The Psychology of Building Trust in Sales

There’s no way around it: to convert more sales leads, you need to build trust in them in the first place, interpreting the subtle science of the psychology of trust into trustworthy communication with your leads, sales prospects, and customers.

Building rapport with your customers – both in-person and online – can supercharge word-of-mouth marketing, reduce customer churn, and increase sales alongside multiple other across-the-board benefits.

But what does it mean to be trustworthy, and what does it take to boost people’s trust in your brand, product, and ideas?

Let’s dig into the core of the psychology of trust in sales, trying to understand how you can create a reliable brand image they will look up to.


The Psychology That Underlines Sales

So why do people buy?

Understanding the main reasons for making the final purchase decision – for now, let’s ignore the complexities of the customer journey – might give you a glimpse into the psychological tricks you might employ to draw and convert more sales leads.

Here are the top 10 reasons why people buy online, according to Statista:

  • Free delivery – 53%
  • Coupons and discounts – 41%
  • Reviews from other customers – 35%
  • Easy return policy – 33%
  •  Quick and easy online checkout – 30%
  • Quick delivery – 28%
  • Loyalty points – 27%
  •  Good comments on social media – 22%
  •  Environmentally-friendly product – 21%
  • Spreading payments without paying interest – 20%

While some of the reasons may not have to do much with trust, some of them do.

The need for reviews from other customers, positive feedback on social media, and an easy return policy are the obvious trust factors, indicating customers want to make sure they strike the best deal without a chance of being duped.

It’s also true that the overall trustworthiness of a company is very similar to the overall impression of the company.

How many reliable companies do you know that produce low-quality products or services? Without a doubt, trust means quality and high quality generates trust.


Long story short, the number one advice would be to create a unique value proposition that trumps everything else in your market segment in at least one dimension.

Either should your offering be truly unique, cheaper, of higher quality, or hit a very specific buyer’s persona no one else targets.

The horrible truth is that most businesses don’t create anything unique, albeit claiming so.

Not only does this approach leave them with no foundation to build trust around, but they also have problems with customer retention once their customers realize there are plenty more fish in the sea – just as tasty.

Trust Does Depend on the General Image of the Industry

No one starts from scratch. As a person, you are endowed with DNA that has been developing for billions of years; as a salesperson, marketer, or business owner, you face the consequences of the actions of millions of those before you who have shaped the images of your industry.

Speaking of which, trust is distributed very unevenly between industries, with some having positive trust expectations – which means more people tend to trust professionals from these industries – and some having negative trust expectations.

Here’s how trust is distributed among different groups of people, according to Statista:

  • Doctors – 54%
  • Scientists – 51%
  • Teachers – 43%
  • Regular people – 27%
  • Armed forces – 22%

Negative trust expectations (the % of believers minus the % of those disbelieving)

  • Journalists – -10%
  • Bankers – -11%
  • Advertising executives – -22%
  • Government ministers – -39%
  • Politicians – -52%

Source: Statista

As you can see, businesses may not look trustworthy per se, so you may not get a head start in the game of trust.

At the same time, over 90% of customers trust word-of-mouth recommendations from their family and friends while also considering the company’s website and brand sponsorships, like social events, quite reliable.

Nonetheless, the number two advice would be to research through and through what really shapes trust in your industry and avoid generalization.

There are many dimensions to the psychology of trust that may provide the opposite data and confuse you. For example, the traditionally frowned-upon bankers (remember, - 11%) don’t correlate with the high level of trust customers have in the banking sector when it comes to the security of their personal data.

Source: Statista

Now, let’s move to some specific techniques and trust factors that you can employ to draw and convert more sales leads.

Tried-and-True Techniques To Crack the Psychology of Trust and Sell More

1. Social Proof

One of the most powerful mechanisms to build trust over the phone and offline and inspire it is social proof, a psychological phenomenon – some might call it bias – when future customers tend to believe existing customers more than the company itself.

Humans can’t escape the tangles of social proof because of our deeply rooted instincts to rely on collective efforts in difficult situations.

The psychology of trust in sales has to do much with the development and functioning of the human brain, and social proof is no exception.

Throughout history, the pressing physical dangers, informational shortcuts, and the need for validation and trust – all under the roof of herding behavior – have been molding social proof as an extremely powerful action trigger – now a sales trigger.

  • The average online shopper wants to see at least 112 reviews of a candidate product before taking action, with 92% of customers refusing to buy without reviews. A rating worse than 3 stars would scare away a humongous 87% of customers (read: render a business unprofitable).

Here’s how you can leverage social proof in marketing and sales:

  • Include customer reviews, testimonials, and success stories. First of all, encourage existing customers to leave detailed feedback that will look reliable to others. The more personal the review, the more social proof power it has. To get more feedback, treat your reviewers with gifts, bonuses, discounts, loyalty points, and other perks.
  • Include case studies. Much like feedback, case studies illustrate how your specific product can solve a specific problem your sales leads face, albeit from a more scientific perspective. Reinforce your case studies with facts, statistics, and objective data to make them look more reliable and trustworthy.
  • Connect with opinion leaders. Nothing adds to social proof as much as an established industry expert, opinion leader, or celebrity endorsing your product. Even though some customers may question the connection between a particular celebrity and a promoted product – and oftentimes rightfully so – the numbers are still in your favor (opinion leaders have a gigantic audience).

At the same time, you shouldn’t overdo it with your desire to incorporate social proof into your sales strategies.

Avoid fake reviews, exaggerated claims, and overly generalized testimonials favoring organic growth in social proof.

2. Information Hygiene

When trying to win trust with reliable and accurate information, it’s important not to cause information overload and decision fatigue, when customers get so much information that they cannot figure out which information is important and trustworthy.

Information overload is true for both B2C and B2B segments and involves all interactions, not just articles, ads, or emails.

In fact, 50% of B2B tech marketing and demand generation decision-makers and influencers are significantly fatigued, and 40% are somewhat fatigued.

Preventing information fatigue means optimizing your customer journey when your information streams are tailored to specific demographics and psychographics of your customers. 

For example, if you’re catering to home insurance seekers in New York, it’s worth configuring the sales funnel in a way that home insurance policies for New Yorkers occupy most of their attention while complemented with related insurance offerings, all targeting New Yorkers.

Here’s how you can capitalize on the information streams to establish trust quickly in remote sales, inspire trust, and close more deals:

Customization Use historical and real-time customer data insights to optimize the customer journey. Today’s lead management systems and virtual assistants like IVR and chatbots can instantly process customer data and develop optimal buyer distribution.
Creative content Double down on the most marketable forms of content – videos, short-form articles, and success stories – while ensuring the content is interactive. Interactive videos and emails are considered especially effective.
Unlocking information gradually While new sales leads might suffer from the abundance of details, those deep in the sales funnel might crave details and nuances. The best way to handle this is by unlocking information progressively as the lead moves through the customer journey.

The world quickly went from shortage to abundance of information, with increasingly more customers prioritizing personalized services – or rather solutions to their problems. The better you’ve segmented your audience, the easier you can understand what particular sales leads want and how you can serve them best.

3. Consistency and Timing

Since you’re there for the long haul – willing to generate recurring profits and invest in sales leads generation – you must be consistent across the board, from branding to messaging. The gist of consistency is imprinting your brand in the customer’s mind and accustom them to specific timings.

For that, you need to research the best timing. For example, the best send time for email campaigns might be around 11 a.m. or 4 p.m. or business days, when customers are most receptive to emails. That said, even here, you have a nuance: the first 10 to 15 minutes of an hour is when most emails hit the inbox, so you might want to exclude these.

  • Only 44% of marketers update content instantly after they find it outdated, with 9% rarely updating their existing content.

The key concept to grasp is that consistency applies to almost every marketing and sales avenue: messaging, content, advertising, pricing, response time, cultural sensitivity, etc. You can’t just break the rules for no reason.

4. Transparency

Being transparent with your customers is absolutely a big deal in the digital world.

Around 66% of customers in the United States would trust a company that is transparent about using their personal data, with 55% valuing the reduction in personal data collection.

Not only does transparency pertain to data collection but every other aspect of the customer journey. In fact, 60% of customers value transparency as the most important brand trait, a tangible 5% annual increase.

In practice, transparency means providing the right information – clear and full – to the right customer at the right time.

Besides the pricing policy, there are many details different customers might want to know at certain stages in the sales funnel and it’s up to you to communicate this information not just technically correctly but in a way they will understand.

Hidden fees, fine print, misinforming customers, and incomplete information are all gruesome sales practices leading to all sorts of repercussions, from customer churn to legal consequences.

That said, the subscription billing model is one borderline marketing practice that deserves special attention.

Does a subscription billing model build or ruin customer trust?

A subscription billing model – used by countless websites, big and small – is offering a free trial in exchange for credit card information.

There’s nothing wrong with automatic subscription renewal, but it’s a bit different for users who came to test it out, forgot to unsubscribe and lost their money. Especially if charged the annual subscription price.

Let’s face it: automatic subscription renewal can only be healthy if you communicate it clearly, send timely reminders, and provide easy cancellation.

Tricking your customers into auto-renewing the subscription is never healthy, even if it’s legal. After all, building trust in sales is not about exploiting the dents in the law but genuinely taking care of each and every customer at all times, exchanging value for money.

5. Security and Compliance

With data security being top of mind in online sales, ironclad security and compliance can easily give you a competitive edge.

It’s not only about encouraging customers to use strong passwords, firewalls, and anti-virus software, but also improving the security of your databases, telecommunications, and other software and hardware.

Here’s how you can establish trust quickly in remote sales, make your business safer and thus more reliable:

  • Ensure compliance with data protection regulations. Here, we’re referring to the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in the United States and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe.
  • Receive explicit consent to collect and process customer data. Data protection regulations like CCPA and GDPR require obtaining explicit consent from individuals before you can collect and process their personal data, with non-compliance leading to legal consequences.
  • **Ensure secure transactions. **Secure payment gateways and compliance with Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) requirements are a must if you sell from your website.

Bonus: Psychological Tricks

Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) Limited offers, time counters, and real-time notifications of recent purchases can create an irresistible urge to buy. It’s much harder to resist the bandwagon effect than it seems. Stock and crypto market bubbles are among the best examples of massive FOMO turning into a sales opportunity of a lifetime for certain companies and marketers.
Loss Aversion The history of human development has molded us into creatures that prefer to avoid losses over gaining equivalent profits. Showing customers what they will lose if they cancel their subscription plan – for example, upon the end of a free trial – can do magic. Just as much as customers love freebies, they love keeping the status quo.
Reciprocity People eagerly give back when they receive value, especially unexpected value. Applying to marketing, this means asking for a purchase right after providing the customer with what you believe has the maximum value for them. Reciprocity works equally well with existing customers. Loyalty points, bonuses, discounts, and cash rewards can effectively incentivize them to spread the word about your brand or product.

Now, using psychological tricks doesn’t mean deceiving your customers or forcing them to purchase an item they don’t need.

On the contrary, the psychology of trust, in this case, is more about reinforcing their inner desires and cravings so they can overcome uncertainty and get what they want and deserve. People also tend to buy the best selling items there are, that gives them some sort of trust, because many people like it and the quality is good and proven since it’s a top seller.

Whether you’re a company rep, an individual marketer, or a stranger, here’s the final universal wisdom: quality and ethics breed trust and draw sustainable sales in any business avenue, from insurance to lollipop sales.