Trust: The Most Effective Tool In Your Sales Arsenal


“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” —Warren Buffett


In a brilliant piece on first impressions, Amy Cuddy outlined that 2 judgements are made when parties meet for the first time:

Can I Trust This Person?

Can I Respect This Person’s Capabilities?

As Cuddy deems trust most important, let’s dissect this attribute and why it genuinely needs to be a part of your sales arsenal. On the surface, we can begin to develop this by letting the other party speak first, using positive body language, and actively listening. However, I’m more concerned with what effect trust has on the brain and why this matters to us in sales.

To understand trust and it’s hold on the brain we need to start with oxytocin, a brain chemical that facilitates teamwork. Focusing on this attribute initially not only creates a culture of trust within the relationship, but increases empathy, another by product of oxytocin that will benefit both parties. As trust and purpose reinforce each other, you can expect higher productivity, better quality negotiations, and of course increased profitability. From Silicon Valley to the rain forest in Papua New Guinea, the relationship between oxytocin and trust is universal.

So let’s take a look at some actionable ideas on how we can leverage trust in our relationships, meetings, and future correspondence:

Staying Away From Abbreviated Forms of Communication – Being trusted in today’s fast paced market means you stand out. It means amongst the swarm of unsolicited emails and tagged social media posts, your message resonates with the prospect or customer on a deeper level. To achieve and maintain this, adopt more meaningful communication methods like formal annual reviews, direct phone calls, or even FaceTime, once the relationship has been formed to give you and the client both a greater chance of nurturing a long term professional relationship.

Clarity In Purpose & Goals of Relationship – Think about the dreaded words “…well how come you never told me that in the beginning?” Nothing builds trust like clarity and nothing tarnishes it quicker than coming off as deceitful because it appears you could have disclosed more information up front. As you work to tailor your approach around solving the customer or client’s biggest problem, leaders need to make sure there are check-ins along the sales process to confirm the direction both parties are moving in and ensure progress on the solution.

Recognize Excellence – A great way to continue solidifying trust is recognition. Convey to the client that without their openness and professionalism throughout the growth of the relationship, the resulting business and fulfilling partnership would not exist. Tangible, unexpected, personal, and public recognition accomplishes this and has the largest effect when occurring after a goal is met. Two examples would include thanking key influencers in the final email thread that closes the deal or giving a toast to the client at a dinner.

This neuro association is evolutionarily old (see Reptilian Brain) which means that the trust and social spike in teamwork are deeply embedded in our nature. The challenge  is that the Reptilian Brain is self-centered or “me-centric“, so trust is essential to even fully engage your prospect or client when first meeting. You need to convey “I think you are worth my time” effectively, immediately, and consistently. This is why leveraging clarity in the purpose early on is so effective. Both parties working towards solving the established problem will release oxytocin and other neuro chemicals that intensify focus and strengthen social connections – effects on the brain I alluded to earlier. Use this standard with every prospect you interact with initially, not after you determine they have the volume needed to help you meet your quota. Simple shift in awareness. Big results. Good luck in the field.


Alignment. The New Secret Sauce? How To Cultivate This In Your Process Sooner Than Later.



As we look to close out Q1 this week, I’ve spent some time taking stock of the biggest wins and lessons learned. The most valuable being how much alignment plays a role in any winning process. It becomes very clear when connecting the dots between strategy, activity, and performance that without being able to align your:


…It becomes virtually impossible to achieve tangible results that are sustainable.

More often than not I see a disproportionate concentration on vision with a lack of focus on behavior. To get us closer to the middle, lets look at some keys to cultivating alignment for your sales process, business, or organization:

  1. Define The Outcome Upfront – A mentor of mine in the insurance industry used to constantly stress that most in sales live in the land of Wing City – a lowly place where sales professionals throw random activity up at a wall and hope something sticks. He was very clear, nothing of substance gets accomplished in Wing City. So start with the plan. And not just any plan, one centered on the end goal and corresponding reward if you and your team hit it. We are human. Humans love rewards.
  2. Define What This Means Daily and Monthly For You and Key Collaborators – Here is where you need to reverse engineer what this magnificent finish line one or two quarters away looks like. If it’s 6 accounts that need to be closed by June, what does that mean on a weekly basis for the 12 prospects currently engaged at the moment? What correspondence needs to take place? What tasks needs to be delegated? Overlooking this step can be detrimental once you build momentum and have to scramble to define roles and deliver to your clients.
  3. Does This Move or Behavior Match The Industry or Organization? Does It Need To? – Perhaps the toughest to decide on the list. Mainly because of what being deemed an outlier may mean for your career path. Differentiation and Innovation really keep the ball moving if anchored in alignment, but you will ultimately have to decide how much leeway you have to leverage your process in the current market space or if you can be a disrupter and influence consumers and the market for years to come.
  4. Do I Have The Systems To Measure The Progress and Patterns? – This may seem like a tall order if you’re used to currently “runnin’ and gunnin’.” So I would urge you to keep it SIMPLE. Pick 1 to 2 key collaborators and 1 to 2 areas you both feel drive success and check in consistently to discuss the results. A KPI report with these two metrics helps but do not replace the clarity gained from productive and engaged communication with glossy charts and presentations. If you cannot narrate where you are in your process and use the data to merely confirm that, its likely you don’t have enough activity to produce the results you’re looking for. No tragedy here, let the takeaways from the meetings guide your next steps and momentum for next weeks activity.

If Q1 wasn’t as fruitful as planned, use these 5 points to right the ship and get back on track immediately. Two to six weeks into keeping your awareness on these areas you should feel an:

Increase in level of insight of performance

Increase in quality of team correspondence

This is the alignment I am alluding to. Increasing the insight and quality here will make your process stronger, thus making your next round of goals stronger, and more aligned with your strengths and ultimate long term vision. While change or an alternative perspective can feel uncomfortable, just remember if the process was flawless you would already be getting the results you wanted. I challenge you to identify the area in your sales game that could benefit from alignment most. Good luck in the field!

Aston Fleming


Further Reading –

Introducing Context & The Reptilian Brain

“Neuroscientists have discovered over the years that our instinctual self has a greater impact on our final decision than the rational us, or even the emotional us.” – Patrick Renvoise

As humans, we rarely know what we truly want. In fact famed behavioral economist Dan Ariely has deemed even our most reasoned decisions as driven by emotion or influenced by outside forces. So in sales, this insight, that our instinctual brain is better at determining what we want over our rational or emotional brain, can lead us to closing more business versus the dreaded and familiar, “…I’ll think about it” when leveraged the right way. However, rooted in dense backgrounds such as behavioral economics and neuromarketing, how can we simplify this knowledge and apply it to our own world? With our biggest competition in sales being no decision, or status quo, sales reps need to now, more than ever, that introducing context into the equation early on can make them stand out and move the sale forward effectively.

Before we look directly at context, let’s lay the foundation with what leading neuromarketer Patrick Renvoise refers to as, “awakening the reptilian brain“. The process, a combination of speaking to self interest and leveraging human’s respondent nature to contrast and visuals, can organically lead the prospect from cold and uninterested, to warm and ready to move forward. While easy to confuse with manipulation at first glance, this is far from manipulating the truth to appeal to the prospect, and instead, speaks to a more urgent need. As the inclination for status quo on the side of the prospect is too heavy of a force to depend on a stock PowerPoint, you, the salesperson, will have to move the prospect through the sales cycle and into becoming an active client. Why not use everything at your disposal to make the task easier?

Context – Sales context aligns the right solution with the right business challenge the prospect is facing. According to strategist Tim Riesterer, context creates a “clear, compelling sense that they won’t be able to hit their objectives by staying where they are that will prick the old brain’s survival instincts and cause it to start looking for an alternative to the status quo.” Some key questions to use that will create context are:

What was your biggest challenge last year?

What issues are at the utmost priority at the moment, and what’s the biggest roadblock standing in the way?

What steps are you taking to alleviate this problem?

What has happened in the past when you miss your target?

What does that mean for your boss and customers to fall short in this area?

Have your competitors been able to solve this problem?

Would your top 5 customers agree with your assessment, or have you put them in a position to need to shop around?

This line of questioning creates an opportunity for you to attain the prospects point of view enabling you to attack pain points that matter to them most. I will continue to explore more on the reptilian brain, as well as other neuromarketing concepts to stand out among others targeting the same leads. Please analyze your pipeline and recent sales correspondence to see where this can fit into your process. Perhaps adding one context driven question into your discovery can frame the conversation the right way for you to finally create a sense of urgency on the side of the prospect. Let me know if this resonates with you or if you already leveraging context with prospects and how you do it! Good luck in the field and have a productive week!

Aston Fleming


Further Insight: