Three Pillars of Trust

The Most-Overlooked Area of Trust in Sales

Everyone knows that building trust is key in sales. What if I told you, however, that if you want to close more deals, there’s not one, but actually three Pillars of Trust you’ll need to establish, and that one of them is almost always overlooked.

In order to put yourself in the best possible position to earn a spot on an RFP or ultimately to close the deal, all three pillars must be in place. You don’t necessarily need all three to be equally balanced, but the stronger you can make each one, the better your position will be.

Until you build trust with your clients, it’s unlikely that they will invest with you, media budget or otherwise. Many sellers already know that they need to build trust in their product, but there are two other pillars that have a tendency to be forgotten.

Together, let’s explore all three pillars.

Pillar 1 | The Product (Your Solution)

A drawing of a magic potion
Your Product is like a magic potion that creates results for your clients.

In order to close more deals, this is certainly the most obvious pillar, but one that absolutely cannot be overlooked. Your prospects and clients must trust your product to deliver on the promises you make of it. This may go without saying, but never offer up promises that you cannot deliver on.

Matching your solutions to their problems

It’s critical to take the time and make substantial efforts to actually learn about your clients goals, challenges and the strategies they plan to employ. Learn exactly what it is that they are hoping to achieve and where their current solutions fall short. In more cases than you might think, you’ll find that a tangential, secondary benefit of your product that you may not typically emphasize actually solves a specific critical need for your client.


At Mobkoi, one of my clients—a high-end fashion brand—had a major problem with their current digital display solution that, to an outsider like me, didn’t seem all that important. In this instance, the client was very sensitive to avoiding ads from one campaign running on the same page at the same time as ads from any of their other campaigns. 

Does Pepsi care deeply if a Diet Pepsi ad runs on the same page as a Diet Mountain Dew ad? Maybe, but it isn’t likely, since the price point of soda is so low and people’s beverage cravings can change throughout the day. 

But this high-end advertiser was very concerned with “consumer fatigue” from seeing too many of their ads for different products at the same time. When this happens, they feel like their customers can get frustrated and annoyed. 

Their existing mobile ads partner could not prevent this problem from happening due to the programmatic methods that they use to purchase inventory. Mobkoi, on the other hand, can book all inventory manually with each publisher to provide more control for partners. By booking manually, this was relatively easy for us to address, and something we knew that we could deliver with our eyes closed. As such, we were able to match a simple solution to their critical pain-point.

Make sure your product works, or don’t sell it

Going back to that same example above, what if we weren’t sure we could deliver on it? What if we weren’t sure that we could prevent multiple ads from the same client for different campaigns from appearing on the same page?

If we sold it to them anyway, and then simply crossed our fingers that it would work as we hoped, what would the result have been if our solution fell short on that promise? Our credibility would have been shot, and the trust our client placed in us would be vaporized.

Handling new products, services and offerings

The same thing is also true as your company launches new products or features. I’m sure your main product offering works, or your company wouldn’t be in business for very long. That said, as your company grows, it’s natural for leadership to offer new solutions to attract new advertisers or grow the deal size from existing ones to increase the size of your TAM.

Make sure that you and your team are certain that these new products actually deliver on their promise. Consider soft-launching these new solutions with low-risk partners who are not fully reliant on these new features or, better yet, offer them as added value at first to a small handful of clients before rolling them out as a full-on paid solution. 

Be upfront and transparent so that your first few “test clients” know that they are part of a test and that things may not work perfectly. Make it worth their while to be an early adopter through some sort of discount or bonus if you are unable to offer the solution as full-fledged added value

Pillar 2 | The Rep

A drawing of a smiling businessman in a suit
You must be a reliable extension of your client’s team or company.

Second, and equally as important, your clients need to trust you as an individual. There are many ways to build your “personal brand” over your career as you transition from one role to the next, but for the purposes of this post, we’ll simply focus on a few key practices and attributes that will help build trust in you and close more deals. At the most basic level, you need to be someone that your clients can rely on to have their best interest at heart and deliver on your promises.

At the most basic level, you need to be someone that your clients can rely on to have their best interest at heart and deliver on your promises.

Responsiveness & “Follow-Through”

As seasoned sellers know, once a campaign sells and your IO is in-hand, the work is far from over. You can expect a bunch of back-and-forth emails and calls with the agency and/or clients refining many of the nuanced details of the campaign itself. The more complex the campaign, the more details need to be addressed, and the more back-and-forth conversations will take place.

Regardless of what your own top priorities are in your day-to-day work as a seller, your clients/agencies have very specific priorities, most of which are time-sensitive. Before they choose to move forward with your solution, your clients need to feel that they can trust you to follow through with what is needed in a timely manner.

This is easy to demonstrate

One of the easiest and most often overlooked ways of demonstrating your abilities here is by simply being uber-responsive. Think for a moment about your own personal friend network and the one-on-one text conversations you have with the people you hang out with. It’s likely you’ve got some friends who respond right away, others who respond days later, and a few who never seem to respond at all (unless they need something). Think about how you view those people who fall into each of these categories and how much you truly trust them. 

It’s the exact same scenario with regards to a sales relationship. When your current and prospective clients reach out to you (usually via email) with a question or request, how quickly do you respond? The faster you can get back to them, the more reliable you are perceived. If your clients view you as someone who always promptly addresses requests, the more they will trust you to be on top of their priorities after they’ve sent the IO.

Throughout your daily interactions, you’ll get periodic requests that may pertain to a specific RFP, but many times do not. 

Examples include:

  • Making changes to the media plan 
  • Answering questions about talent or production
  • Competitive analysis reports
  • Post-campaign recaps
  • Billing inquiries

Each time one of these requests comes through, instead of groaning at the “extra work” you now have to do, view each as an opportunity to demonstrate your ability to follow through. 

Every time you take care of a request quickly and effectively, you’re building a little more trust with your counterparts on the other side of the table. If you can follow through here, then it’s a strong indication that you will also do so after the IO is in-hand.

Close more deals by being in the right place at the right time

I touched on this ages ago in my post on staying organized and formulating a smart cadence for following up with people. When you circle back with a client or prospect on the date you promise, it shows that you are reliable and on top of your business. If you are organized in your follow-up, it’s a good indication that you’ll be organized when big-time client budgets are on the line.

Don’t force a square peg into a round hole

Based on your client’s briefs and your sales-call conversations, some campaigns are a far better match for your company’s solution than others. It’s easy to fall into the trap of chasing down every piece of business trying to “throw your hat in the ring” for every potential RFP. By attempting to be everything to everyone, you end up appearing like nothing at all. You appear milquetoast, or worse yet, disingenuous.

By attempting to be everything to everyone, you end up appearing like nothing at all.

For example, your solution may match well to reaching C-Suite business leaders, and in having a conversation with a CPG brand, you may learn that they are getting ready for one campaign on shampoo, another on fabric softener, and a third on their corporate sustainability initiatives. Sure CEOs and COOs use shampoo and want fluffy laundry just as much as anyone, but by trying to make your case about all three efforts, you’re watering down the biggest value in what you offer. 

More importantly, by explicitly focusing on the Corporate Sustainability option and telling them that you don’t see the shampoo and fabric softener campaigns as a strong fit, you are also saying to them that you’re not only after their budgets. This shows that you want to focus where you can actually make an impact instead of “throwing a bunch of spaghetti against the wall until something sticks”. 

Pillar 3 | The Team (Your Support & Infrastructure)

A drawing of a diverse group of business team members,
Your support team might as well be limbs of your own body.

With pillars one and two out of the way, let’s now focus on that which is most overlooked.

When a buyer agrees to execute a campaign with you and your company, they are agreeing to enter into a long-term relationship. There will be weekly emails, campaign optimizations, and end-of-campaign reporting. Problems often arise, and they need to feel confident that when they do, your team will be able to solve them quickly and effectively. Your clients may trust that your product delivers and may trust you as a seller, but it’s also critical that they trust the support team around you to execute.

As a sales leader, hire solutions-oriented people

If you’re a sales leader and looking to fill open support roles in your organization, it’s crucial that you bring in people who are hyper-organized and solutions-driven. Your support team needs to respond to emails quickly, stick to deadlines, and fix issues effectively. If at any point a member of your support staff needs to be reminded by a client to get something done, that should be a giant red flag. Every missed response chips away a little more at the trust your buyers are placing in you. 

Make sure you hire people that are reliable. As issues arise, support staff (as with sellers themselves) should never pass the blame or offer up a “them’s the brakes” response. They must always “own up” to problems, assess the situation, and offer multiple solution options back to clients. Nothing builds trust more than proving your ability to navigate adversity.

As a seller, make sure your team feels the love

As a seller, you’re likely assigned to support people who you didn’t necessarily choose to work with. Regardless, it’s still your responsibility to treat them well. 

Remember that while you get compensated financially for every single deal you close, in most organizations, the support team does not.

What this means is that when an RFP comes in at 5p on Friday due early the next week, you may be motivated to work on it over the weekend, but your support team is likely less enthusiastic. 

Depending on how roles are divided in your company, it’s possible that those who work on media plans, pitches, and proposals may also be the same ones who execute some or all of the sold campaigns. This means, counterintuitively, that in some respects, a support person is actually in a better position if the deal does not close than if it does. If it sells, then they are then responsible for also executing it and all the work that goes into that without the chance of earning a dollar more.

So what does all this mean?

Sellers, you’ve got to treat your support team like the saints that most of these people are. Treat them like your career depends on it, because—newsflash—it does! Compliment them to their face when they do a good job. Sing their praises behind their backs to their bosses and senior management. Take them out for lunch once in a while. Invite them to join you on client outings. Remember their birthday and do something nice for them; and be sure to get them something nice for the Holidays.

Remember: Don’t boss your support team around. They don’t report to you!

Listen to their POV and be supportive of it. If there’s a toss-up between which idea to go with in some situation, theirs or yours, go with theirs. Make them feel appreciated. The better you treat and respect them, the more excited they will be to work with you and go the extra mile when needed. That will shine through to your clients.

Foster a strong relationship between key support staff and your clients.

I already referenced inviting your support staff to join you on client outings, but I really want to double-down on this idea. Forging 1:1 connections between your support team and your clients will pay so many future dividends. Create opportunities for your support team to lead conversations with your clients where possible, not just to make them feel appreciated, but also to show your clients how confident they should feel entrusting these people with their campaign. Introduce them over lunch, dinner, or drinks. Foster friendship.

This alleviates natural apprehension

When your buyers are readying themselves to make their final decision to allocate their budgets, it makes sense that a level of apprehension will creep in. 

Whether the cost to move forward with your solution is a few thousand dollars or tens of millions of dollars, they’ve got to be able to envision what the next few weeks and months are going to look like as your partner. “Advertisers feel more comfortable making a purchase once they are able to relate it to what’s familiar,” notes Deb Calvert in her ad sales book DISCOVER Questions. You want to ensure that your post-sale execution team feels familiar to your buyers.

It’s not just about whether or not your product will deliver what was promised, but how simple and seamless it will be to execute. Buyers don’t want their partnership with you to be a burden, no matter how robust your offering might be. 

Pull back the curtain

With that in mind, it’s crucial during the sales process for you to “pull back the curtain” and show clients what they can expect to happen behind the scenes. 

Introduce them up front, before they buy, to the people who they will be working with after the sale. Allow them the time to ask questions of the support team and encourage them to make the most of it. Shine a light on what assets will be needed, how long creatives will take to build, which content-creators might be working on this project, and how and when they can expect reporting. 

The more that your clients can trust your team, the more deals you’ll be able to close, and the happier your clients will be with the outcome once they do. 


Most sellers know that buyers need to trust that the solution they are selling actually works. That’s obvious. The key is to ensure that you are not overpromising or trying to force-fit your solution to a problem you are not well-suited to solve.

A little less obvious is remembering that buyers need to trust you, the seller, as a person. Are you someone who keeps their word, delivers on promises, and is forthcoming with information and potential pitfalls?

Most often forgotten, however, is working to ensure that buyers trust your support team. No matter how “unique” your offering might be, buyers still will not buy if they think that implementation and execution will be too cumbersome. Set their minds at ease by fostering a relationship between your support team and your clients.

By focusing on all three pillars of trust, you’ll be able to close more deals because your clients will be more confident in entrusting you with their budgets, and the less likely they will be caught off guard by “unexpected” details and procedures.






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