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Whether you are an entrepreneur, manager, salesperson or any businessperson, having the trust of the people you serve is paramount. But you cannot earn their trust without first being viewed as a credible source of information and advice.
Credibility is the chain that firmly connects you to another person, so your ideas are respected, and your recommendations are given due consideration. There are four links in the chain of credibility. If one of them breaks, your credibility is broken — or was never secured in the first place.
1. Being known
In business, it’s not just who you know, but also who knows YOU. These days, you often don’t make the first impression with a new partner, prospect or job candidate. Google and LinkedIn do that. If your online presence doesn’t suggest you’re a somebody, you can easily be perceived as a nobody — especially with young professionals entering the workforce.
Being known requires you to proactively become visible, findable and relevant online. Take a moment to Google your name to see what others see. Then share (some of) your expertise that’s relevant to the people you want to do business with. Keep in mind, your digital credibility must be developed in addition to (not in place of) networking with other professionals.
I understand you may be fearful about putting yourself out there and getting backlash if you say something publicly online that doesn’t land well. I felt the same way at first. But I can tell you that significantly more people know who I am and what I’m about after I started posting more content, paying attention to SEO keywords and optimizing my LinkedIn profile.
2. Being likable
There are many components to likability. So, I’ll touch on only a few here. To be liked, start by finding a way to like others — and let them know you like them first. Always assume positive intent, unless or until they prove otherwise.
Show respect for their time, resources, family and culture. Be personable, not transactional, by showing empathy for their unique situation. And allow them to see your true, authentic self. Showing a little vulnerability can go a long way.
When it comes to your direct reports, however, being respected is more important than being liked. I’ve had a couple of department heads who felt it was so important to be liked by their staff that it compromised their ability to hold them accountable for doing their jobs. Suffice it to say, their team members underperformed. Their need to be liked led to their undoing.
3. Being trustworthy
Before you can expect to be trusted by others, they need to see you behaving with integrity and fairness — always, in all ways. The information you share must be accurate, reliably sourced and relevant. Expect your competitors to try to sow seeds of doubt.
Being trustworthy is also doing what you say you’re going to do. In fact, take Tom Peters’ advice: underpromise and overdeliver.
Share the credit for your wins, and accept responsibility for your mistakes. Taking credit for others’ work, or simply not recognizing them for their contribution, is an immediate credibility killer.
Being trustworthy is not about morality, it’s about congruence. Bottom line, you have to walk your talk.
4. Being helpful
When price and product are equal, people prefer to do business with those they know, like and trust. When price and product are NOT equal, people STILL prefer to do business with those they know, like and trust. But that’s not enough to be credible in today’s marketplace.
You have to be seen as someone who knows how to help and cares more about serving others than serving yourself. During my years as a public image chair in Rotary International, I learned this concept as “Service Above Self.”
Being helpful professionally is about making sense of complex issues, providing clarity in the fog and collaborating with others to solve problems they haven’t been able to solve on their own. But resist your urge to immediately play the hero and save the day.
Albert Einstein was once asked, “If you had one hour to solve a problem, and the problem was the Earth was going to be destroyed, how would you allocate your hour?” He reportedly answered, “I would spend the first 59 minutes fully understanding the problem and the last minute actually solving the problem.”
When others believe you fully understand the problem through their eyes, you’ll have the credibility to recommend the changes needed to actually solve the problem.
You might strongly believe that you are knowledgeable and friendly and that you always act with integrity and have the expertise to help others achieve their goals. The question is, do THEY know that?
To earn the trust of the people who are vital to your success, always build and maintain your credibility with them.