TRUST – IT’S THE CURRENCY OF SUCCESS. Have it, and the world seems to offer opportunity after opportunity at one’s feet. Without it, those opportunities either never appear, or are snapped up by others. Trust is just as important for a company’s success. When Alibaba founder, Ma Yun (known internationally as Jack Ma), gave his farewell speech to his employees, his 18 minute presentation included the word ‘trust’ 12 times. One brief paragraph sums up his belief in the importance of trust:
“I have no reasons to succeed. Alibaba and Taobao have no reasons to succeed either. But today, we have walked so far and for so many years with so many aspirations for the future. I believe, it is trust that has made us walk this far.”
Ma Yun essentially launched e-commerce in China by becoming the trustworthy middleman, smashing the mutual fear of being cheated for both the consumer and supplier. And for his efforts, Ma Yun now bounces between the first and second richest person in China.
Ma Yun now bounces between the first and second richest person in China.
Ma Yun’s suppliers who understand the importance of trust have also reaped the financial rewards. In 2011, on what is known colloquially in China as ‘Singles Day’ or November 11, Taobao.com and Tmall.com, both Alibaba websites, took only 8 minutes to reach 100 million RMB (equivalent to approximately 15.8 million USD) in transaction volume and after the day had ended, this volume had reached 3.36 billion RMB! Trust clearly equals sales.
And this is because of the link between trust and recommendation. According to Stefan Grafe, author of ‘More Trust. More Sales‘, there is a 98% confidence level that “a measure in one is a measure in the other.” That means that a higher amount of trust will directly correlate to an increase in the Net Promoter Score (NPS®). And a higher NPS® correlates to more recommendations and therefore more sales.
For the record, the NPS® is based on a simple, but direct question, “On a score of 0 to 10, how likely is it that you would recommend our company/product/service to a friend or colleague?” Promoters are those who respond with a score of 9 or 10 and are considered loyal enthusiasts. Those that score a 0 to 6 are considered Detractors, or unhappy customers, and those that provide a score of 7 and 8 are considered to be Passives. This last group is deemed irrelevant in the NPS, because the final number is calculated by subtracting the percentage of customers who are Detractors from the percentage of customers who are Promoters. So if a high NPS® directly correlates to recommendations, and recommendations correlate to trust, how does one build trust and become a trusted advisor in sales, particularly in China?
Goodwill, or the personal connection between two individuals is one way. The other, is through one’s reputation – or what others say about an individual.
How does one build trust and become a trusted advisor in sales, particularly in China?
This is because sales professionals are the least qualified members of any organisation. While accountants studied accounting, engineers studied engineering and doctors studied medicine, salespeople have no formal qualifications. There is no diploma in sales, no degree in haggling nor a master’s in deal closing. Consequently, a high level of product knowledge, and the confidence that this brings, is a major advantage in the field of sales.
And yet, this is one of the most common weaknesses of sales professionals in China. Part of the blame can be laid on the shoulders of an immature sales culture. It was only in 1992 that capitalism was deemed a safe endeavour, after Deng Xiaoping stated on his ‘Southern Tour’ that “To be rich is glorious”. Prior to that, capitalism was still seen as risky, even though the ‘Open Door Policy’ was officially creaked opened in 1978. Consequently, while overseas Chinese are renowned for their mercantile family businesses, few mainland Chinese have a sales streak running through their family.
…few mainland Chinese have a sales streak running through their family.
The other part of the blame for the generally poor sales abilities of Chinese salespeople can be laid on complacent training departments who believe sales skills are innate, or worse, dependent only upon guanxi. This natural ability may be true for a very small number of professionals, but for the vast majority, sales skills must be learned. Henkel, one of the largest adhesives companies in the world, understands this gap, and consequently has a ‘Professional Campus’ division that aids in building sales competency in its staff, globally. Mid-sized firms, like Somero, which lead the laser guided concrete screeding industry, are also committed to quarterly sales programs to develop and retain sales competencies within their Chinese staff.
Both firms acknowledge, that in an education culture based on rote learning, self development is unlikely to happen without significant ‘official’ input from the organisation to improve competency. And moving from a simple salesperson to a more complex trusted advisor, is part of their China strategy. As it should be yours.