The Trust formula

Trust plays a critical part in sales, but how can you make people trust you? Learn the vital trust formula to help your business build trust

People buy from people they trust

The corporate world is littered with the corpses of companies who lost trust with their customers. Gerald Ratner sank his own company mocking his customers for the low quality of the products sold in shops which bore his name, more recently the sudden implosion of one of the world’s most powerful PR firms Bell Pottinger due to the perceived damage the firm had made to other clients by a controversial campaign in South Africa.

Now while you may have no problem buying a newspaper from a complete stranger on a street corner you may have an issue buying lunch from them, let alone a “genuine” Swiss watch. Trust plays a critical part in a purchase decision. Let’s look at the first principle of building trust.

Never tell people to Trust you

First of all you can’t claim trust, you can’t demand consumers place faith in you, because trust has to be earned. Try asking to be trusted and you will sound like a politician and you can see how much people have confidence in them. So what can you do?

The Trust Formula

This simple formula demonstrates the factors behind what makes people trust.

the trust formula
The trust formula which states that trust is a function of values x credibility over risk

The factors which build trust are

  • Values
  • Credibility

Where values are the perception of your business and how they closely customers identify with them. Think of this as what you say.

And credibility is the sum of the what people already believe about you, you can think of this as what you do.

What holds people back is risk. These are increased by factors such

  • The value of a purchase
  • Lack of familiarity

What Values do you have?

Values which you share with the customer or specifically values which the customer can engage with are important. How this can be demonstrated varies between businesses. With a business which requires a lot of face to face time with a customer simply listening is a great way to build trust. Other companies with less direct contact with customers need to think very carefully about the messages they give out. Be it on social media, their website or their shop front. Therefore think about what your customers are looking for, tell them that is what you can delivery but make sure you can deliver. Every time.

How to build credibility

Ultimately your reputation is based on what you do, so it’s simple to build long term credibility you just need to consistently delivery on your customers expectations. Therefore if you ever feel they need to make an excuse, you know you are failing to deliver.

To fast track credibility it helps to have things like

  • A brand people have heard of
  • Qualification, professional association membership or part of a Trade body
  • Good word of mouth, referrals are gold dust to any business
  • Using an independent feedback system like Trustr where, not only can customers read the experience of other people, they feel that you will deliver on their expectations. Otherwise you would not be requesting feedback. It is a effective way for medium and small business to gain credibility quickly. Hence it can help build trust into your brand

How to minimise risk, for your customer that is

Buy a newspaper on the street and you may not care who you buy it from. Your company is buying a 7 figure number IT system and you are responsible, you had better care who you buy it from, risk increases with the increase in value of the purchase.

Be clear on your terms of business. It is a legal requirement to display your company contact details, registered address and a number of other details. Due to being upfront with your customer they will see you are a low risk company to buy from. In addition you won’t get in trouble with the law.

Your customers have legal rights anyway, why not exceed them, offer guarantees and make a selling point of that.


In conclusion remember selling is a tricky business, with many aspects. If you are trusted that goes a long way to achieving that sale. Using this formula to help you understand how trust is built it will give you a advantage and as a result your business will do better.

For the UK legal requirements for distance selling which you should try to to better than you can see the .gov website