many of these individuals are owners, principals, and associates in their companies, or hold CEO, President, General Manager, and other titles that signify leadership rather than selling responsibilities.

Regardless of the title or label, the “selling” process is the same. Only the language is different.

You are persuading a prospect to become a client.

Frameworks That Drive Customer Advocacy

Every business struggles with creating new clients. Whole departments and countless resources focus on selling – on finding and persuading prospects that your company can satisfy a given need, solve specific problems, and that your value proposition is a “fair exchange.”

Whether your business is small or large, or you are selling to consumers or other businesses, the challenge is constant. Create more customers.

But, then the big challenge is to keep the newly onboarded customer. This challenge is frequently underserved, with less resources assigned to assure customer retention. Given the cost and extreme effort required to land a new customer, focus on delivering heightened customer experiences that emotionally connect your new customer to their initial decision to give you their business.

Improved customer retention is about meeting … and even exceeding customer expectations. Beyond the actual delivery of a service or product, it is about how the customer perceives the interaction with your company. It is about consistently creating a positive emotional connection with your brand promise.

How Is This Accomplished?

First, it takes a commitment from leadership that customer retention is a top priority. Second, there must be a candid assessment of customer-facing processes and points of contact, either direct or via an employee’s work product. An independent third party typically best accomplishes this, to assure truthful feedback and objective analysis. Fourth, get candid input from your customers. Again, this requires third party objectivity. Finally, a strategic customer retention plan is then devised, dedicating resources to move forward a variety of initiatives that address specific priorities.

As each company is different, retention initiatives will be different in each company. Often, the changes are simple and exceedingly low in cost – from small changes in customer-facing processes that give a greater voice to minor or major shortfalls in customer service, to training employees to better understand that their individual behaviors can have a negative or positive impact – providing them a clear understanding of company expectations and how best to elevate performance.

The ultimate business goal goes beyond achieving customer retention. It is to achieve customer advocacy, wherein your customers are so thrilled with your company that they actively recommend and support the ongoing success of your business to other prospective customers.

THE PEOPLE CORNER – Leadership … the Balance

In our business practice, we outline the differences between quantitative and qualitative measurements. It is a bit like comparing what you can get your hands around … compared to what you feel.

We have a concept called the GAPWORX Balance which observes and details what you do (the Metrics) – how well you do it (the Aesthetics.) It is the contrast of the work … and the style.

Leadership requires a wide range of capabilities. Among them are knowledge, experience, dedication, discipline, insight, and decision making. Less easily measured are observable behavioral qualities such as courage, resiliency, and consistency.

Using an analogy, it is one thing to use brute force “to make the trains run on time.” It is quite another matter to win the “hearts and minds” of the people, and to win the war.

Too often leadership emphasizes the metrics of analysis, strategy, and action – at the expense of inspiring people and gaining their trust.

Archimedes said “Give me a place to stand on, and I will move the earth.” He was talking about using a lever to force an action. But he also knew that a lever is useless without a fulcrum – the foundation and pivot point which makes leverage work.

The old business ways of “command and control” were about strict organizational structures, and telling employees what to do. Modern leadership emphasizes soft skills, such as emotional and social intelligence, and knowing that people perform best when they have purpose and meaning to their work. Leaders help their employees build strengths through training, and providing effective feedback. Today’s leadership models are better levers and fulcrums to achieve organizational results.

The Peter Principle describes how an employee progresses “up the ladder” until they finally reach the rung of their limits, and they become “incompetent.” Leaders continually climb until they reach the top rung. Whether the leader is successful, or is replaced by another, is achieved by balancing the quantity of capabilities … with the quality of the person.

A good leader must understand that followers might not remember everything you told them, but they will always remember how you made them feel. A good leader must first be a good person.

Fortunately, leaders can improve the balance of what needs to be done … and being a better person. Being a better leader comes through self-awareness, motivation, and feedback from trusted resources.

The PROCESS CORNER – It’s How You SELL, RETAIN, THRILL

Mission, Vision, and Purpose defines every business, but that is only part of what makes each business unique. It might start with an idea or an inspiration about how to do something differently – better. It might start with “opportunity knocking on the door.”

Businesses combine Vision and Leadership, offering some blend of product and service value to customers. In the beginning, and even later when the business is well-established, the vision may be unclear. Maybe the market shifts with new competition. Maybe a key employee leaves and capabilities change. Maybe a new executive joins your team and sparks growth in ways not previously considered.

Business vision is important, and must be frequently revitalized. There are numerous ways to accomplish that, including peer groups, working with advisory boards, and educational events. Facilitated visioning exercises that bring internal and external stakeholders together can stimulate vision and clarity.

Leadership, through business owners and executive teams, can champion the company’s Mission, Vision, and Purpose.  Leadership not only charts the course, but sets company standards – building its culture, and consequently the company’s brand perception in the marketplace.

How is a true leader defined? Leadership attributes are varied, but every list will include accountability, honesty, confidence, commitment, a positive attitude, and effective communication. We think that is a great set of characteristics to emulate.

Good leadership should also provide a functioning structure in which the business can operate. A business without processes, procedures, and standardized practices is “winging it,” and that isn’t a winning strategy.

Especially as a business gets larger, it is critically important to refine and finetune how you SELL, how you RETAIN, and how you THRILL your customers. The more all employees are aligned – and how well each employee performs to their specific roles and responsibilities – the more the company will be successful.

I will close this post with a final thought on leadership. Leaders understand that … EVERYBODY SELLS and EVERYBODY SERVES. Leaders find the way to fill in the details.

GAPWORX would welcome an opportunity to discuss and share how we help companies strengthen business value, customer creation and retention, and ongoing topline performance.