TL;DR: Trust is the foundation of all relationships. As a new entrepreneur, that trust might seem hard to build, and that place at the top of your audience members’ minds might seem out of reach. But if you follow a few simple steps, you can break down trust barriers and connect with your audience in lasting, meaningful ways.
No trust? You’re toast.
I learned this lesson in what I’m convinced was the toughest way possible. When I co-founded my company, Influence & Co., I knew that in order to help us grow, make valuable connections, and land some qualified clients, I needed to dive headfirst into the word of networking.
I had a solid background in sales, so I walked confidently into my first conference, expecting to shake hands with industry leaders and influencers I could blow away with my knowledge and expertise.
This, as you’ve probably guessed by now, did not happen. I could hardly get the time of day from other attendees. It hurt me to my core and shook my faith in my ability to actually grow this company that I had put so much into already.
Why was I getting stonewalled? The answer hit me: No one trusted me. I couldn’t understand it. I hadn’t done anything. Then, it really hit me:
I hadn’t done anything.
I hadn’t earned anyone’s trust. I hadn’t written any content. I hadn’t provided my peers anything of value. Then and there, I realized a harsh truth. Trust is central to building relationships and growing a successful business, and you can’t expect someone to trust you if you’ve done nothing to earn it.
Trust Keeps You ‘Top of Mind’
Trust is one half of the fuel that propels business opportunities. The other half is consistency. Without either, you’re doomed to mediocrity. But together, you could become an industry influencer.
Trust is something you have to earn. It must be cultivated, fostered, nurtured, and pampered. Treat it like gold, and you’ll hit the jackpot. Turn your back to it, and you’ll wind up alone like the last kid picked in dodgeball.
So what’s the best way to grow your trust factor, especially when you’re basically an anonymous entrepreneur? I dive deep into these ideas of trust, relationship building, and scaling your business through content in my new business book, “Top of Mind.” You can check out a free chapter preview here, and to start understanding trust now, follow these four tried-and-true principles:
1. Be real
We’ve all seen that guy. You know the one. He’s a pretender. He’s a wannabe. He’s the opposite of authentic, and that makes him harder to trust.
Sure, you might listen to him, but do you really believe a word he says? No. You wouldn’t trust him to mail a prestamped birthday card to your grandma, let alone send significant business his way.
Being genuine is critical to gain others’ trust. And that means relaxing and accepting — even embracing — your imperfections. If you’ve seen me as a marketing speaker, you know that I stress being real and having real relationships with everyone around you. Give your personality a chance to shine, and wear your individuality like a badge of pride. Show your humanness. You don’t have to put on a show to be seen as trustworthy; that will almost always backfire anyway.
2. Be helpful
When you need help, who do you turn to? It’s probably the people you know will help you in a millisecond. These are the folks in your life you trust.
You don’t have to become a doormat to help others. It’s more a matter of common courtesy than anything else. For instance, if your client or customer has a concern, ask how you can be helpful and follow through. Most leaders never use this language, which is too bad. A sincere “How can I be helpful?” email that takes less than a minute to write could mean all the difference to a potential client or partner.
I should add that this is not about bribing others. You’re not being a helper if you have an end game in mind. You’re merely doing the right thing consistently. When you do that, you demonstrate to others that they can trust you.
3. Be easy to like
You and I both know people we just don’t like. Never did, never will. Something about them rubs you the wrong way, and when you’re not comfortable with people, how can you fully trust them? Likability is key; otherwise, you’ll just be known as someone who’s a jerk.
This doesn’t mean changing yourself into something you’re not. (Revisit my first point on being real for more on that.) It just means that you make yourself easy for others to be around. I grew up in the Midwest, which is pretty much a likability training camp, but I get that likability may not come naturally to everyone.
To boost your own likability, I suggest balancing your intensity and accessibility. Be passionate about your business, but don’t let it drown others. Listen, ask questions, and get to know the people you meet; you never know what you might have in common that can bond you together and instantly make you more likable in each other’s eyes.
4. Be a thought leader
What’s your last trust touchpoint? Thought leadership.
This is where you share your insights with your audience through a variety of content. Your goal here isn’t to promote yourself or sell, sell, sell; you’re just focusing on helping, educating, and connecting with your audience consistently through authentic thought leadership content.
You can write a business book, become a conference speaker, guest-post in publications your audience trusts already, host a podcast — the ball is really in your court. Remember, though, that consistency is how you’ll maintain your place at the top of their minds.
Trust is the foundation of all relationships in business and in life. As a new entrepreneur, that trust might seem hard to build, and that place at the top of your audience members’ minds might seem out of reach. But follow these four steps, and you’ll start breaking down trust barriers and connecting with your audience in lasting, meaningful ways.