Do Clients Need to Like You or Trust You?

TrustTruth is the cry of all, but the game of few. – George Berkeley

There’s a lot of knowledge available for free on the web. “Experts” of every stripe are leaping out of every corner, telling people what to do, insisting that their way is the only way to do it, claiming they know the real truth about business or medicine or law.

The problem is, most of them are wrong. As Berkeley says, they’re all crying out that they tell the truth, but few of them actually bother to put in the effort to really do it.

Now, it’s not a crime to be wrong. But if you have a loyal following of readers who hang on your every word, who believe in what you’re saying, who you know will take your words and immediately put them to use as though they were a new Gospel, then you have a responsibility to those readers to do everything you can to play the game of truth.

Listening to Experts is Expensive

When new business owners believe faulty information they find on the web, it costs them a great deal. Money, clients, time – it can even ruin them entirely and send them scuttling back to their day jobs.

But why would they doubt you? A new freelancer hears that this guy is an expert. You should go check out his website. So he goes to the website and lo and behold, this expert claims he knows everything about freelancing. So our guy listens attentively. The guy writes with confidence and authority. Our guy takes his advice, and turns around and applies it to his business.

Our guy isn’t alone. You’ve done it yourself – in fact, it’s human nature. I would know; I majored in Psychology in University. I’ve read textbook after textbook on human behaviour and consumer behaviour, perception and influence, and they all say the same thing: we believe others when they sound authoritative.

So when I see someone come out and make a false statement that I know isn’t accurate, I can’t help but get a little angry at that “expert”.

That “expert”’s readers are trying to improve their business. They’re working hard, they’re trying their damnest to make it successful and bring in clients. They trusted this person to be the expert he or she claims to be, and they put their business in his or her hands by taking the words on faith.

This “expert” is abusing his readers’ trust.

Case in point: Like before Trust

“Liking comes before trusting, not the other way around. Your clients must like you before they will trust you.”

I overheard that on Twitter the other day, and it’s a statement I disagree with. A client must like you? Like before trust?

Most people buy what they need or want. They don’t have to like the person they’re buying from. Many people don’t even care. People buy from people they don’t like every day. They buy from complete strangers, from faceless websites, from stores they’ve never been into before, even from people they despise.

Just because they want.

Is trust important to sales? Of course. Does it come after being liked? Not necessarily. Trust matters insomuch that you trust you will receive what you are promised. People won’t pull out any money and give it to you if they don’t believe that they aren’t going to receive what they expect to receive. No matter how much they like you.

And yeah, they might trust you to deliver because they believe you’re a good guy. And yeah, you might have more sales if lots of people like you. But that’s the long way around.

Let’s say some new guy with a little just-started business hears this piece of advice from an “expert”. The expert says nothing is more important than being liked. Sales will follow if people like you. Every business owner should put all his energy into social media and making sure people like him.

So off our naïve little business owner goes. He buys courses in how to use social media because he thinks clients must like him. He spends lots of time on Twitter and Facebook. He puts a ton of energy into convincing people he’s a great guy.

Meanwhile, he’s neglecting other aspects of his business because the expert implied they weren’t as important.

And the “expert” was wrong.

Check Your Facts Before You State Them

If you’re on the web and part of what you do is providing advice to other people, you have a responsibility to make sure that advice is based in sound facts. If you want to say that you, personally, have found social media to be the most valuable way to get new clients, and that you, personally, have found that people who like you trust you more, then go for it.

But that’s not what’s happening. Bloggers, business owners, authorities and other providers are making absolute statements, as if their advice applies to everyone, everywhere – without verifying the truth.

That’s just irresponsible.

Journalists have it way tougher than “experts” on the net. If journalists write an article and state something, they have to make doubly – triply – sure that it’s a fact and that it isn’t anything else. When quoting people, it has to be exact. It has to be credited back to the source, too, so that no one gets in trouble over it.

They have to check their facts.

Just because you play the “expert” doesn’t mean it isn’t irresponsible to put out unverified statements as though they were facts. It’s destructive to so many people who put their faith in you as an authority in your field. These people put their dreams in your hands every day they take your advice.

Tell them what you think. Tell them your experiences. Tell them what your opinion is on various subjects. You can do all of that and not cause any damage.

But if you’re going to state that your opinion is unequivocally, absolutely factual, then you had better make damned sure you’re right.

Because if you don’t, you’re not just irresponsible. You’re dangerous.

Post by James Chartrand

James Chartrand is an expert copywriter and the owner of Men with Pens and Damn Fine Words, the game-changing writing course for business owners. She loves the color blue, her kids, Nike sneakers and ice skating.

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  1. Michael Martine says:

    There’s another kind of “wrongness.” So many of clients have paid a lot of perfectly good money for websites—sold and designed this year—that are designed like they’re permanently stuck in the year 1994. And the poor client has NO IDEA how screwed he is. Sadly, neither did his web designer. It wasn’t intentional or malicious.

    I piss off a lot of those designers. 🙂

    There’s a lot of stuff I know now that I didn’t know even just one year ago. Was I “wrong” in the advice I gave my clients a year ago? No, but I could give them better advice now. 🙂 Unlike the person who seems mentally permalinked to 1994, I’m constantly learning new things at a tremendous pace, mostly just because I love it. But also because I never want to have someone say to me later, “I can’t believe you told me to do that.”
    .-= Michael Martine´s last blog ..Why To Blog As Yourself (Even if That’s Not What You Sell) =-.

  2. Yeah, I don’t have to like someone to trust them. In fact, it’s almost completely irrelevant. I do have to *know* them. You can always trust someone to be who they are once you know who they are.

    Michael, users and clients have to bear part of the burden. Too many want to turn this critical aspect of their business over to others, without learning even the slightest part of it.

    Like I told someone last week: “If you don’t know the first thing about automobiles, a tuneup might cost you $2500.” She wasn’t impressed, but I really didn’t want that work. Nothing good would have come from it.
    .-= Dave Doolin´s last blog ..Website In A Weekend: Sunday – Dominating the Homestretch =-.

  3. Michael, there’s a million different kinds of wrongness. I had a web designer tell one of my clients the other day that she shouldn’t have a blog under her main domain, that a blogspot blog was more valuable because it gave a link to her website in the blogroll…. *rolls eyes*

    And now I’ve lost credibility with the client, to bring it back to James’ post, she now no longer trusts me… frustrating.

    I remember buying a product that someone I liked and trusted recommended. It didn’t work at all as described and I emailed him to ask “did you actually use this or are you just selling it for the affiliate income?” I’d liked him, but the trust was gone – and so was his sale.

    People starting businesses need to feel the responsiblity they bear towards their readers, clients and others. Actually, that sounds like a good idea for life in general!

    Another point to remember here is that once you lose a customer’s trust you’ve lost so much more. You’ve lost the people they would have recommended to you, and the ones they would have recommended and so on. You lose all those who they tell “Don’t listen to them, they have no idea” and in these days of instantaneous communication and social media that’s a lot of people they can tell.

    You don’t need to like someone to buy from them however trust is an essential.
    .-= Melinda | SuperWAHM´s last blog ..When You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know =-.

  4. I’m reading more and more about trust. I saddens me that this is such a big issue. We should be able to trust each other, in business and in our personal life. I realize this is not the case, but what does it say about our society?

    As a business owner, if you have integrity, clients and consumers will flock to you, and it won’t matter if they like you or not. Odds are, once they see your integrity, they will respect you and what you have to offer, then they will like you because of those things.
    .-= Heather Villa´s last blog ..Weekend Reading: My fav’s from this week: 1/08/10 =-.

  5. You don’t have to know or like someone to buy a commodity, or even buy their ebook, but if you are looking for a long term business relationship where you are going to work closely with someone, heck yeah you have to like them!

    Personally the reason I quit to work for myself is so that I didn’t have to work with people I don’t like, vendor or client 😉

    The strongest relationships in my experience are built around “know, like and trust”. Yeah, there are a bunch of people making a lot of money who are unlikable, and some people make a bunch of profits “underground”, but “know, like and trust” works for me and my clients, and I don’t see that changing any time soon.

    ‘Course, it’s a big ol’ internet and YMMV 🙂
    .-= Chris Garrett´s last blog ..Defeating Procrastination: Become a Finisher =-.

  6. If all i needed was to be liked, then i wouldn’t have to market myself ever again! My customer base is built upon the trust i have earned by delivering quality work to my clients.

    With that trust, i can offer my professional opinion on a topic, or proposed course of action that is reinforced with the weight of the trust i have created with my customers. I have also found that during my professional relationship, many of my customers tend to relate to me in a manner that could be interpreted as they do like me, but i am sure that earning their trust was the keystone to everything else that results from my professional relationship with my customers!

    I am sure that many profitable marketers use that friendly and likable persona to help close deals, but in my opinion, liking someone without any trust isn’t going to cut it on every possible deal.

    I have also come across a few potential customers, that were a bit reserved, and taken a back at my shaved head and tattooed neck and arms, but after i had finished my proposal with them, i had won them over with my professional manner, and understanding of their marketing needs. Did they like me afterwords? i am not sure, but i do know that they trusted me, and that was clearly evident with my referral to their colleagues.

    Building trust is the keystone in any meaningful relationship, be it business or otherwise, and from that trust all other possibilities be come available.
    .-= Rob Fleming – Freelance Writer for Hire´s last blog ..How To Promote Your Business On A Budget =-.

  7. @Michael – I’m tossed up about that. It’s no one’s fault for lack of knowledge, but when I see these ‘experts’ right online with the world’s biggest learning library at their fingertips and spouting off on Twitter, a huge link-sharing resource, then I can’t really sympathize with the, “Well, I guess you just didn’t know.” How could they not know?

    @Dave – Knowing a person is an illusion that we wrap ourselves in to make ourselves feel better or more comfortable. There are plenty of people out there who are not at all who they claim to be, and I’m not talking something as small as James being a woman, here. So… we may think we know people, even close friends, but the truth is, we don’t know anyone at all, really.

    @Melinda – Exactly. That ripple effect of trust and reputation is very valuable. When you have a strong reputation, you never have to worry about weathering storms in business.

    @Heather – Ahh, integrity. That’s my favorite word in the whole world and the word that I always say first when someone asks me my values. I believe that integrity is one of the strongest values you can have that makes you one of the most trustworthy people in the world. No integrity? You ain’t got nothin’.

    As for our society… Don’t get me started on that one 😉

    @Chris – Good to see you here. And interesting point. I think that by the time you’re thinking of building a long-term relationship with people, you already trust them to some measure, so that’s firmly established. You have a general idea of who they might be, and you already think you’d like them enough to pursue working with them for a while.

    So I’d say the pattern would be Trust, Know, and Like. In that order. Yeah?

    @Rob – I like plenty of people. And I don’t trust them one damned bit. Ergo, I may hang out with them, but they’ll never get my money. I think people place too much value in being likeable in business – as you said, when you have trust, you have the keystone to every meaningful relationship.

  8. I don’t think we can say what order these things will come in. I would say you have to have heard of someone before you can like or trust them in business, but people fall in love at first sight (apparently) and you have to kind-of trust people in uniform even though you don’t know or like them.

    For me “know, like and trust” is a triangle of factors and they are all entangled, the more you expand one or all the more successful you will be.

    Back when I used to work for advertising and marketing agencies, the client would choose from a list of agencies they had heard of and get us to pitch. All the agencies on their list could do the work, and had trust in the field built through reputation and client roster. It 99% of the time came down to who they felt they could work with. IE. … LIKE.

    I don’t think anyone would suggest that you are better off not being liked, or not being known, right? I know someone who does very well online who is not known, not trusted (not because not trustworthy, just part of that not known thing), and because nobody knows him, he isn’t particularly liked. The problem he has is there are no relationships, each person is coming each time as if brand new, and never becomes a repeat customer. Google can end his entire business with the click of a button or algo shift (and has, and will).

    In the past I have also seen people rise and fall, because they didn’t heed the saying “be nice to people on the way up because you might need them on the way back down”. There are quite a few rising stars from a few years back who struggle to get anyone to take their calls now, let alone buy from them …

    My business is built on relationships, built on small stepping stones, so anyone in my orbit (if they match my target audience and are attracted by my approach) will grow to know, like and trust me. That means Google can do whatever they please, and I can suffer the slings and arrows of trolls, haters, and random crazies. It also means I don’t have to pitch, propose, or do gratis consulting.

    That’s what I mean by “Authority” when I talk about it. Not the uniform type, authority or “know, like, trust” is the answer to the question “Why would someone listen to me?”.

    It’s not the only way to do business, just one that has worked for me.
    .-= Chris Garrett´s last blog ..Defeating Procrastination: Become a Finisher =-.

  9. Mary E. Ulrich says:

    Wow, this is great conversation for early Monday morning.

    I liked Chris’s comment: “For me “know, like and trust” is a triangle of factors and they are all entangled, the more you expand one or all the more successful you will be.”

    This is a very complex topic. My initial reaction is that I buy based on “know, like and trust” and I don’t buy based on “know, like and trust. The older I get, the more exceptions I see to every rule I make.

    I guess it depends on the circumstances and size/importance of the purchase. ie. I have bought stuff I didn’t even want from tiny street venders, just because I liked the way they said hello and I wanted to support their business. I have not bought stuff I really needed/wanted from other venders because of their bad attitude. BUT, different day, different occasion and I acted just the opposite.

    So, maybe that makes no sense at all, or maybe it just says more about me as a consumer–Unpredictable.

    On a bigger scale, over time I would think both James and Chris have it right-the statistics would pile up in favor of integrity.

  10. Yes, a lot of experts are charlatans and should be drummed out fo town. But for many the web is the Wild West where anyone can set up a stall and that is what has made it so exciting. For trusted experts we can turn to The Daily Telegraph or the Guardian or The New York Times or the Washington Post. where their editors will guarantee that they are not peddling inaccurate advice (it might still be bad !) The web is not curated content it is more interesting than that.
    Obviously I beleive in accuracy and trust, as a journalist and writer they are paramount to me, but don’t we have to learn to beware in territory that is still up for grabs ?

  11. I do believe that you have to like someone in order to be able to trust them and build a relationship with them. I wouldn’t buy a product or service off someone that I did not like or I thought lacked ethics or integrity. For me, both of them are related.

  12. Extremely true! We’ve seen deaths reported via Twitter that didn’t actually happen and lies seem to be more viral than truth. Excellent, thought-provoking article!
    .-= Brandon A Cox´s last blog ..brandonacox: RT @scottwilliams Big Is The New Small – Be Careful What You Tweet =-.

  13. Hell Yes your clients or customers need to like you. People will buy from people they dislike.

    There is a reason why they say build a relationship first, relationships don’t grow between people that dislike each other lol
    .-= John Paul Aguiar´s last blog ..How I Built My Twitter Marketing Monster From 1 to 36,000 =-.

  14. Not ‘Check Your Facts Before You State Them’

    This is one of the 10 deadly business mistakes in the Online Profits ebook.
    .-= poch´s last blog ..Pyramids were not Built by Slaves =-.

  15. @Chris – I completely agree with that. Being nice to people on the way up, staying nice to people as much as possible and being a person that others like to work with is paramount to sustained success and long-term relationships.

    Do you need to be liked to land sales? No. But if you want to gain repeat customers, you sure do need them to like you for what you sold them and how you sold it to them.

    @Mary – It *is* a complex topic. And people are incredibly irrational, yes… but in a very predictable way. Ahh, psychology!

    @Lucy – I actually don’t trust major media and journalists for accuracy any more than I do the charlatans out there. Having had a recent experience with newspapers and reporters, I’ve seen first-hand just how much inaccurate, non-factual information gets splattered up by people who are supposed to do better.

    @Frank – Have you ever bought from WalMart?

    @Brandon – Lies are the best truths, when it comes to viral. Kind of sad, but it is what it is, eh?

    @John – Well, plenty of relationships do grow between people who don’t like each other. Hells’ Angels come to mind… But of course that doesn’t mean these are healthy relationships or ones with good intentions.

    @Poch – You betcha.

  16. Hi James,

    Interesting post. Provocative. I found myself both agreeing and disagreeing with it. Everything on Twitter, Blogs, or elsewhere appears to be opinion. That’s all we’ve got in this invented world. Speaking one’s truth is speaking one’s opinion and preferences. We retweet things that speak to us.

    I agree with Chris’s opinion that know, like and trust seem to be intertwined. If I’m buying a product and the store is convenient, then it might not matter if I like the owner. If I’m buying a long-time service like coaching or piano lessons, then I’d have to like the person.

    It’s hard for me to progress if I’m not comfortable with the person I’m working with. Others might not be concerned.

    The decision to work with someone you like is personal. If I choose to work with someone who may be tops (opinion of course!) in some field, yet upsets me & that I can’t talk to, what have I gained emotionally?

    Thanks for writing this! It gave me something to think about.

    .-= Giulietta ´s last blog ..Fight The Myth: Achieve Lifeness =-.

  17. Wonderfully provocative post for a Monday morning.

    When it comes to doing business, I can deal with someone I don’t like – but that I know is going to return a top notch product back to me. It makes the process a little harder overall (who really enjoys dealing with people they don’t like?), but it is do-able.

    Definitely gave me something to chew on throughout the day.
    .-= A.M.´s last blog ..Work Work… Ready to Serve… =-.

  18. While James brilliantly explores the client to provider impacts of trust and likability. I was struck by the tangential aspect of trust and likability between colleagues and buisness partners.

    I have seen so many ventures started on a cool idea, a ton of enthusiasm and nothing more than a ‘I like you dude’ crash and burn when likability wasn’t enough to prevent disaster.

    That’s why I started telling my would be buisness partners, let’s do little projects until we get into a conflict… the way we handle this conflict will likely show how much we trust each other (or how likely we will trust each other later).

    Once the potential (or lack) of trust is established then the partners can decide to part ways, stick to small potatoes or move on to take over the motherfrakking world.

    My 2 cents 🙂
    .-= The Chatty DM´s last blog ..Gears of Ruin: Session 1, Revolutions per Machines, Part 1 =-.

  19. Big surprise, I’m sitting here nodding my head vehemently at Chris’s comment: “For me ‘know, like and trust’ is a triangle of factors and they are all entangled, the more you expand one or all the more successful you will be.” Logically, it should be ‘know’ first, from which grows ‘like’ and ‘trust’ in tandem – but when were human beings ever so logical?

    It is our nature, I believe, to want to like and trust the people we encounter, and to approach them with the hope that the like/trust will grow and strengthen as we get to know them. Doesn’t always work out, of course, and enough disillusionment will gradually nibble away at the instinct to trust, replacing it with wariness and cynicism… and then we’re going through life in a perpetual posture of defense that only gets in the way of communication and productivity.

    Know, like and trust all need to be there if you’re going to have a successful working relationship in the long term: and the greatest of these is trust.
    .-= Rebecca Leaman´s last blog ..Facebook Bra Color Meme: So, Did It Work? =-.

  20. Rebecca Leaman says:

    p.s. – That said, my editing rates automatically double whenever I’m asked to work with an author I just plain don’t like. 😉

  21. Michael Martine says:

    @Chatty DM – One of the smartest observations on the board here, so far.
    .-= Michael Martine´s last blog ..Why To Blog As Yourself (Even if That’s Not What You Sell) =-.

  22. @Michael: Thanks for the kudos! I’m trying really hard to leave my safe harbour of Roleplaying games and come into the much wider writing/coaching market… and the size of it all is really scary, even when I stand near the top of my small niche.

    Luckily, I have James ready to kick my butt if I don’t jump in the pool fast enough. 🙂
    .-= The Chatty DM´s last blog ..Gears of Ruin: Session 1, Revolutions per Machines, Part 1 =-.

  23. Andrew Frenette says:

    Lately it seems I’ve reading posts and articles from a variety of sources that aren’t hesitating to turn so-called “conventional” wisdom on its head. This is another great one. Thank you for getting me thinking in new directions. It’s truly appreciated.

  24. Archan Mehta says:

    Ah, yes, gentle folks, but “if wishes were horses, beggars would ride.”

    The story goes that a beloved professor, absent-minded and forgetful (just like the stereotype) was much respected in his field of expertise: marketing.

    This professor had a Doctorate from an ivy league university; had publications in peer-reviewed journals; was a member of prestigious associations; had authored numerous texts; happened to be a “social butterfly.” His students thought of him as a brilliant teacher and he was kind to one and all.

    Then, one day, this professor decided to start his own business. His influence was so great that people followed him blindly; they invested millions. Over time, however, the business failed and the professor had to file for bankruptcy and lost his credibility. Some people who are brilliant theorists may be lousy when it comes down to brass tacks. What do you think is the moral of the story here? What are the learning lessons? That is, in the context of the above post and discussion? Thank you.

  25. My motto: Always speak the truth, it will ring true to the listener. If they prefer to hear something – cheaper, easier, better – then they didn’t want to hear the truth to begin with.

    Online credibility and authority comes from others, not from me. Any customer, once burned will not return.

    So, knowing all of that, whether we are online or offline we are still human. And the old adage still applies, regardless of the name, credibility factor, authority bestowed by higher ups ;>…..Caveat emptor, let the buyer beware.

    Did that make sense? It did when I typed it! LOL
    .-= Charlene´s last blog ..Writing for Web 2.0 and Beyond =-.

  26. @Charlene – It angers me to see some people in a position of authority acting without integrity to turn a buck. But, we can all put out our highest integrity possible and put that trust factor out there for them to grab.

    @Archan – The reasons why any business fails are vast and depend on several variables. So, while I’d love to philosophize on why a certain professor might have lost his shirt in the end, I’d have to say, “Got any more details?” 😉

    @Andrew – I’m all about zigging when they zag and exploring the path less trodden. Glad to hear I hit that with this post!

    @Chatty – I might kick you into the pool, but I have a feel you might grab my ankle and pull me in after you… 😉

    @RJ – Okay, now you have *me* doing the sitting and nodding at your comment thing. YES!

    @Chatty again – I’ve begun far too many partnerships and work relationships based on “I like you.” And in turn, I’ve had my ass burned way too many times – by my own fault. “Just have faith” is a phrase that I just don’t believe in anymore.

    I learn from my errors, too, and throughout the years, I’ve come to (sadly) be more skeptical and cautious. As you say, small tests, little tasks, minor projects… this is how everyone should test the waters.

    I respect people who test me in the same way, and I’m proud every time I pass with flying colors.

    @AM – Like you, I have and will work with people I don’t particularly like. If I have a need, and I know that person will provide me with what I want to strong quality, I’m willing to look beyond my preference to have a personal relationship that I enjoy and simply hire the best damned person for the job.

    Of course, there are some people I *truly* dislike, and come hell or high water, no matter how good they are, I’ll dig my heels in and find someone else.

    @Giulietta – Your comment reminded me of a saying: “Your truth is not my truth. And your truth is not The Truth.” It’s something that I think more people should keep in mind!

  27. I think customers need to trust in you and like you to buy from you. Isn’t that what most of us do when buying services, good, etc?
    .-= dave´s last blog ..HTC Droid Eris Phone =-.

  28. I feel like this post had two points, so I’m going to discuss the main one about “Like” Vs. “trust”

    It goes to the old truism, it isn’t what you know, it is who you know. The reason that is true is that people want to work with people they like. You’d rather hire them, you’d rather talk to them, you’d rather employ them for a freelance gig.

    If I dislike someone, I’m going to unconsciously come up with reasons not to trust them. If I like someone, I’m going to do the opposite.

    Also, if you have to work with someone, you want to be able to work with them, which usually means liking them. I trust that Michael Cimino and Troy Duffy will make excellent films but they work less because people don’t like him.
    .-= Eric C´s last blog ..All’s Fair in War: Guerrillas, Justice and Counter-Insurgency =-.

  29. Michael Martine says:

    I think respect and trust is often more important than like and trust. Hiring or being hired by friends sometimes turns out quite badly.
    .-= Michael Martine´s last blog ..Why To Blog As Yourself (Even if That’s Not What You Sell) =-.

  30. Given your backgroud in Psychology, I’m curious as to how you’d invoke Maslow’s Hierarchy into this argument….

    It seems to me that “needs” and “wants” *always* precede “like,” especially in regards to respect for and by others (part of the very definition of Trust, no?). But trust comes in many forms, both short- and long term. I may buy from someone or some company I don’t like–or don’t even trust in certain arenas–if I trust that what I’m buying will satisfy a particular need.

    But I agree that long-term trust, the kind that ensures repeat business, doesn’t rely on “liking” either. If your product has consistently delivered something I need or want, particularly if you’re the only company that can satisfy that need to that extent, then I’ll buy regardless of whether or not I like you.
    .-= Tamsen McMahon´s last blog ..Best of 09: The audacity of design =-.

  31. It’s interesting to see how many people are considering this post in terms of long-term or repeat business, which is putting the cart before the horse in the case of this article. Keep in mind that the article discusses the initial conditions required to be in place for a first-time purchase.

    For example, let’s say I want to learn how to be a better copywriter. I have a need, and I sit down at Google. “How to be a kick-ass copywriter,” I type in.

    I land on a site that looks credible. There’s an ebook for sale – the very one I seem to be looking for. Now, I have no idea who owns the site, I don’t know the joker who wrote the book and at this point, *I don’t care*.

    What I care about is fulfilling my need – learning how to be a better copywriter.

    I may or may not have heard of the author before, but either way, I don’t know the person. I can’t say if I like him or not. I *can* say that the site looks credible, the book seems to answer my current need, and I *trust* that if I hit the PayPal button, I will receive one book on how to be a better copywriter.

    Liking the author doesn’t factor into that first purchase anywhere. That is the point of the article.

    Now, for sure, if I buy the book and it’s crap, I no longer trust the individual who sold it to me, and I certainly don’t like him anymore either. I’m gone.

    But if I enjoy the book and feel that it met my expectations, then I feel satisfied. I *still* don’t know the author enough to say I like HIM, but my trust was well founded, I’m happy with the book, and THEN I shall like him for it.

    At that point, yes, repeat business is likely. But that’s not at all what we’re discussing here.

    Another example: Most clients of Men with Pens don’t know me personally. They’ve heard about me, they’ve seen my work elsewhere, and they trust that I’ll do a good job for them as I’ve done for others.

    But they can’t say they like me yet. They have no idea who I am. They *trust* that they’ll receive a good experience from me, and if I provide that, they’ll then like me for it. I have delivered as they expected and trusted me to.

    Trust before like, in all initial purchases and sales.

    The thing is, if we always think on the second level of business and forget that the first level of initial client capture exists, then we aren’t building very good businesses, are we? We’re forgetting bricks, we’re going beyond the basics, and the foundation hasn’t been properly laid in place.

    I absolutely agree with those who’ve mentioned that trust and like are important factors to *long-term or repeat* business. But I disagree that like is required for that first purchase. It isn’t. Not in the least.

    @Tamsen – I don’t need to invoke Maslow; I think you just did it beautifully yourself. Needs and wants come before anything else in life, and while we may slide up and down that pyramid of Maslow’s, we always need the base requirement to be fulfilled to be able to move to the next level up.

    @Michael – When I need gas, I don’t need to respect the gas station owner. I don’t need to like him either. I do need to know that my trust that his pumps are going to give me fuel is well founded.

    @Eric – Hmmm… While it may indeed be true that Cimino and Duffy work less, saying they work less because people don’t like them could be considered an assumption, no?

  32. Nice James, this post is full of awesome sauce. Did you use some from that bottle I gave you earlier?

    And I’m living proof of this concept. They have to like you? Pfft, no… but do they have to trust you? Fuckin’ duh! As far as truth is concerned, I think the famous quote goes:

    “Go to those who seek the truth… run from those who have claimed to have found it”

    And Chatty DM’s little idea is pretty damn good. In fact, I just may use it.
    .-= FitJerks Fitness Blog´s last blog ..5 Reasons Why You Need Amazing Abs! =-.

  33. Michael Martine says:

    We might be using a much too strident idea of the word “like”.

    I think we’re talking about a shallow, impersonal like, not a a deeply personal like. Something more like a favorable impression. A good feeling. A sense of rightness and correctness.

    Without that, it would be pretty damn hard to get the sale, yes?

    If the person who was dishing out this “advice” about liking meant it in a deeply personal fashion, then that is, regrettably, backward.

    I would not say you don’t have to like the person, because I believe we’re talking about an impersonal like, rather than a personal like.

    Like, ya dig? 😉
    .-= Michael Martine´s last blog ..Recent Acts of Guest Postery =-.

  34. I like James.

    I don’t like service providers that are way overpriced or don’t know what they are talking about.

    For example, a while ago I happened on someone who had a WordPress installation business. To just do a standard installation of an existing ‘premium’ theme template with a couple of colour changes they charged the same price as Men With Pens do for their full design option.

    That caused me to dislike them, as clearly they were trying to rip people off (I don’t care where you live and what your living expenses might be; charging $1,500 to install a theme with a few CSS changes is stupid).

    This is one thing that always has tripepd me up when blogging. I know I personally dislike people who do not know what they are talking about, so I am perhaps over-cautious to ensure I only discuss things I am actually experienced with. I don’t take any risks with it.

  35. Archan Mehta says:

    Since James wants me to provide further details (which I am unable to share),
    kindly allow me instead to at least try to clarify, ladies and gentleman.

    Our said professor is a smooth talker and has attained “expert status” in the popular imagination; his/her name figures prominently in media circles, which translates into cheap and free publicity. The professor always seems to be newsworthy and he/she makes it a point to be seen at all the right parties.
    The professor also regularly shows up to attend conferences, seminars, and make paper presentations. The professor, who is also a gifted public speaker, is also well-received in the “lecture circuit.” Get the picture?

    James is right on the mark about failing at a business, which involves several variables. Sometimes, we are too quick to judge others, when the actual story is complicated. So, I appreciated your comment, James.

    Now, the hard part. The “ivory-tower intellectual” really believes that success in the academic world can easily translate into business success. However, being skilled at teaching a course on entrepreneurship, for example, can be very different from being an entrepreneur yourself. Conversely, do you think restless souls like Richard Branson, Steve Jobbs, Bill Gates, Steven Spielberg would have fitted the profile of an ivy league professor? Yet, if you have charisma, you sometimes have the influence to lead people into new business ventures without knowing about the consequences. In the above case, the professor was no crook; nor was he/she untrustworthy, probably just naive. The professor plunged suddenly into the world of business not having demonstrated any business acumen. In the process, many of his former admirers felt duped or taken advantage of, but….the professor did not harbor any evil intentions. The professor genuinely believed he/she could succeed as a businessperson.
    However, the daily tasks of running a business may demand a different set of skills than lecturing in a class-room full of doting freshmen. What do you think? What’s your opinion? I’d love to hear from ya. Thanks.

  36. @Patrick – I am laughing because I charge $1,500 to build WordPress websites 🙂 Sure, it is not a case of installing wp and slapping on a theme and saying “there you go”, but I guess you probably don’t like me now either 😉

    In fact with my service it is “training and coaching with a free blog” rather than a pure web build service really, and the people who take the service up are either people who know, like and trust me (there it is again!) and want to learn from me everything about running a successful blog, or were burned by other people and need that extra TLC. (Sell your advantage and you can give the commodity away, MWP have advantage in hot design and copy, mine is the coaching and promotion tactics).

    In marketing you have to focus on your audience, just the fact that you said “install a theme with a few CSS changes is stupid” means you would NEVER be in that target market and therefore see it as a ripoff price. The people who need that handholding or want to learn from me specifically see it as great value 🙂

    @James – One of the markets I work in is auto industry. The same company can have sales people on forecourts who make fewer sales because nobody likes them (or gets an initial bad first impression, whatever) but can sell cars online all day long. Should they keep doing what they are doing? Yeah, sure they could, but all being equal, people buy from people they like. Just because you don’t NEED the like factor, doesn’t mean you can’t do better WITH it. This is why we use audio and video, we pre-sell in content, we warm up prospects – LIKE works to convert better than without it.

    Without LIKE I would feel like a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest.

    I don’t think anyone here is selling a commodity like burgers and gas, and even with my lowest priced products the prospect has many solutions so anything that gives a competitive edge …

    And as far as long term is concerned, who here wants a stream of one-off sales without returning, loyal customers? If you never get repeat business then either your business model is broken or you are doing something wrong to turn customers away 🙂

    When your customers like you they are more likely to refer new business to you also.

    Bottom line, probably more productive at this point for me to agree to disagree, but interesting discussion all the same 😀
    .-= Chris Garrett´s last blog ..Why Positive Thinking Doesn’t Work for You and How to Fix it =-.

  37. You’ve got me thinking, and I tend to think that “like” does play a hefty role in that first contact process.

    People will always shop around a little for the “best advice” or an “expert” they think fits with their world-view and requirements. Using your example of someone looking for advice on freelance copywriting, someone might find 2 or 3 sites/blogs/products that all offer to help move them forwards. They all seem credible and experienced (trust) and have similar offerings that this individual is interested in. What tips the balance in favour of one or the other? What makes the user click that button on one site over another?

    I think it’s down to the likability factor – if you can reach a point where it feels like there’s rapport, a point where it feels like there’s a match in values, story or personality then you’re going to click right there.

    It starts with “know”, then the relationship between trust and like becomes a more complex, inter-related one. Perhaps the only time I’d click on someone I don’t like is when the weight of their expertise (skills, experience, evidence) is significant – in that case I know that I’m buying a solution to a problem regardless of whether I like them or not.

    Of course, if that same expert then came out with another offering based on the same weight of expertise I may well go back as a return customer, based on trust and respect rather than like.

    Bugger, I’ve just talked myself into believing both scenarios.

  38. @ Chris: Ahhh, hope I did not cause offense.

    I think what you personally do is good value, and you have the expertise to back it up. The amount I mentioned is not an issue by itself either – $1,500 is easily justified if it provides value. That price for someone with your experience guiding the site setup would be great.

    But I am quite certain the provider I am thinking of did not have the relevant expertise due to some dodgy things on their site, and that’s what bugged me. I don’t like people who aim expensive services at people who don’t know anything and yet they can’t even get their own CSS and HTML correct. It would be like me promoting myself as a graphic design expert, when I can barely use MS Paint.

    That said, what you mentioned about target markets is a good point. I have the experience to see through questionable practices and so take a disliking to them, but their target market will not. Maybe the consolation is if someone is truly ripping people off they won’t be able to sustain a business.

  39. @Patrick – No offense here, I smiled – Fact is now more than ever bad news travels fast so the ripoff folks soon get found out and the good ones get recommendations. I’m actually moving away from taking on new consulting and project clients so there will be more of that work to go around soon 🙂
    .-= Chris Garrett´s last blog ..Why Positive Thinking Doesn’t Work for You and How to Fix it =-.

  40. I think most online relationships, business or otherwise, where there is no social or face-to-face connection, almost have to be built entirely on trust. You might go on to like someone like you’re own brother or sister (assuming you like your own brother or sister), but there’s an inevitable hesitancy when striking those first conversations.

    Anyway, to answer the actual question, clients don’t need to like you, they just need to know that you can do the job. It’s helpful if they don’t dislike you, of course, but you don’t need to share holiday snaps to have a healthy working relationship.
    .-= Iain Broome´s last blog ..Why AudioBoo is a terrific tool for writers =-.

  41. I agree with Chris, while I may not have to like you to trust you enough to buy from you – if I plan on working with you long term, I do have to like you. Trust isn’t always enough either.

  42. I believe it is not necessary to be liked in order for people to buy from you. What is true is that you won’t see them again if they don’t like what they got.

    I matter of working with people it is elemental to have something in common that likes and attracts both sides. It’s human nature.
    .-= Alejandro Cabrera´s last blog ..Las Mejores 7 Extensiones de Google Chrome para Cualquier Adicto a Socializar =-.

  43. The more I think about this, the more I think there are a lot of variables that come into play, it’s not as simple as ‘like or dislike’ or even ‘trust’

    If you’re buying food or other mundane, everyday stuff in person or even online then you don’t care who serves you, and there’s probably not a lot of trust in the person either. You’d trust the company/shop or you wouldn’t go there – generally. There’s a shop here that I can’t stand the owner and don’t trust him (worked for him for three months and he’s a bully) yet very occasionally I’ll shop there because I can’t get an item anywhere else.

    If you’re buying something relatively intangible, such as an ebook or course, then it becomes a little harder. You’ll buy it faster if you already know the person, or if they were recommended by a friend. You’ll likely put more credibility and trust in the content if you know and like the person. If you’d never heard of them before then you’re going to read with a more cynical view.

    Generally I’d say (opinion, I have nothing to back this up with) that the higher the price then the more you need to like and trust the person.

    Then again, how many of us have bought a car from a salesman that we didn’t particularly like?

    This whole issue is very personal, and I think in the end it comes down to the situation at the time, the product we’re buying, the cost, the medium that we’re buying through etc. Every situation and person is going to be different and we’re going to make different buying decisions at different times based on variations in all these different factors – and we probably won’t even realise that we’re doing it.
    .-= Melinda | SuperWAHM´s last blog ..Book Giveaway – ‘Get Clients Now!’ =-.

  44. I think the initial point of interaction has something to do with this.

    From someone who use to cold call, in person, from business to business you had to be liked first, then trusted. If you walked in the door and didn’t make an impression that they “liked” you would never have a chance to build trust.

    The other side of this is eBusiness. When I go to a website I don’t need to like the salesman, owner or customer service rep. In most cases I never talk to them when ordering. But I must “trust” the site with my personal information.

  45. I too totally disagree with the like before trust. I have worked with many capable people who have done an outstanding job in their position, but personally did not care for them. They were not someone I would socialize with. When it comes to business, you don’t need to be my friend to have my trust, but if you are honest, qualified, and capable, that is what matters most.

  46. I agree. People don’t have to like you to do business with you. Bit they are more likely to spend more money more often if they do.

  47. I think it’s better to trust somebody first before liking him/her. Same decision applies whenever your dealing with clients, potential friends or to other people. The question is very simple, how can you like somebody whom unknown to you, someone whom you can’t trust.

    Like you, I those experts who claim that once we follow their teachings will have a positive result. Wherein, they, themselves, haven’t proved their words to be true.
    .-= Harrison Stuart´s last blog ..Spying on Your Spouse’s PC- Right or Wrong? =-.

  48. I don’t think you have to like someone to buy goods and services from them but you do have to trust them. If two people have the same skills and price point, I’m obviously going to work with the person that I like.

  49. If I put myself in the prospects’ shoes, I would like to get convinced that the service provider can deliver what he claims to be the solution. My “conviction” is more important than personal liking or disliking.

    When I see the results, I begin to “trust” him. When I trust him, I like what he’s done for me.

    In this process, what makes me like him is the human values he adds to the business relationship. If he cares about my business more than what I’ve expected, then I develop interest in him and like him. If not, nothing is missing from the business point of view.
    .-= Rahman Mehraby´s last blog ..Website Copywriting 105: Creating Great Content is Key to SEO =-.

  50. Liking and Trusting are very different things. And As it was said above, people react to desires, needs, wants and even fears when deciding on what to buy. Who to buy it from is seldom a question – do I want this and whats the best price.

    if you can guess your clients needs, then you are 95% of the way in getting a sale.
    .-= Peter Masters´s last blog ..Conversion Rate Optimisation =-.


  1. […] and Facebook may “break” news, but many of them don’t verify facts vs. fiction. A Jan. 11 blog post from Men With Pens agrees that people sometimes play loose with the truth. They rush to be the first to post […]

  2. […] Weekend Reading: My fav’s from this week: 1/15/10 Posted by Heather Villa, CMA, MBA, MSM on January 15, 2010 in: Weekend Reading Do Clients Need to Like You or Trust You? […]

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