Building trust is more important than making the sale.

The next time an expert tells you that a marketing or conversion tactic “works”... ask this question: 

“It might work to convert 10% of the audience… but does it build trust with the other 90%... or would it feel salesy to them?”

Years ago, I used to care only about the small percentage of my audience who converted. I was all about the sale, about getting the transaction. What about the remainder of the audience? I thought of them as “illusory clients” or “tire kickers”.

I was prioritizing my own profit timeline, rather than the organic decision-making process of my audience. I wanted them to buy my program “by the end of this webinar!” or “within 48 hours!”... and so I dangled ridiculous incentives and used “powerful” scarcity tactics to convert the few, yet much of the audience was probably turned off by these pressure tactics. 

This is called “being salesy.” 

Back then, I wasn’t truly listening to my heart. I didn’t have the foresight to understand the long-term results of word-of-mouth marketing and building a brand.

It felt “off” but for years, I just kept doing it. Why? 

Because it “worked.” I was making money.

This reminds me of the Upton Sinclair quote, featured in the movie An Inconvenient Truth:

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

A lot of marketers and “growth hackers” think—"Who cares about attention and vanity metrics such as social media views, comments, and shares? We want sales, period! Do whatever is needed—hyped-up promises, false scarcity, pressure tactics. By any means necessary, make people buy."

Just because something is legal and “works” to make money doesn’t necessarily make it a good thing to do. Often, short-term gains are bad for one's long-term well-being, and degrade the cultural norms of society.

With a deeper awareness and care for a sustainable future, one comes to realize that doing the right thing is always the right thing.

Let’s apply this to marketing and sales:  

  • The relationship is more important than the transaction.

  • Building trust is more important than making the sale.

If we are willing to look a bit more long-term, beyond the current month or quarter… if we believe that our authentic business is worth years of effort, then we come to see that generosity and reputation-building are a far better return on investment.

In other words, if you are willing to prioritize patience and love — while being grounded in healthy boundaries — it actually benefits your business too. 

Value trust over transaction.

Making Marketing Easier In the Long-Term

What I used to do was focus on persuading the 10%, even if I turned off the 90%.

But then I found myself having to do a lot of selling, quarter after quarter, year after year, in order to get enough clients.

One day, I woke up and realized that I hadn’t built anything long-term.

Launching anything became a continual struggle.

By using the conventional internet marketing strategies—fake, uncaring “marketing funnels” and pressure-driven sales—I had not built the real asset in business—a long-term trusting relationship with my audience. The true fans are the ones who are eager to open my emails, and spread the word, because they love my work, not because I sent them so many emails they accidentally opened one of them!

Without real loyalty, and therefore without consistent word of mouth, you will have to continuously promote your services again and again, with the risk of using persuasion tactics that annoy your audience rather than build trust, always concerned about the current sale rather than your long-term reputation.

The Challenge of Doing What’s Right

Doing what feels right might not immediately translate into higher external metrics. 

Focusing on relationship, trust, and reputation takes more time than making short-term launches using pressure tactics. This is why most marketers and businesses don’t do it.

They complain that generosity and brand-building appear to have less predictable return-on-investment.

But the reality is that short-term conversion tactics are frequently failures anyway. We are persuaded by marketers that claim: “If you do this, you'll get 10% conversions!” But those tactics often don't produce the promised results. (Further, note that being calculating is exactly the opposite of authentic connection in relationships.)

By focusing on the sales, you end up with a salesy reputation. 

Focus on trust, however, and you make sales easier over time.

If we are willing to think “macro,” more long-term, to zoom out on our timeline beyond the current campaign or this quarter’s numbers… if we are willing to look at our business horizon in years, then the reality is that generosity and reputation-building are actually a better return on investment. We are being called to care more for our audience than our competitors are willing to.

If you are willing to step into that calling, then everyone benefits:

  • Your audience is truly served.
  • You grow in ways that matter most.
  • Your industry gets a better reputation because of you.

Real loyalty creates ease in business. 

It requires practicing patience and healthy boundaries.

Over time, with an excellent reputation, you eliminate the need to sell. Ideal clients hear great things about you, and you only need to “whisper” your offerings (rather than resort to persuasion and tacky marketing)—and when they are ready, they buy from you, because they already trust you before you even make your offer.   

If you focus on the sales, you build a reputation for being salesy. Instead, focus on trust, and you make sales easier over time.

The Golden Rule, translated for marketing:

Observe what marketing makes you feel good... makes you want to spread the word. Then emulate the heart of that marketing.


This post was originally written in 2017. Updated in 2023.