In Trust We Trust

I bought a new car last week – an all-electric, 2023 Chevy Bolt.

I wasn’t really planning on it, but my friend Matt told me he had just bought one and that the car was eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit. My Ford Focus was more than 10 years old and so the timing seemed right.

When it comes to things that most people dread, buying a car is at the top of the list, right up there with public speaking or being trapped in an elevator with Rudy Giuliani.

Car dealerships are legendarily famous for having a slippery grasp on the truth, so I approached the sale with a great deal of caution…

… I read all the reviews of the dealership; I double-checked the Bolt’s eligibility for the tax credit (despite assurances from the salesman); I checked – and rechecked – the dollar figures provided by the dealer, to make sure they matched what was promised.

In other words, I did everything I could think of to ensure I wasn’t being misled or taken advantage of.

Compare that to my experience selling my car, something that was finalized yesterday – I sold it to a friend of my sister-in-law.

Here, because we had a trusted person in common, and despite not knowing each other, the transaction was fast, easy, pleasant, and fair for both of us. She didn’t have to worry that there was some hidden problem with the car; I didn’t have to deal with dozens of (literal) tire-kickers on the way to a sale.

Having experienced both of these transactions within days of one another, I realized that what made them so different was the degree of trust: I had zero trust with the car dealer; I had 100% trust with my sister-in-law’s friend.

When it comes to squishy concepts in business, trust is among the squishiest. It’s hard to measure, it takes time to build, and it’s easy to miss how big a role it plays in every interaction.

The thing is, as my car purchasing experience demonstrated, without trust, you can’t take anything at face value.

As someone who sells a professional service, this directly applies to your prospective clients – the people who are thinking of hiring you have to spend a lot of time and effort making sure who you are and what you promise are as they seem.

Further, without trust, even when agreement is reached, the process takes longer, the fees are negotiated harder, and the overall level of enjoyment and excitement – for everyone involved – isn’t the same. Everybody loses something.

So, my trust-seeking friend, what can you do to increase your trustworthiness out in the world?

As my newsletter clients will tell you, I am constantly haranguing them to include personal information and stories in whatever they write.

Not just because this makes the important information they share more interesting. Although it certainly does that.

It’s also because the more people feel they have in common with you, the higher their degree of trust. When you meet someone who has the same birthday, or who likes the same music, or is married to the same… okay, it doesn’t always apply.

But if you don’t share information about yourself – your family, your vacations, your dog, the fact that you just bought a car – you are missing an opportunity to make that all-important connection.

I didn’t have dinner with my sister-in-law last month because I was hoping she would know someone who might want to buy my car. It just so happened that in the course of conversation, the car came up and the next day she sent me a text about her friend.

That’s how word of mouth works. Not only do people you know send others your way (in all kinds of ways that you can’t anticipate), but because of the interconnections, these “leads” are way more valuable than just the name of someone who may need a car (or whatever).

Keeping your network alive and ever-expanding is the starting point for all that trusty goodness. Speaking of which…

The great thing about trust is that it can’t be bought or traded for. Its power lies in the fact that it’s grounded in reality and based on actual experience, not hype or promotion.

But it takes time to build. If you wait until you’ve got a “car to sell” to start making connections, it’s too late.

Until this recent car buying/selling experience, it never really dawned on me how much time we all spend – every day, in both our professional and personal lives – trying to figure out who and what is for real and who and what isn’t.

All of that goes away when you do business with people you can trust.

If you’re not spending time building that trust, you are working a lot harder than necessary growing your client base in particular and your business overall.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What kind of car do you drive?
  2. Have you ever been trapped in an elevator with Rudy Giuliani?
  3. Do you think “Trusty Goodness” would be a good name for a breakfast cereal?

Extra credit: What would you call a large primate who is always berating and lecturing others?

Share your answers below…

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16 thoughts on “In Trust We Trust

    1. Sarah Peterson

      #1 – I drive a 2023 all-electric Chevy Bolt!!

      Yes, knowing we have these personal details in common does build trust in a delightfully friendly way, even if it doesn’t exactly add up as to why the feelings would transfer so powerfully. They do!

  1. Albert Kaufman

    1. What kind of car do you drive? – 2008 Toyota Camry (my Dad’s car)

    3. Do you think “Trusty Goodness” would be a good name for a breakfast cereal? – mmm, probably not.

    4. Great post, thank you – wise wise wise.

  2. Jennie Jolly

    2021 Hyundai Tucson… no electric cars for me! Esp after watching all of the flooded cars exploding from the salt water, ha.
    I avoid both elevators and Rudy.
    “Crunchy Goodness” might get my vote.
    After seeing the “harangutan” comment, I can’t think of a better one!

  3. Mark W

    Michael, Happy New Year. Again I have to ask you, politely, stop making me think!
    The concept of “trust” is a long standing and important part of our social human glue.
    In fact it’s so important that your founding fathers not only used it as a logo for marketing their new invention… the USofA… as in, “In God We Trust” … they printed it on the paper money.
    Since then it’s been bastardized so as to have lost impact.
    I mean how many politicians have you heard say, “Trust me, I know what I’m doing, and I’m doing it for all of you!”
    So rather than getting getting caught up in that mire, my preferred option these days is “when you can articulate someone’s problem better than they can, they will automatically and unconsciously credit you with having the solution.” (Wyatt Woodsmall).
    Trust me, my lawyer will be in contact with you shortly.

  4. Loring Allen

    Love the topic. So pertinent to what we are living through these days, on so many levels.

    1 – Love is…my Subaru
    2 – I’ve ridden in an elevator with Bill Barr – close, but not Giuliani. And I’ve been stuck in elevators twice.
    3 – Former cereal marketer here. Trust me…it’ll be good. But first, let’s see what the research department (aka Blue Penguin newsletter readers) comes up with.


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