Earning your customers' trust

July 26, 2010

In our last two columns we touched on the importance of the sales counter, both the environment and the personnel. The sales counter is the most exciting, challenging and rewarding place in our industry, and to be successful requires a trained and motivated sales staff.

This month we are going to talk about the most important goal, the single most important thing that will make all the difference between winning and losing at the sales counter.

Without trust your business is going out of business!

 Building trust

Webster’s Dictionary defines trust as, “The assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something.”

The “thing” people want to believe in is your business, that you perform quality work at a fair price. The “someone or something” they want to believe in is you and your staff. Yogi Berra used to say, “If the fans don’t come out to the ball park, you can’t stop them.” The same is true for your business, “If the customers don’t come to your store, you can’t stop them.”

Customers have many options in the marketplace! If they come to your store and receive good service at a fair price they are likely to come back; however, if they receive good service at a fair price and you earn their trust, then like Yogi said, “you can’t stop them” from coming back! Repeat customers are the lifeblood of your business, and trust is the most important ingredient.

How do you build trust that lasts, that ensures a healthy, profitable future? Well, it all goes back to the sales counter; it starts with the sales staff, and ends there as well. Assuming the sales staff has been appointed the responsibility of greeting the customers, determining their needs, answering their questions, communicating progress, and closing out the sale, then they hold the key to building trust.

Last month I introduced the idea that, “Communication is 85% of everything.” It’s safe to say that many, if not most, customers are uneasy and unsure about having their vehicles serviced. This is the perfect opportunity for the counter staff to earn trust. It starts with the initial contact, and all subsequent communications are the groundwork for building trust.


 1. Acknowledge the presence of the customer. When a customer walks into your store he must be acknowledged in a timely manner. This is a basic, yet often overlooked, skill. It will be considerably more difficult to build trust if a customer feels ignored and left unattended. A quick acknowledgement such as, “I’ll be with you in a moment,” will buy time until the sales staff is ready to interact with the customer. Of course, don’t forget about the customer, as time is ticking. There is a difference between an acknowledgment and a greeting.

2. A sincere and timely greeting is critical. When approaching the customer, smile and shake his hand while welcoming and introducing yourself. In a causal and friendly manner, welcome the customer and give him your name while asking his name. This is more critical to building trust than most associates realize. When he answers with his name, listen carefully, remember it and use it! Dale Carnegie says, “A person’s name is the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” When you ask for a person’s name with a smiling face and smiling voice you strengthen the relationship.

3. Listen with the intent to understand. It’s one thing to hear a person speak, and quite another to understand what he’s saying. Some customers are price driven. Some customers are quality conscious. Some customers are time sensitive. Other customers require high levels of communication. When you listen carefully and understand your customer, you can then answer his questions in his language. When you give quality assurances to a price driven or quality conscious customer, you are speaking his language; you are earning trust. When you communicate effectively to a customer who requires high levels of communication, you are speaking his language; you are earning trust. Each customer requires your full attention. When you speak the customer’s language, trust is established; you are earning trust.

4. Trust is a funny thing. Once trust is established, it only earns you the right to service the customer’s needs in the future. Trust is easier to establish than to maintain. Trust is easily eroded through a variety of practices such as poor communication, broken promises, substandard service, etc.


I don’t have to tell you the many potential pitfalls and possible problems in servicing today’s vehicles, let alone the complexity of performing all of this in a manner that is done timely, consistently, professionally and profitably; however, everything we do is tied to trust. Without trust, it is impossible to run a successful, sustainable business.

The strength of your business is no stronger than the trust that is established between you and your customers; therefore, I recommend a sincere focus and a concerted effort by you and your staff to earn the trust necessary to satisfy your customers and sustain the profitability of your business.

Acknowledge quickly, greet sincerely, listen carefully, speak their language, earn their trust: Stay in business!

I trust you’ll think about this until next month when we explore more areas of “counter intelligence.”    ■

Wayne Williams is president of ExSell Marketing Inc., a “counter intelligence” firm based in La Habra, Calif. He can be reached at [email protected].