Perhaps the single most valuable asset a bank can have is people's trust. And it is all too easy to forget the essential role trust plays in long-term sales success.

Though typical bank employees might not consider themselves salespeople, they are in fact on the front lines of any sales program.

Anyone who walks into an office forms the relationships that make up the bank's sales effort with these employees. People develop relationships with organizations they know they can trust.

In research several years ago, my company asked more than 6,000 people, "To what extent did you most trust the person you bought from in the past 24 months?" An astounding 64% said they did not trust salespeople at all.

The logical next question was, "Why did you buy if you didn't trust the salesperson?" The answers: They simply had no choice; a specific feature sold them; the product had a benefit they needed or had to have.

But the consequences were severe: More than 93% of that group said they would never deal with that organization or salesperson again.

Trust is essential if you are involved in a relationship-based sale rather than one that is purely transactional and if you rely on repeat, referral business and long-term, positive strategic positioning to sell a product or service. Trust is far more important than merely being liked by your customers.

Let me suggest this simple principle: With mutual trust, a bank representative can sell value; being liked merely guarantees that he or she can sell on price or rate.

The corollary is that top salespeople sell the value of their product or service. Marginal salespeople sell prices, rates, concessions, discounts, and slim margins.

Here are 10 specific ways to develop the necessary credibility and sustain a sense of trust with customers:

Promise a lot and deliver more. Don't believe the old saying that you should "underpromise and overdeliver." Set high expectations and exceed even those.

Be punctual for every appointment and each commitment. And deliver on every promise made.

Show up at every meeting with accurate, timely, relevant answers and knowledge. Anticipate questions and come prepared to answer them in as much depth as necessary.

Meet every commitment 100% of the time.

If you, your team, or your bank ever makes an error, admit it. There is nothing worse than dodging responsibility, blaming others, or failing to admit a mistake.

Never let customers be blindsided. Alert them about issues that will affect them. Do this even if it is painful. Be sure to give as much notice about anything that affects them as early as possible.

Never deal directly with a customer's superior unless you alert the customer that you are doing so. Then explain the purpose and outcome of the interaction - and how it will affect your customer.

Prepare extensively for every customer interaction. Leave nothing to chance. Seize every opportunity to show the depth of your understanding of the customer's situation and circumstances.

Take time to educate support or other ancillary personnel at the bank who also deal with customers. Inform them of the promises or understandings that you have with customers, as well as any specific, sensitive issues that might be related to dealings with the account.

Stay in touch. Never let customers feel that you are taking them for granted. They should feel as if they are your only customer.

Far too often, salespeople believe they are selling themselves. Far from it. They are selling their sincere interest in the customer. They are communicating to that customer that the bank they represent is one that can be trusted to make good on its promises.

The next time you find yourself in front of a bank customer, ask yourself: "Am I a representative of this organization whom I would trust implicitly?"

Be tough in answering. It could be the secret to your success.

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