There's a secret sauce exhibitors can employ to build a trust-conversion strategy: having the right people.
"There are two reasons why we don't trust people. First, we don't know them. Second, we know them."
Trust, as you well know, is in short supply these days. Institutions are getting kicked in the teeth. Trust in government is at its lowest since the Great Depression, barely surviving a free fall from 77 percent to 20 percent, according to the Pew Research Center. Trust in the media is so low that I'm surprised you're still reading this. Currently at 32 percent, according to Gallup Inc., it's down eight points since 2015, and 23 points from 1999. Furthermore, Pew reports that the percentage of web-using adults who "have a lot of trust in the information they get from social media" sits at a barely visible 4 percent.
So much for the facts. Now let's get personal. Who do you trust? And how does that trust (or mistrust) influence your decisions? Then ask yourself this question: Would you do business with – or issue an RFP to – a company that you don't trust?
I wouldn't, and I'm guessing you wouldn't either. And neither would the prospects you court on the trade show floor. The risk is too high; the fallout too steep. And just as in general business, trust is essential to exhibiting success. When considering this truth, two questions come to mind:
➤ How extensive is the malaise of mistrust among trade show attendees?
➤ How does that lack of trust affect attendees who interact with exhibitors?
Those questions were unanswered until now. EXHIBITOR magazine and Exhibit Surveys Inc. asked hundreds of show attendees from widely diverse industries some trust-related questions for the 2017 EXHIBITOR Trust Report.
As it turns out, 91 percent of them said trust is among the "most important" consideration when choosing suppliers. Not surprisingly, then, 93 percent said they wouldn't submit an RFP to
a company they didn't trust. Lastly, 87 percent indicated that when they're at trade shows talking to exhibitors they don't know, a primary objective is to "find products and people I
can trust with my business." In other words, nearly nine out of every 10 new prospects are – first and foremost – looking for people and companies they feel they can trust.
Zig Ziglar (the man many consider the world's greatest salesman) summed up the role of trust this way: "If people like you, they'll listen to you. But if they trust you, they'll do business with you." No trust? No business.
So what qualities elicit trust among trade show attendees? As the Trust Report shows, prospects look for exhibitors who can demonstrate that they and their products are, by order of importance, reliable, competent, and understanding. Experts call these the antecedents or conditions of trust.
Thankfully, there's a secret sauce exhibitors can employ to build a trust-conversion strategy: people – or, more precisely, the right people. We know from prior research that up to 85 percent of visitors' impressions of your exhibit come from their interaction with your staff. The implication is clear. You might want to dump those phony smiles and try staffing your exhibit with people who immediately convey trustworthiness.
Years ago, Dee Silfies (our chief learning strategist and someone most people instinctively trust) and I were just getting to know Six Sigma expert Marty Smith, who is nothing if not direct. At the end of lunch, out of nowhere, Marty turned to me and said, "Lee, I really trust Dee. You, I'm not so sure."
I have since moved on to Marty's trust list, but the point is that some people, like Dee, are almost instantly trusted. Others, like me, take a while. Unfortunately, trade show exhibitors don't have a while. So who would you rather have on the front lines of your exhibit, engaging with high-value new business prospects: me or Dee?
I'm already feeling lonely. E