You can buy advertising, but you can’t buy trust. I’m an outgoing person. I like to engage people in a wide variety of ways, mostly individually or in smaller groups because I like understanding what people are really saying. I take responsibility seriously. I often feel the weight and responsibility that is inherent in certain situations.
As independent tire dealers, as business owners, you carry considerable responsibility to your businesses, your families, your employees, your community and beyond. You are responsible to a set of values and a code of ethics, not to mention state and federal laws that cannot be ignored.
I remember being in junior high school where I was first assigned responsibility for audio/visual equipment. Back in the day, that meant an old projector on a roll-around cart that was “temperamental” on its best days. After carefully threading a film through all the particulars, there was still a good chance the movie would not play properly or the film would feed incorrectly, which was followed by the all-too familiar sound of film flapping spastically. Immediately your classmates would all laugh, and the pressure was on to re-thread the film.
To this day when I’m speaking or doing a presentation, I always leave the audio/visual equipment in the capable hands of a trusted individual (which is never someone from the hotel or conference center). I don’t allow myself to be responsible for distractions that could cause a serious disruption.
I tell this simple story because among all the responsibilities weighing on an independent tire dealer, none is heavier than the responsibility of earning trust. This trust applies to both your business and personal reputations. Earning trust among the stakeholders of your business not only includes the obvious participants, employees and customers, but it extends to the community, vendors, family, and beyond.
Like my junior high school story, if trust is not properly handled, it’s like the film not properly fed into the projector. When the projector is turned on, the film will flap, flap, flap, followed by the inevitable chorus of laughter. No one wants to fail out loud.
I’ve never read an inspiring story about a person or business that cheated themselves to the top and remained there. Trust is the core element in any successful business. Trust is central to success because it’s so closely tied to the owner’s DNA.
I think a safe place to start is an honest personal assessment, followed by a plan to improve trust at all levels, all interactions and with all stakeholders. Make no mistake; dealing honestly with truth is very weighty.
It’s been my experience and observation that the improvement I’m talking about never stumbles into a retail store; it’s purposeful, planned out, and comes from the top. Cursory efforts will result in temporary improvements and are subject to failure if they are applied without vigor and consistency. I touch on this subject as we move into the New Year because I believe that unprecedented pressure awaits independent tire dealers in the near future. (More about that in future articles.)
Everything I read today says consumers want personalized service from knowledgeable sales staff. They want value, and they want to understand how that value proposition applies to them individually. As awesome as the Internet is at dispensing information, it’s deficient of the personal touch, and in many cases does not anticipate or answer the value proposition or the desire for personalized service. Trust is built on knowledge and understanding. Trust is built on product knowledge and skillful presentations.
I was in a tire store this week and heard a salesperson say to a customer, “It’s a good tire,” with no supporting information. Where’s the value? Where’s the personalization? Where’s the knowledge? The most important ingredient to building trust is you, the owner, your standard.
The weighty issue of building trust is owned by the owner. Your personal touch, the trust-touch, is mandatory. This is no small matter. How you and your team deliver this touch matters.
Last weekend I took my wife to dinner at a famous national chain restaurant. During dinner, the manager came to the table and asked if everything was OK. Before I could reply, he had turned and started to walk away. His words were appropriate, but the delivery was very corporate, cold and impersonal.
The differences between the intent and the delivery were as subtle as a sledge hammer.
Trust is built through knowledge and skillful engagement.
Building trust adds value! ■
Wayne Williams is president of ExSell Marketing Inc., a “counter intelligence” firm based in La Habra, Calif. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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