In this episode of Connect and Convert, Dave Salter and Dennis Collins, our resident rockstar on sales training, dive deep into the importance of trust in your sales efforts. With almost four decades of experience working with small businesses, Dennis shares his expertise and insider strategies to help you build customer trust.

The episode starts with a relatable story about a contractor who initially gained the host’s trust but disappointed them. Dave and Dennis emphasize the impact of trust on business relationships and introduce Michael Maslansky’s research on the language of trust. Maslansky says we are now in a post-trust era where traditional marketing techniques no longer work.

But don’t worry! Dave and Dennis provide actionable steps to rebuild trust and win over your customers. They discuss the power of clarity, avoiding jargon, and speaking your customers’ language. They share examples from renowned companies like Tylenol, Chevron, and Anheuser-Busch, who have built trust by putting the customer’s needs first.


Dave Salter:
Hi, I’m Dave Salter and you have landed on Connect and Convert, where we share insider strategies for small business sales success. I’m joined by Dennis Collins, our resident rockstar on sales training. Dennis has been training folks for almost four decades and our specialty is working with small businesses.

Dennis, say Hi.

Dennis Collins:
Good morning, Dave, or good afternoon, depending right, wherever you may be in this world. How are you today?

Dave Salter:
I’m doing great. In this episode Dennis, we’re gonna talk about trust, why it’s important to your sales efforts, how you can gain it, how not to lose it and we’re gonna have some examples from you because you’ve got hundreds of great stories about this.

So that’s good. I wanna tell you a story to start a little bit. So, a couple of years ago, we woke up in the morning to find water in our sunroom, okay? And had no idea what was going on. And I went to work that day and I’m talking to myself as I’m going through my activities and one of my coworkers says, Hey, I know a guy that can solve that problem for you. So right away I have some trust because a person I know told me about this contractor. So I called the contractor and told him about our problem. He comes out the next day. So trust builder number two, right? Prompt response to my problem. He tells us what he’s gonna do, gives us an estimate, gives us a time for project completion. They come out and do the job. Next time it rains, we get water in our sunroom again. Hmm. So I called the guy. And I get no response. No response. No response. I go back and I talk to my colleague at work. I’m like, do you know where this guy lives? And she’s like, yeah, I do. Long story short, he never comes back to fix the problem.

Had to hire another contractor to come in and fix what he didn’t do. He built my trust up really well initially, and then there was a huge letdown. So you’ve done a bunch of research on this and there’s a guy named Maslansky who’s done a lot of research on the language of trust. So tell us a little bit about that.

Dennis Collins:
I will. Sorry about your story. As we’ll talk later, one of the measures of trust is capability. Does this provider, does this person, this business, whoever it is we’re hiring, do they have the capability of delivering what we expect? And obviously, as a customer, you expect it to be done right?

And you expect a response when there is a problem. So capability is where this gentleman failed. He did not really have the capability, even though he may have tried to lead you to believe that. But let me talk in a broader sense. You referenced Michael Maslansky. The Language of Trust. Maslansky is the guy that if you saw on TV, those knobs, you know, during political season, yeah, there’s some speech going on and they measure yellow as Republican or Democrat, blue, green, all that. He does the knobs. He wrote a book called The Language of Trust. He says this, Dave. We are now in the P-T-E, the post-trust era. Right. Trust is dead according to Michael Maslansky. That’s a pretty big statement.

Dave Salter:
It is. Did he give any reasons for that?

Dennis Collins:
He sure did. He goes into great depth in the book about why that is.

He talks about communications between us and our government. Communication between us and politicians and our leaders, communications between large companies and the public. And he even delves into our little world, and that is the communications between salespeople and customers. And he says that the old school marketing techniques, the push rather than question, the product pitch is dead.

It’s dead. It’s fallen off the cliff. It’s always assumed in today’s world, according to Michael, that there’s an ulterior motive behind everybody’s action. So whatever action you take, there’s a motive that generally serves you and not the customer. It seems like we’re living in that post-trust era.

Dave Salter:
So going back to what you had said based on Maslansky, it sounds like the communications between the bigger enterprises, if you will, and us common folk is a lack of trust. Correct. Lack. A lack. Did he give any reasons why there is that lack of trust now you just mentioned so ulterior motives. Is there more to it than that?

Dennis Collins:
Yeah. And we probably should do a whole podcast on Maslansky cause it’s rich. I will tell you if you’re in marketing or sales and you haven’t read this book, get it. Okay. No. But he talks about the different spins and narratives that are out there today.

Everybody seems to have their spin or their narrative on how things are supposed to go. Okay? And when we do a little digging, which most people don’t do, we find out that they’re self-serving. The narrative is all about me, right? It’s about my group, about me, and not about you. The customer or you, the receiver of the message.

Relating this back to sales for a second, since that’s what we’re talking about. Any sales book that you read, anything, any article, any training that you take. There’s one thing that is said for all the best sales managers, and sales gurus, one thing they agree on is trust is at the core of any successful sales process.

Dave Salter:
So Dennis let’s talk a little bit about some of the steps to building trust now. Say, for example, you’re whatever widget you’re selling, you have a customer come into your shop — how does that trust building begin, and maybe, add a couple layers to that?

Dennis Collins:
Okay. Let me start with a story.

Okay. Around 2004, I believe. It was Tylenol. They did a very interesting TV spot. They featured Brenda Bass, who is their VP of Communications, I believe, for Tylenol. Let me quote what she said in the TV spot. “Some people think if you have a really bad headache, you should take extra medicine. The problem is that will not get rid of your headache faster. Too much of an even safe medicine can cause big problems if you’re not gonna take the recommended dose. I’d rather you didn’t take any at all. Even if it means selling less Tylenol, that’s okay with me.”

Wow. What are they trying to do?

What are they trying to do? Are they trying to not sell Tylenol?

Dave Salter:
She sounds to me like she’s trying to build some trust.

Dennis Collins:
Yeah, she is. Why does that work? Because people wanna know you’ve got their back, Dave. I got you, man. We’re responsible. Okay. Those who speak out against their own best interests are trusted.

How more can you speak out against your, don’t take too much Tylenol. It’s a disruptor. I call it. It’s an unexpected response. Let me share some others.

How about the campaigns? We’re not the right fit for everybody.

Hire us so we can, so you can fire us. I love that one.

Chevron years ago. I will unplug things. I will at least consider a hybrid car. They did a campaign on that. Use less energy.

How about Anheuser-Busch? They’re in the news these days. Yeah, they did A beer responsible, irresponsible. We don’t want anyone consuming our products illegally, ever. Hey, we’re parents too. Are these companies trying to put themselves out of business?

No, they haven’t done that. Check their sales. There’s a significant underlying issue about drinking too much, taking too much medicine, and using too much oil. Some people say they’re just trying to avoid litigation. Whatever it is, they are making an effort to do something for your customers in their language.

Dave Salter:
So Dennis, you’ve got quite a list of ways in which a salesperson can build trust. Can you share a couple of those with us?

Dennis Collins:
Yep. I sure can. And let me highlight some. Say enough, but not too much. What does that mean? By the way, Harvard neuroscientists, that’s about as good as you get, isn’t it?

They’ve done some research. One of the key things in coaching salespeople that I have to deal with is salespeople tend to talk too much. I just reviewed a tape. Of a 51-minute sales call that one of the clients I’m working with provided to me, it’s all it was in a state where it’s legal to tape record this.

I heard the sales call, and guess what? This guy spoke 41 minutes out of 51 minutes. Okay?

Dave Salter:
Did he close? Did he close the sale?

Dennis Collins:
Negative. And he shouldn’t have, he didn’t earn the sale. I did some research though. You know, Dave, we’ll do another podcast on this, but let me just give you a tidbit. Do you know why salespeople talk too much?

There is a reason. There are a number of reasons. You know the primary reason.

Dave Salter:

Dennis Collins:
That’s one of them. Guess what the biggest one is? Self-disclosure triggers the same pleasurable sensations as good food and money. People can’t wait to talk about themselves. Wow, that works for you when you’re in sales, but also against you as a salesperson.

How about this? Trust requires clarity. Clarity. Okay so many sales scenarios and role plays that I’ve listened to, I didn’t know what the hell they were talking about. There was so much jargon. It was complicated. So again, the tape that I just listened to you wouldn’t believe the amount of jargon that’s in this recording.

I don’t have any idea what this guy’s talking about. We also do one other thing with our clients. We actually go out to real customers after the sale and interview them. Wow. You talk about eye-opening, people who bought, people who didn’t buy. The most recent one was somebody who did buy, and when we asked her what was it? Was there one thing about dealing with this client that got you to say yes? Is there one thing you could pinpoint? And she said, yeah, there was no jargon. I understood everything clearly, right? They spoke my language.

Dave Salter:
Most folks that are gonna go out and buy a widget or have somebody come into their home and try and sell them on a widget there is a natural resistance. You, have this wall built up between you and the person coming in to sell you. Is there a couple of your bullet points that can break down that wall of, reluctance? Like, oh, I gotta listen to this person. Tell me about all this stuff for how, you know, how long’s it gonna go on? And am I gonna understand what they’re saying, et cetera?

Dennis Collins:
Great question. I compare it to suiting up with armor, a mental suit of armor. Most customers, before they encounter a salesperson, put their mental suit of armor on why they need protection from the manipulation, the onslaught of verbiage, what’s the common thing that salespeople do?

A customer asks a question, they raise an objection, and that’s the cue. That’s the cue the salesperson has been waiting for. To unleash a torrent of features and benefits and facts and figures. They can’t wait. This is what happened. By the way, in the call that I was referencing the tape, there was. Five concepts were presented without the customer even asking or needing those five things.

That’s called a sales pitch. Okay. That is not a consultive sell, that’s a sales pitch. Doesn’t work anymore.

Dave Salter:
Okay. That’s excruciating.

Dennis Collins:
It was excruciating for me to listen to it. This customer was so polite. It was a husband and wife. They were so lovely, but that guy would’ve been out of my house within seconds.

Let me talk about another piece of research again. Maslansky. He deals a lot with financial advisors. You talk about trust. You’re gonna leave your money with financial advisors. So he convened a panel of very high net worth investors, and he asked them a question, how would you describe your financial advisor?

What comments would you make about your financial advisor? And he took down their verbatims. He’s patient. He understands my risk. He understands my situation. He supports my goals. He answers all my questions. He’s always there for me. He’s accessible. He’s very attentive. He, when we decide on a course of action, it moves forward. How well the advisor interacts with them.

What is his product? His product is financial performance, right? You’re expecting financial performance from him. They never mentioned financial performance. They mentioned how well the advisor interacts with them. So the product pitch is not the important thing. It’s how well you’re treated.

Dave Salter:
And I think the other part is the art of listening. So when you reference that 51-minute call you listened to, and that person talked for 41 of those minutes, there was no active or intentional listening on the part of that salesperson. And that’s something that you talk about a lot and how critical that is in this process.

Dennis Collins:
Asking great questions is only part of the battle. So yes, we teach salespeople to ask questions. We have a question for every event, how to open the sale, how to close a sale, and what you do in the middle of the sale.

We have a toolbox full of questions, and you pull out the one you need at the time and use it. But guess what? We are very poor listeners. Very poor listeners. Okay? We just don’t know how to listen. Asking great questions and listening is important because it is rare that anybody cares more about you and has more concern about you than about themselves.

So all of a sudden when somebody starts with questions about you and actually listens, okay, listens and responds instead of listens and pitches. You say, wait a minute, this person is different. We also have a study that we’ll do another podcast on why salespeople are afraid to ask questions.

It’s been proven that asking questions is the secret to sales success, and yet many salespeople are afraid to ask questions. There are some reasons for that which are quite interesting.

Dave Salter:
So now you’ve piqued my curiosity on this. You’ve gained the sales appointment. You’re in the customer’s home. Are there signs that indicate to you that you’ve gained their trust?

Dennis Collins:
Absolutely. All of a sudden there are body language signs. Have you ever noticed that, Dave? When somebody is buying into you and they get you — how they act? Their eyes light up a little bit. They may lean in a little bit.

They may even crack a bit of a smile all of a sudden. They’re buying, they’re nodding their head. Yeah, you can tell. You can also tell when you don’t have it. I’ll give you another example. Discussion before engagement. I’m an old-fashioned guy. When I was a kid, you were supposed to get engaged before you got married.

I don’t know if they do that anymore. I guess you get it, some people do. What’s the purpose of the engagement? It’s kinda like a trial run, isn’t it? It’s is this gonna, does this have a chance of working? Any salesperson who tries to get into a discussion before engagement is going to lose. You have got to get that engagement first. The other thing that I notice with salespeople is how they deal with objections. So when I’m meeting a salesperson for the first time, I might do a role play with ’em, and I’ll throw out a couple of objections to whatever it is they’re selling. Okay. And I wait to see what they do.

Okay. If they try old school, overcome the objection, kill it, they’re all kinds of battle terms used for objections or do they validate the objection? Okay. The way you build trust is you validate it. Those are polar opposites. Use the customer’s words. Hey Dave, I got it. I understand how you could feel that way.

I have other customers who feel that way. That’s, again, a whole other podcast that we’ll get into. Sure.

Dave Salter:
You’ve gained the trust of your potential customer. You’ve seen the body language. Maybe some dialogue also has given you that indication. So, two-part question. A, what would be the worst thing you could do after you felt you’ve gained the trust? And B, what would be the best, positive next step after you’ve felt like you’ve gained their trust?

Dennis Collins:
Okay, so good. Two questions. What could you do to lose trust? Yep. There’s an old saying in sales. Stop talking before you talk yourself out of the sale. Okay, so what I have observed over all these decades I’ve been doing this is you’ve got the deal sold. You have an agreement, and you keep talking as a salesperson “And another thing, and by the way, and blah, blah,” and you bring up something inadvertently that the customer says, oh, I didn’t know about that.

That changes things. Whoops. All of a sudden, all that trust you built up instantly caves because it appears as if you held something back. It appears that you aren’t totally honest and you’re bringing up something at the end of the process that should have been covered earlier or not at all.

You know what I’m saying? Some of this stuff shouldn’t have ever been covered in the first place, so that’s how you can lose it. So after you have established trust, what’s the next step?

The next step is to go through what we call a sales process. Okay. The only people who really succeed in sales are those who have a sales process.

And what is your next step after building trust? Okay. The next step is to move towards agreeing on how I can help you solve your problem. Do I understand your problem? Yes. You do. Okay. How. Can I help you solve the problem? I have three options. Okay. I heard you say X, Y, Z, option A covers that. I also heard you say X, Y, Z, B Option two covers that.

And furthermore, I heard A, B, C, X, Y, Z, Q R, S. Okay. Option three covers that. Which of those three options would be best for you?

Dave Salter:
Dennis, I’m gonna wanna summarize some of the things I’ve heard you say this morning. We are in a period of distrust for a variety of societal reasons.

None of which may be our fault. But it also has an impact on sales and salespeople. And perhaps the greatest shortcoming for a salesperson is to display self-serving motivations. We’ve talked about relationship building, validating objections, and being a great listener as some of the ways to build trust with your potential client. I love one of your last points about stopping talking because I’m guilty of that myself. I think what happens is you feel like, oh man, I got a great relationship going here. And then you start talking about more stuff instead of just shutting the heck up and closing. And finally, I think the most important part of all of this is that you need to have a process. You can’t go into things willy-nilly. You need to practice, you need to listen and you have to follow that process so that you don’t do a bunch of these things that can hamper your efforts.

Dennis Collins:
Wow, Dave, you’re a great listener. You understand my situation, and you just delivered three proofs of listening. You paraphrased, you summarized, and you asked fabulous follow-up questions. You, my friend, are a great listener.

Dave Salter:
Dennis, thanks so much for your wisdom and insight today, folks. That’s a wrap on this episode of Connect and Convert, the podcast that lets you behind the curtain with some insider strategies for small business sales success.

This is Dave Salter with Dennis Collins. Thanks for joining us and we’ll see you next time when we discuss the habits of Ineffective Salespeople.