Building Trust Within Your Sales Team

Trust is one of the most important attributes of any high-performing team. Just ask Jeremy Bloom, a former Olympian and pro football player who is now a tech CEO. He wrote in Entrepreneur: “I’ve been on losing teams and high-performing ones both in the NFL and in the business world, and the common thread of success is trust.”

Trust isn’t quantifiable, and cultivating it takes some work. But many strategies exist to help you create a welcoming company culture and build trust within your sales team. Here are 5 strategies you can implement starting now.

Foster real connections

Teams that trust each other accomplish great things. Think about any Super Bowl champions. Not only do they work together every day, but also they spend time with each other’s families, eat dinner together, and celebrate wins (and losses) together. Many remain friends for years, even as they move onto different teams.

Your team is no different. The stronger the relationships between your team, the stronger the trust — and the stronger your company.

Simon Sinek, author of Start With Why and Leaders Eat Last reinforces this message: “A team is not a group of people who work together. A team is a group of people that trust each other.”

Make it a priority to gather your team for meaningful interactions outside of meetings. Donate to their kids fundraisers, sponsor in an employee in a cause they believe in, or give them a bottle of wine to celebrate their parents’ birthday. These show commitment to both the individual and the team to build authentic trust.

Nix the judgment

Just as real connections lift a team up, judgment tears it down. This kind of negativity seeps into any team if it’s not addressed.

Rich Karlgaard, author of The Soft Edge: Where Great Companies Find Lasting Success, says that mocking irony, snark, and cynicism can be compelling, but they’re toxic to your company’s culture.

Don’t let criticism get the best of your team. Instead, address any negative behavior over time. One-on-one meetings work well for individuals. Then, hold team-wide meetings if necessary to solidify the message.

Model the behavior you want to see in your team. Your actions and words serve as a blueprint for your team’s behavior, so model the behavior you want to see in them. By walking the walk, you’ll create lasting patterns and cement positive team culture.

Create a safe space within your meetings

If members of your team are afraid to open up or feel they can never perform at high levels, it inhibits them. They may clam up at meetings or become your echo, rotely agreeing with all of your input. If you really want to know what your team thinks, you need to create a safe space for them to tell you the truth.

Creating a supportive environment is tricky to do. Individual team members’ egos, pressure to hit numbers, and interpersonal differences are formidable opponents. Building a strong foundation of trust and transparency takes time and hard work.

There’s no magic bullet to make teams feel secure enough in their positions to share what drives them and what stands in their way. But a good way to start is to model the behavior you want to see in your team. By being accountable to your team and honest about your own missteps, you can inspire the transparency and vulnerability that’s integral to a team that trusts each other.

Encourage positive, strategic feedback

Too often, feedback is seen as sharing employee pitfalls. This negative perspective can make employees avoid seeking input on their performance, hide perceived failures, and miss their goals.

You can be honest without bringing your team down. Frame missteps, errors, and losses in a positive light, as opportunities for learning. This encourages deeper trust and allows your team to grow and evolve.

Further, to break the association between feedback and finger pointing, tie feedback to larger strategic goals. This also strengthens a sense of team responsibility and contextualizes individual challenges within the organization’s greater mission.

Let transparency lead the way

If sharing positive feedback or creating a safe space doesn’t come easily for your sales team, it may be because you aren’t modeling true transparency.

Lack of clarity about foundational aspects of your organization — from your vision to what value you provide your customers — can thwart attempts to lead with transparency. You can share your thoughts, personal insights, and experiences openly, but if your team isn’t aligned on company culture and sales culture, these attempts are going to fall short.

Ground any efforts for greater transparency in total alignment on your organizational building blocks. Only then can you achieve the openness that naturally creates trust — and a path towards a healthy, aligned company culture running towards the same goal.

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Adopting the strategies above will help you create a culture that encourages trust. By developing real connections, creating safe spaces, and developing alignment and transparency, you and your team can reach your goals.

How do you build trust within your team? Leave comments below.

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