Today I am going to consider the question of how we can gain customers’ trust and thus strengthen our customer relationships. The image I have in mind here is a warm embrace. A hug like this automatically reduces our stress levels and lowers our pulse rate. Our bodies react to the close contact and tenderness almost immediately: We become less anxious, calmer, and even our immune systems benefit. This effect can also be achieved with a simple handshake. Researchers have discovered that even just a 20-second hug boosts our oxytocin levels, causing us to feel greater trust in each other.

Here too, let’s take a look at the Argentine Tango. The dancers hold each other in a close embrace (el abrazar): I have one arm around my dance partner, and my other hand is clasped in his. Generally the head rests lightly and without pressure against that of the dance partner. The close embrace of the dance calls for the utmost respect for your counterpart. This respect is the prerequisite for trust and harmony in the dance.


So, what does This tell us about Sales Meetings?

We should aim to “embrace” our customers in the figurative sense. To do so, we need to understand that every human being harbours a deep longing for genuine faith and surrender. “Surrender”, in this case, means: I’m not putting up any resistance to my current reality. I’m not afraid of my feelings. I listen to my inner voice, sense whether the situation is right for me, gain a feeling for it and follow my instincts. Surrender is the expression of the utmost trust. Once there is trust, I can then truly address the needs and wants of my counterpart.

What principles do we need to apply to gain the trust of our customers?

1) You need trust to gain trust

The fundamental principle when it comes to gaining trust is first trust in oneself. That means taking your own perceptions seriously, taking control of yourself and cultivating kindness in the way you treat yourself. Trust is important for our emotional wellbeing and our relationships.

2) Reacting to each other

If my counterpart can see from my gestures and facial expressions whether I am happy, tired, stressed or sad, then they will behave differently based on that state of mind. This behaviour shows that a person has empathy.

3) Gestures and facial expressions are crucial

If someone is cool and reserved when you meet them, how do you behave? Will you be effusively friendly? No. Most of us are likely to also be stand-offish or at least restrained in our reactions. Thus, the basis for trust is lost from the outset. Open, respectful body language, however, and a warm smile will demonstrate: “I am here for you!”

4) Trust is dynamic

Placing your trust in someone or gaining someone’s trust is not a status quo. Those who want to be trusted have to continually earn it.

5) No trust without respect

To foster mutual trust, you need respect. I meet other people as equals; I don’t judge them and I accept their needs and preferences. That also means we then have to define proximity and distance together – and be sure we respect them.


The importance of Proximity and Distance

This is an aspect of interpersonal communication that needs to be taken very seriously. The situation with Corona, in particular, has brought this aspect to the fore, and it needs to be handled with sensitivity. After all, over the last few months we have learned that the “right” distance protects us from infection and can save lives. Hence, distance zones – alongside gestures, facial expressions and touch – are an important part of our body language and, now more than ever, a sign of respect and trustworthiness.

It has been scientifically proven that everybody has their own “personal space”, defined by a radius of around 70 centimetres around them. If we keep to this safe distance, then we can enjoy a conversation. If someone enters this space against our will, however, we feel subconsciously threatened or even physically harassed, and we will generally take a step back.

The reasons for this have been investigated in various studies and are manifold. One factor is undoubtedly the capacity of our vision. At a distance of three quarters of a metre, we can take in our counterpart in full, without our eyes having to wander. If they come closer to us, then we feel unsettled. Excessive physical proximity – aside from among family members, friends or between partners – is always threatening in some way.

For a sales meeting, this is fatal, since it affects a person’s willingness to communicate as they get the urge to escape the situation completely. At the same time, it is very easy to find out how far 70 centimetres is: Imagine you are stretching your arm out in front of you. If you still cannot touch the person by doing so, then you’re on the safe side. Or you can simply ask your customers how close you can come to them.

Distance Zones at a Glance

Intimate zone ➠ 0 to 60 cm

This is the space in which you communicate with people who are close to you in every sense: a partner, family member, relative or very close friend.

Personal zone ➠ 0.60 to 1.20 m

This is the zone you will be in for sales meetings with customers, small talk with colleagues on the street, or talking to guests at a party.

Social zone ➠ 1.20 to 3.60 m

This is the space for impersonal contact with tradespersons, for example, or the postman.

Public zone ➠ More than 3.60 m

One example of this is a large meeting room where the managers stand at the front and explain the agenda or someone gives a presentation.

Embrace your customer! – I want to encourage you to do so. Not in the literal sense, of course, since that would probably have the opposite effect in most cases, but embrace your customer mentally, emotionally and verbally. You can do this by showing your customer appreciation, recognition, trust and respect. I wish you every success and many enriching experiences as you do so.