Category Archives: Change

Why Trust Matters

Trust is the first and most essential factor.  This was the point made by Mark Welch, author of “The Street Savvy Sales” leader, a speaker at an event that I facilitated last week in Toronto. 

Mark was speaking about a real crisis in what is known as B2B (Business to Business) sales.  Productivity in this area has plummeted to alarmingly low levels.  Anyone who runs a corporate sales force is feeling the impact of this.  

Finding new prospects, getting face time, all of the aspects of corporate sales are getting harder and harder.   Everyone knows that. But something else has happened over the past decade which exacerbates the challenges. At least in the early stages of the buyers’ journey, the sales person is becoming less and less relevant.

Where the sales person was once the knowledgable guide, the average B2B customer is over 60% through their “buyer’s journey” before engaging with a vendor. 

What is taking their place in the early stages of the buyer’s journey?  Content.  But not just any content.  It’s the content the buyers trust.  
In a recent study, (78%) of buyers say they are placing more emphasis on the trustworthiness of a content’s source than they did a year ago.  

That presents some real challenges for companies that are vying for sales in the B2B space. In a world where trusted content is supplanting salespeople, in every survey vendor content inevitably falls to the bottom of the list of what is most trustworthy.  

Buyers today trust the opinions of their peers, independent publications and industry experts by a wide margin.

The challenge that results – the plummeting productivity of corporate sales represents a real and present danger.  In a digital world, maintaining a lead on features alone is a mug’s game.  Even if we have the most innovative solutions, it doesn’t matter if our customers don’t know, believe and yes, trust that we are different.  

Trust. It’s a world we use all the time. But what does it really mean?

One of the best definitions of trust that I’ve ever read comes from a book called “Trust in the Balance” by Robert Bruce Shaw. Shaw says that trust is something that is built from three key components:

  • Empathy – are we open and listening?
  • Integrity – is there consistency between our actions and our words?
  • Results – do we deliver results?

The third of these essential characteristics is to me the most intriguing.  While the first two are what we commonly associate with trust, they are necessary but not sufficient.  We need to care and to be perceived as listening. Our deeds must match our words. But Shaw adds something extra. To our customers, nothing matters if we don’t deliver the results they need.  Trust requires that we help them solve their problems and meet their challenges. Without that, nothing else matters.

Which leads us to the paradox – the “Catch 22” in our digital world.  Companies have a shrinking window of time to distinguish themselves and to convince the prospective customer that we can deliver the results that they need. Once we concede 60% of the buyer’s journey is largely out of their direct control, the role of the salesperson becomes more, rather than less important. And to be successful, in that short period of time, these salespeople are competing for the trust of these customers.  

This trust is what Shaw was talking about. It’s the trust that the customer experience will be there. That you will help them solve their challenges and realize their goals.  The primary evidence of that will be their interactions with your customer-facing people and processes late in the buyer’s journey.  

Mark Welch echoed this in his advice to salespeople.  “If your products and services are the same, the difference is you,” 

Which started me to thinking that if salespeople need to be more effective, and earn customer trust, and if trust requires results – they can only be trusted if their own organizations are aligned and dedicated to the customers’ outcomes. They have to trust their own organizations.  

How many of us can truly say we really believe our organizations consistently deliver the solutions to our customers’ challenges?
We need coaches, not just in sales, but across our organizations.  

That’s the role of leadership. We need to be effective coaches. And to be effective coaches we need to be trusted.  Trust is achieved by our bur empathy, our integrity and most importantly, by the results that we get. 

In his book, Good to Great, Jim Collins’ data showed that exceptional leaders aren’t the most charismatic. They aren’t the media stars. They are the hard-working, modest but fiercely determined leaders who believe in what they do and can be trusted to deliver results.   Collins conveyed this with a great image.  “Level five leaders,” he says, embrace the concept of the “the mirror and the window.”  When things go well – they look out the window and give credit to their team.  When things don’t go well, that window becomes a mirror – and they take accountability.  

This is not new thinking.  But in the world we live in today where truth and trust seem to be under siege, it was refreshing to listen to someone speak passionately about sales in a way that challenged me to think and more importantly, look in that proverbial mirror.  

Thanks for the coaching, Mark.  And for reminding me of the importance of trust. 


If you want to read Mark’s book, it’s called “The Street Savvy Business Leader”.  I got my copy at the event and I’ll be reading it and reviewing it in http://www.itbusiness.ca in the coming weeks.  And I hope to do a webinar with him on the topic.  I meet him at a series of sessions I’m doing with Dr. Cindy Gordon on Artificial Intelligence which is sponsored by IT World Canada (ITWC) and graciously hosted by Cap Gemini in their Toronto “Innovation Centre”.  


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Chapter 1 – What is Leadership?

To study anything; to truly look at it in an objective way and then to share that experience is a true challenge.  First you must first be able to agree on what it that you are talking about.   That seemingly simple first step is often harder than it seems, particularly when it comes to the subject of leadership.

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A small book about leadership

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The Lucky Ones

A bit of a warning here.   This is probably more personal than my average post.  I’m not sure how relevant it is to those who come here looking for business or strategy.  But at this time of year, my thoughts turn to the more personal side of life.  So in the spirit of “changing the game” – I’m talking about and sharing some intensely personal moments.

I’m not trying to be anyone’s inspiration.  I leave that to others.  Here’s one.

The hardest part baby is smilin’ when your plans don’t work out,  and count yourself – a lucky one…

Willie P. Bennett wrote those words in the 1980’s for his album of the same name.  He called it “The Lucky Ones”.  From the moment the words came through the speaker of my car stereo, on an early mix lent by a friend, they spoke to my heart.  They inspired me then as they do now.   At that time in my life, I was myself experiencing a slow awakening. Continue reading

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Hot Potato – Why We Need To Rethink Management

Remember that childhood game, “Hot Potato”?   You would take a ball, beanbag or other item and pretend it’s a hot potato.  As soon as you got it you’d pass it on to the next person.   Then at the end of the music, a timer or just a random announcement from the game master – whoever is holding the hot potato loses.

Child’s game?  Or is it how we manage our companies?  If it is, we need to find a way out of this trap.  It kills productivity, destroys job satisfaction and dooms us to a world of enforced mediocrity.   That’s what I was thinking about the other day.  Here’s how it started.   Continue reading

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Where Are the Snowdens of Next Year?

The enemy of freedom is not tyranny.  It’s complacency.

Our freedom, our lives – all that we believe in and hold dear does not get ripped from us all at once.  It happens, as T.S. Eliot so famously said when he wrote:  “This is the way the world ends.  Not with a bang, but a whimper.”

So it is.  And so it would be without the whistle-blowers, the leakers of information – the dissidents. Continue reading

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ROC – Return on Curiousity?

This is a story about the future impact that Waterloo can have on the country and maybe even the world.   But it’s NOT about Blackberry.  Crazy, you say?

Today, on a beautiful Friday afternoon in late September – what could be one of the last great summer-like days of the year we did somethign crazy.   We said “to heck with that” and headed indoors to a crowded lecture theatre in the Engineering building at the University of Waterloo.  It was worth every minute. Continue reading

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Filed under Change, Commentary, Organizational Change, People, Startup, Strategy, Waterloo