The World of Work Project

Five Dimensions of Trust in Sales

Sales environments can be different to other environments in that there may be little time to establish trust. In these environments, five dimensions affect trust: customer orientation, selling orientation, expertise, likeability and dependability.

Summary by The World of Work Project

5 Dimensions of Trust in Sales

The concept behind most trust models is that there are specific traits that help increase a person’s trustworthiness. By focusing on these traits and improving them, an individual can become more trustworthy.

This specific model focuses on the sales-person’s relationship with the customer, and calls out key dimensions that affect the level of trust that customers report feeling in relation to their sales-people.

One careful owner, low miles… Some sales industries have a worse reputation than others.

The 5 dimensions

This model calls out five key dimensions that affect trust in a sales environment: customer orientation, selling orientation, expertise, likeability and dependability.

1.Customer orientation

If the sales-person focuses on the customers perspective and considers the product sale as an opportunity to increase customer satisfaction, then the customer experiences higher levels of trust in the sales-person.

2. Selling orientation

If the sales-person adopts a short-term, sales focused orientation where they are more concerned about making the sale than helping the customer improve their satisfaction, then customer trust levels are low.

We trust experts with important things.

3. Expertise

If the sales-person is able to demonstrate high levels of expertise in relation to the product and answer any questions that a customer may have, then the customer experiences higher trust levels.

4. Likeability

If the sales-person is amicable, friendly and pleasant, perhaps demonstrating high levels of agreeableness, then mutual liking is more probable and customers typically report higher levels of trust in the sales-person.

5. Dependability

If the sales-person is dependable and does what they have said they would do, then customers report experiencing higher levels of trust in the sales-person. This is a factor that becomes more relevant in longer-term relationships.

Overlap with other trust models

There are several models of trust in existence, most of them basically say the same thing, though perhaps through slightly different language. We’ve considered the models in an overview, but have also included a high level comparison here.

The World of Work Project View

This model of trustworthiness is interesting and different than other models that we’ve looked at as it focuses specifically on sales relationships. Despite the specific domain that this model is focusing on, it is broadly the same as other trust models.

Overall we would recommend using and sharing the other trust models ahead of this one in a typical working environment as they are more general in nature and easier to relate to.

We also note that, in our experience, an individual’s purpose and motivation for building trust may affect their success in doing so. Self interest is seldom attractive, and this fact is built into this model.

Sources and further reading

Where possible we always recommend that people read up on the original sources of information and ideas.

This past is based on work by Laurent George and Paulo Guenzi and you can read more in their original article, “Salesperson’s trust in the context of financial services“.


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