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Trust No One..(except for the people that you can trust)

Recently I was shopping at a local department store when I came across something I thought was a bit out of the ordinary. A man who looked to be in his late 40’s, early 50’s, was admiring himself in a full-length mirror, swiveling his hips left and right in what I assume was an attempt to determine the fit of the pair of Blue Jeans he had on. What I thought was a bit odd was the fact the jeans looked so tight I can’t believe the gentleman had any blood flowing below the waist, let alone had somehow managed to get them on and securely fastened. Now to be fair, no one will ever accuse me of being stylish or up to date with trends, so it is quite possible that the “basketball jammed into a pair of pantyhose” look is all the rage for the middle-aged gentleman. Regardless, a salesperson did approach the man at the mirror and after some discussion, suggested a different size, saying…

“Sir, I am certain I can help you find a pair of jeans that look great and are very me!”

And there it was. Two little words that we hear constantly in our everyday lives, be that personal, business or otherwise...” Trust Me”.

In the context of the vendor-customer relationship, trust is often established over time through a collaborative working partnership that has seen project after project brought to a successful conclusion, so based on past history, when the vendor says “trust me” the customer is more likely to do just that. There is also “trust by association” where a customer enters an agreement with a vendor in part, due to the recommendation from someone (company, associate, etc.…) whose opinion they value. So again when the vendor needs the trust of their customer usually it is given. But what do we do when there has not been any type of relationship established or recommendation made? Can we really trust at first sight?

There is no denying that for some organisations, the decision for determining which vendor best suits their needs is made much easier by looking at factors such as reputation for delivering quality work on budget and on time and the ability to demonstrate their expertise on demand…and thus, for them anyway, the trust portion of the relationship has been satisfied. But for many organisations they need more, they need to be able to trust the people making the promise. Here a critical point has been reached…the stage in the relationship where two parties begin to get to know each other as a means of establishing trust, and it is here where some vendors fall short for one simple reason…the person(s) they have made responsible for managing the customer relationship is not qualified for the job. That may mean they have poor organisations skills, below average communication skills or over - promise and under-deliver just to name a few. Regardless, the point is that for vendors, when choosing a person to represent your organisation, chose wisely as it does not always take much to sour a relationship to the extent the customer opts to take their business elsewhere.

So how can an individual convey a feeling of trust to those they are getting to know? Well I have been involved in managing relationships long enough to understand there is no simple answer to that question. Having said that, in talking to many project managers who deal with vendors (and speaking from my own experience) one of the first things they look for is” does the person have a passion for what they do”? People who love their job tend to be more realistic and honest about what they are capable of delivering, so starting a relationship with a person who brings passion and honesty is a great way to build trust.

It goes without saying that different people will look for different things, put more value in certain character traits than perhaps someone else would. Others may simply go by that ol’ standby, a gut feeling when deciding if the person across the table can be trusted. Regardless of what characteristics may be considered more telling than others, I think is safe to suggest that whom is chosen to sit at that table across from the customer can make a big difference, good or bad, in the relationship.

In considering the above and as a final thought, we are left with the question “If trust is not established does that mean in all instances that a successful working relationship cannot ensue?” I am not sure I have the definitive answer to that, however in thinking about that question I am reminded of a line from the movie “The Godfather II”. In one particular scene the Godfather, Michael Corleone, questions the distrust one of his fellow family members, Frank Pentangeli, has for a fellow "business partner" Hyman Roth. Corleone reasons that his father, Vito Corleone the original Godfather, had worked successfully with Roth for many years.

To this Pentangeli replied…….

“Your father did business with Hyman Roth, he respected Hyman Roth... but he never trusted Hyman Roth!”.

Spoiler alert, things do not end well for Hyman Roth so perhaps one could suggest that if he and his partners had a better trusting relationship, he would not have been gunned down in an airport.

Oh…as for my fellow shopper at the department store…. I did not stick around long enough to see what he purchased that day…. however, I like to think that he chose to show trust in the salesperson and went home happy, if not much, much more comfortable.

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