Many sellers unconsciously believe that trust is earned through schmoozing and chatting about commonalities. They want to show they care about the buyer as a person, not just getting them to buy. Let’s call this approach the “surface-level relationship.”
The surface-level relationship might chip away at skepticism, but it does not earn trust. That's because even if that chit-chat is enjoyable, it does nothing to establish the credibility of the seller.
The entire reason the buyer is talking to the seller is because they have a problem that needs solving. Schmoozing does nothing to establish how the seller can help the buyer with their problem. It only robs precious time from discovering the depth and scope of the problem in the buyer’s world.
How trust is actually established
There are different levels of trust in the B2B world, and each of them plays a critical role in building business relationships.
Author Alan Weiss presents it as a Trust Pyramid, as seen in this image:
Trust Pyramid from Million Dollar Consulting by Alan Weiss
At the bottom you see trust based on referrals. People tend to have a certain immediate trust for someone who has been referred to them – but more work must be done to earn a higher level of trust.
The next three levels of trust are all established through credibility. The seller demonstrates their expertise and knowledge through:
Asking insightful questions about the buyer’s world
Sharing observations that connect the dots in the buyer’s world
Adding industry perspectives to the conversation
Note: credibility is not established by talking about your product – no matter how great it is. The seller must understand the buyer’s problems first.
All three of these levels get sacrificed when the seller pursues the surface-level relationship through chit-chat, dinners out, and intentionally avoiding the sales conversation for fear of being salesy.
But here’s where it gets really interesting: the top (pinnacle) of the Trust Pyramid is trust based on an emotional connection.
In the words of Alan Weiss:
True, sustaining trust is built on an emotional connection. Think of it as the honest belief that the other person has your best interests in mind. He is not trying to sell the most expensive option, and he is not trying to gain at your expense. He is trying to help you achieve your goals and will only succeed if you succeed. That is the emotional connection.
How to build trust based on an emotional connection
There are no shortcuts, hacks, or tactics for building that emotional connection. This is where the long game becomes the strong game. Paradoxically, that doesn’t mean it will take forever.
Sellers who play the short game will be tempted to pitch their product right away (listing all the amazing accolades of their product). But those details don’t matter until the seller can explain how specific features will address specific problems in the buyer’s world.
Instead, sellers who play the long game will immerse themselves in understanding the buyer’s world. They have a high EQ and know when to dig deeper, and when to proceed with caution around sensitive topics.
Most importantly, the seller shares questions, ideas, and insight that create resonance with the buyer. Resonance strikes a chord of what is particularly meaningful and true for the buyer. In this way, the seller demonstrates that they are invested in the buyer’s success.
That is how to build trust based on an emotional connection.