Want your customers to trust you? Demonstrate that you trust THEM! This may seem counterintuitive, but there’s sound neuromarketing reasoning behind it. The concept revolves around that seemingly magical neurochemical, oxytocin, which is a key factor in forming trust relationships. Paul J. Zak, director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies at Claremont Graduate University and unofficial oxytocin evangelist, relates a story about how in his younger days he was the victim of a small-scale swindle. He now concludes that a key factor in getting him to fall for the con was that the swindler demonstrated that he trusted Zak.

The key to a con is not that you trust the conman, but that he shows he trusts you. Conmen ply their trade by appearing fragile or needing help, by seeming vulnerable… the human brain makes us feel good when we help others–this is the basis for attachment to family and friends and cooperation with strangers. “I need your help” is a potent stimulus for action. [From The Moral MoleculeHow to Run a Con.]

Zak goes on to explain that this behavior is all part of what he calls THOMAS – The Human Oxytocin Mediated Attachment System.

THOMAS’ effects are modulated by our large prefrontal cortex that houses the “executive” regions of the brain. THOMAS is all emotion, while the prefrontal cortex is deliberative… THOMAS causes us to empathize with others, the key to building social relationships.

How can this understanding help us sell more effectively? First, I want it to be clear that sales is NOT a con game, and any salesperson who treats it as one is unlikely to be successful for very long. Nevertheless, building trust IS an essential part of the sales process, and anything that we can do to foster that will pay dividends.

Building on what Zak suggests, one key way to build your customer’s trust is by demonstrating that you trust HIM. (Obviously, behaving in a transparent and trustworthy manner yourself is important as well.) How can you demonstrate trust in your customer? In a purely business context, making a loaner or trial product available with minimal restrictions could be one way. Establishing credit terms quickly and without the customer having to complete lengthy terms could be another. If the relationship with the customer is more personal, other opportunities might suggest themselves.

Have you found that extending your trust, in either a business or personal context, has paid the dividend of gaining the trust of the other party? Post a comment and let us know how…

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