Building trust between sales leaders and their team members is essential to driving high performance.
According to the Harvard Business Review, employees in high-trust organizations are more productive, have more energy at work, collaborate better with their colleagues, and stay with their employers longer than people working at low-trust companies.
So, if you want your sales team to be engaged and productive, they must trust you (and the rest of the team.)
Here are 9 keys to establish and build trust with your sales team.
1. Start at the Top
Unlike hard measures such as number of sales calls and filing reports, trust isn’t something that can simply be demanded of your sales reps. Trust is a two-way street and must be earned, starting at the top.
What does that look like for you as a sales leader? Start by hiring people who are talented and well-equipped to do the job right, train them to succeed, and then trust that they will.
Giving your team members some autonomy will prove you trust them, and they’ll in turn take a sense of ownership and accountability for their work.
2. Walk the Talk
Competence, consistency, and responsibility are key to earning the team’s trust.
Sales managers can gain trust with their sales reps by staying up to date on the industry, best practices in sales, and the company’s sales process and methodology. Doing so helps show that the captain of the ship is in fact steering the crew in the right direction.
Set up consistent schedules with your salespeople for coaching and reviews, and hold yourself accountable to the commitments.
Only when managers walk their own talk, can they expect salespeople to trust them.
3. Spend Time with the Team
Trust cannot grow in a vacuum. It requires feeding and nurturing, and this can’t happen when the manager is locked in an office or hidden behind a computer screen.
While managers should resist the urge to be “buddies” with their salespeople, they must invest in relationships outside of scheduled coaching and reviews.
Whether it’s “water cooler” time or simply walking through the office to ask about your team’s weekend, casual time spent with salespeople establishes a human connection that is critical to trust. It can also help managers identify when individuals in the group need additional attention, which also builds trust with those individuals.
4. Adopt the Right Mindset
Two things that commonly kill trust on sales teams are manipulation and snark.
Sometimes managers feel that in order to get salespeople to do what they want them to do, they need to use tricks, or guilt them into the “right” behaviors. Frustrated managers frequently resort to snark and cynicism, which is toxic to trust.
Managers who want to earn trust must shift their mindset to supporting their sales teams with effective guidance and coaching, focusing on their team’s positives, and reserving criticism for targeted feedback aimed at improving specific performance measures.
5. Support Aggressive Goals
While building trust happens best with a positive mindset, that doesn’t mean managers must settle for mediocre performance. Setting aggressive goals can be both motivating and trust-enhancing, if those goals are supported effectively.
If you communicate your confidence in your team and their ability to reach the high targets you’ve set for them, they’ll in turn feel more confident in their own performance capabilities.
6. Choose an Effective Communication Style
Every person has a preferred communication style that is most effective for them.
When sales managers understand and adapt to the communication style of each salesperson, they can better build trust and understanding. Comprehensive assessments such as Brooks Talent Index reveal the best way to communicate with each team member, and how to best motive them.
Having that out in the open helps the entire team improve collaboration, trust, and performance.
7. Use Stories
The human brain is wired to trust information most when it’s presented as a story. Managers can use personal stories from their own experiences and from other salespeople to illustrate their points and support their salespeople.
It’s important when choosing stories for managers not to take themselves too seriously. Choose stories that are authentic and designed to connect with salespeople, not just to make the manager look good.
8. Hold Salespeople Accountable
It can be tempting for managers to use trust-building as an excuse not to “come down hard on” salespeople, but failing to hold them accountable can erode trust. Finding a balance is key.
High performers and those who follow company process will resent low performers and “rebels” when they’re not held accountable, and that resentment will bleed up to management. On the other hand, salespeople who know they will be held consistently, firmly, and professionally to their commitments will learn to trust their leaders.
9. Don’t Be Afraid to Fire
It’s a common misconception that firing salespeople leads to anxiety and lack of trust on the team. Unreasonable, inconsistent, and unexpected firings can have that effect, but having the wrong people on the team who consistently underperform is also bad for morale.
Instead, establish a standard process for assessing, supporting, holding accountable, and, as a final resort, firing the wrong people. Do that and you’ll build more trust, not less.
Hiring salespeople who are competent and hold themselves accountable goes a long way in establishing a culture of trust across the entire team. Identify exactly what your open sales positions need for success, and then hire the perfect fit, with Brooks Talent Index hiring assessments.
The system not only helps you select the right person, it also helps you communicate and coach them in the most effective way once they’re on your team. Learn more.