How to Build Trust and Value (and How NOT To)

In 1966, architect Cedric Price famously said,

“Technology is the answer, but what was the question?”

Could we be living in a time where this statement was ever more true than today?

Take a stroll through LinkedIn and you will see a plethora of technology posts, all proclaiming that the solution to your problems is here, that your question has been answered!

Microsoft Teams has a 3×3 grid! This touch screen tells your temperature! This camera works in your home office! This XYZ works over wireless USB!

However amazing the features and products may be (and some of them are really cool so don’t get me wrong), without the proper context, they’re just solutions in search of a problem: more buzzwords from the hype machine to turn out some OEM gear from a clandestine factory somewhere.

To make things even more interesting, some companies are not only reselling these products but also renaming and rebranding them in an effort to make them harder to shop and maintain high mark-ups in a time when most companies are taking loans from the government just to make payroll. (Insert something about karma and payback being a … something or other.)

Handshake fingers crossed

Not that we can shake hands right now, but you get the idea.

So, as an industry that has our own revenue challenges right now, how do we treat people in a way that they’ll remember us favorably when this is all over?

Lead with empathy and transparency.

Put yourselves in your client’s position. What uncertainty do they face? What hard decisions are they having to make? What course of action will help them best reach their new goal, as it has most likely changed since March? How can you help them maximize their resources by offering solutions that accelerate them reaching their goals?

Be honest about the limitations and potential misconceptions about the solutions you offer. Sell the virtues; be transparent about the downsides. Don’t try to create artificially high margins through deceptive practices. Don’t rebrand items to keep them from being shopped. Any business model that relies on customer ignorance to maintain margin is bankrupt, and now more than ever, the fallout from being “discovered” by a client could be fatal.

Trust comes from offering a hand, not reaching for someone’s wallet.

In other words, know the questions being asked. Offer solutions based on the question — not based on fear, uncertainty or doubt. Be transparent about what you’re selling, its value and the misconceptions. Charge a fair price.

Yes. We are in business as well, and we need to, likewise, be good shepherds of our businesses and our employees who depend on them. However, we can’t let short-term gains and sales-triage efforts compromise the long-term health of our businesses either.

Technology IS the answer in many cases but ONLY if you ask the right questions, lead with empathy and be transparent. If we can do that as an industry, we’ll all get through this together.