Sales Essentials Blog

Selling in times of social mistrust

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While there has never been a better time to be alive with access to wonderful resources and opportunities, amazing innovations, advances in technology and better healthcare, that can encourage the potential for our evolution and mutual prosperity, there is a shadow of mistrust that is following us everywhere.

Despite all the positives, there are a number of factors, fads and ideologies that have been playing out in business and governments over the last 25-30 years that have contributed to creating this state of mistrust including:

  • Business strategies focused only on profit maximisation
  • Win-at-all-costs hyper aggressive ‘Bro’ cultures
  • Cost cutting as the ONLY way to manage business
  • Race-to-the-bottom business strategies
  • Short-termism
  • The cult of growth including narrowcast definitions of success i.e. Bigger/More Is Always Better
  • The obsession with GDP (gross domestic product) as the ONLY measure of growth
  • Cult of the Celebrity CEO

There are others we could add to the list but you get the picture.

This does not imply that all businesses, organisations and communities have gone down these paths; however, many have including larger corporations and bigger businesses, and some governments who, by and large, prioritised growth maximisation without stopping to think about the costs and impacts associated with such an approach.

It’s been a slow burn but it all seems to have conflated in recent times to create this overwhelming feeling that not everything is right, just or fair.

Trust is the heartbeat of all relationships

Trust is the heartbeat of all relationships whether it be business, sales, friendship or society.

Without the life force of trust pumping vitality through our collective systems every day we start to wither and recoil. We become weak and anaemic. We close ourselves off and lose sight of what is real and important to our survival. Hence the current shadow of mistrust we find ourselves in.

Those organisations that value trust and trusted relationships do things to ensure that their customers, patrons, members, constituents, suppliers, employees and broader communities are central to their licence to keep on operating and ongoing mutual prosperity.

They understand that trust can be broken at any time and is a fragile system. It needs constant attention and vigilance. It must be leader led and reinforced and supported on a daily basis.

Where to from here?

Customer Centricity

It is in the last 10 years or so that the concept of Customer Centricity began to emerge. While it is now a common phrase splashed liberally across many company websites and brochures, the true nature, spirit and practice of Customer Centricity is not so common and still viewed as an intellectual concept or platitude by many. However, there are more organisations beginning to embrace these principles, values, behaviours and codes of conduct.

Those businesses who do truly embrace a genuine Customer Centric ethos across their entire value chain in everything they do will rebuild and/or develop trust much more easily with their clients, suppliers and employees than those who just pay lip service to this concept.

Activist Consumers, Shareholders & Constituents

More and more people are becoming better educated and more informed about the impact of the supply chain, business and consumerism on society and the environment. They are demanding that organisations and governments act and behave in more ethical, fair and sustainable ways now and for the future.

Younger people and more informed older people are voting with their wallets and ballot cards and choosing to buy or vote from those organisation who transparently demonstrate their bona fide environmental and social intentions and credentials to doing good business: from across their supply chain and back again.

Social Licence to Operate (SLO), Legislation, Whistleblowers and the role of Boards and Management

Another emerging trend is the rise of the concept of ‘social licence to operate’ (SLO).

While SLOs have been around for more than 20 years, starting in the mining in and minerals sector when organisations were negotiating with communities seeking approval to set up operations or broad social acceptance, SLOs are now gaining more traction as consumer bodies, businesses, organisations and industry bodies try to find ways to navigate the social, commercial and legal contracts between consumers and organisations.

Company directors and senior management are either willingly or being forced to consider the consequences and impact of their decisions and actions now and into the future.

How they act will have positive or negative implications for everyone concerned.

It makes (Business) sense

Operating ethical businesses and being good for the planet and its inhabitants benefit the bottom line. There has plenty of research to support that. The best example is outdoor clothing and gear company Patagonia, but there many, many more. Business models like Share Value and Benefit Corporations accompany businesses that are leading the way.

Earlier this year, the CEO of asset manager Black Rock sent a letter to the biggest companies in the world warning their CEOs on the need to demonstrate long-term value creation and the impact their operations have in the world, and how they make a positive contribution to society.


The new transparency and accountability are here.

There is nowhere to hide or no one else to blame.

By exposing everything to sunlight, bringing it out into the open, making people and organisations accountable, makes it easier for us to make decisions about who to trust and how we move forward.

What does this mean for sales and salespeople?


People are wanting to trust others; they need to trust and have confidence in others and in organisations and institutions in order to flourish and evolve.

Salespeople are at the front line where the seeds of trusted relationships begin; however, if we are to address the climate of mistrust we must encourage ethical, human centred sales practices and engage everyone across our organisations to be part of the chain of trust and service.

Author: Sue Barrett, 



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