In order to build trust with a prospective customer, the customer must believe that you are concerned with their organization’s well-being. They won’t trust you if you seem too preoccupied with yourself and your own company’s needs.

A self-oriented person is usually thought of as someone who believes they’re better than others. But self-orientation can also manifest as someone who believes themself to be less valuable than others. In this case, the person is preoccupied by what others think of them and may display nervousness as they worry about their performance.

Like all variables of trust, displaying an appropriate level of self-orientation requires balancing between two extremes. You can be perceived as untrustworthy if you appear too confident and you can be perceived as untrustworthy if you appear unconfident. Both are signs of being preoccupied with yourself.

Self-orientation is the most impactful of the trust variables; therefore, you may want to try modifying this variable first if you feel the need to increase trust. To do so, reflect on the interactions that you’ve had with your customer thus far and their responses.

If you believe you may have seemed self-oriented because your nervousness was apparent, attempt to rebuild trust by exhibiting some opposing behaviors. For example, sit up taller in your chair or stand more upright.

While it can be hard to recover from an extreme display of self-orientation (such as your voice choking with fear throughout a presentation), we perceive people by an average across our interactions with them. There’s an opportunity to recover as long as you have future interactions with your prospective customer.

Self-orientation has a substantial impact on trust but it’s also challenging to manipulate. Practice interpreting your audience’s feedback and modifying your level of self-orientation in low-stakes settings. You’ll be better prepared to find a balance of self- and customer-orientation during sales conversations.

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