The 3 Rs Create Trust

Drive Trust with 3 R Credibility

Earlier today I was involved in a Twitter chat and the question “How can winning work from one of those valuable markets help you win work in the others?” was asked. In a moment of clarity, building trust with three R words came to mind.

(Don’t know what a Twitter chat is? This blog post isn’t about that… email me and I’ll tell you.)

But before we get into the Rs…

At the most basic level there are two ways to grow your business:

  1. Sell different stuff to your existing customers
  2. Sell stuff to new customers

Your stuff can be products, services, or a combination of both.

Although the question asked specifically referred to moving into new markets, the 3Rs, which are Referrals, References, and Reports, work equally well to establish trust-building credibility that helps create new opportunities with existing customers and obtain new customers.


You automatically get trust when a customer refers you to a prospect. Referrals are by far the best way to get leads. Commonly referred to as “word of mouth marketing”, referrals from your customers can also come from social media, their own blogs, and any other way in which they communicate. In the digital age, one customer can have a wide reach.

Here are some compelling truths about referrals:

  • Tom Hopkins writes in his book “Sales Prospecting for Dummies”, the average closing ratio for non-qualified leads is 10% vs. 60% for referred leads. That’s a 6:1 ratio. Nielsen says people are 4 times more likely to buy when referred by a friend. Pick whichever number you want, they’re both compelling.
  • According to the survey results by the Chief Marketing Officer Council, the most valued source of leads is customer referrals. According to their survey of channel companies, 54% say those customer referrals are their most valued source of leads. Next on the list was e-mail or direct marketing, which came in at 14%.
  • The New York Times has said 65% of new business comes from referrals.

The built-in credibility you have when prospects are referred to you makes them self-qualified and predisposed to buy from you. In addition, they didn’t cost you anything! Well, not directly anyway. Getting referrals is so important to your business that you should be actively pursuing them. For more ideas about creating a referral program check out these tips from my friends over at Kinesis about getting referrals from your existing customers.

I was recently talking to a consultant who mentioned, perhaps a bit tongue-in-cheek, that his rates are higher when the phone rings, and lower when he makes the first call. Trust has value. (This isn’t true for me – so don’t hesitate to call!)


There are two levels of references. The easiest for your customers is to provide a testimonial that extolls the virtues of your product, service, or company. Testimonials are great because they are pretty easy to get from a happy customer. Once you have a testimonial it can be highly leveraged, you can put them on your website and in printed marketing collateral where they can be seen over and over again.

The second, and more committed, form of reference is a customer that is willing to talk to your prospects.

A few tips about using references:

  • Be sure that your customer knows how you will use the testimonial and what information about them you will be using. The most powerful, credibility-building testimonial is a full name, a picture, and their company name for B2B. If their company policy doesn’t allow the company name to be used there is still a benefit if you can use the quote with a first name, last initial, and the town they are from.
  • Your client can also benefit from the testimonial. People like to be treated as experts and supplying a testimonial will likely make your client feel good about themselves. It can also be good for your client’s own personal self-promotion and personal brand building. Beyond that, adding a link back to their company website further validates that the testimonial is real and also adds a little SEO goodness to their site.
  • Many companies have formal reference programs. An easy way to identify a customer willing to give a testimonial is to ask the question “How likely are you to recommend our company to others?” People that respond positively to this question are more willing to provide a testimonial.
  • Don’t burn out your active references. Ask them how often it is OK to send them a prospect to talk to. Each time they do thank them profusely whether or not you land the prospect, and reaffirm that they are willing to continue being a reference.

If you want to read more here’s an article from Pragmatic Marketing about implementing a referral program.


Reports come in many forms. They can be a simple case study that builds trust, or a research project that establishes credibility.

You want a product or service when you read a story about it solving the same problem you’re experiencing. Trust is established for both the company and its solution. When the problem is a major pain, you want it now. Credibility is established in your mind and you want to learn more. The same is true of your prospective customers.

When reporting customer success stories you want to describe the pain your customer experienced and what you did to make it go away. Your prospects may not even know they have the same pain until you point it out to them – and then they can’t forget about it. Be sure to use real numbers to illustrate the business benefit of your solution. The numbers can be in time savings, cost savings, or traffic data, but the best data is tied to revenue and ROI.

Once you have compelling customer stories there are numerous ways to get the word out:

  • Use traditional PR techniques to get an article published in an industry magazine.
  • Create a white paper and make it available for download from your website. Have your sales reps actively send it to prospects, and have them professionally printed and mail them or use them as a leave-behind.
  • B2B businesses can publish a customer story on LinkedIn. B2C companies may wish to post a short, to the point, customer story on Facebook.

The Customer Journey

A beautiful thing about the 3Rs is how they establish trust that helps a prospect along the customer journey. Your next customer may have never heard of you until someone they trust refers your company. Then they land on your website and read some positive references that make them clamor for more information. They get really excited when they read reports of success stories of customers that sound just like them. Each R gets them one step closer to being a customer.

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