Piggybacking trust

Telling somebody how great you are isn’t convincing.  In order for them to believe your assertion, you either have to prove it repeatedly with your actions (which can take months or even years), or you can piggyback on trust.  Here’s how to do the latter:

  1. Pick your target. This is someone who you want to have trust you as quickly as possible.  Your target can be anyone — a customer, a prospective employer, the most attractive girl at the bar, etc.
  2. Find out who your target already trusts. Track down their influencers.  Who has already done all the hard work for you and earned your target’s trust?  Is it an online message board?  A secretary?  The attractive girl’s group of friends?
  3. Establish your credibility with the influencers. You don’t have to earn their trust right away — you just need to prove you are legit.  Add value to the message board discussions by providing content/responses that other members will love.  Call up the secretary and be genuinely interested in what her work routine is like.  Make the attractive girl’s friends laugh.
  4. Give them a reason to talk to the target about you. Be remarkable and go over the top so that they’ll be really enthusiastic when you come up in their conversations.  Write a hilarious rant on the message board about all of the most popular members.  Mail the secretary a handwritten note the next day, thanking her for her time, and enclose an interesting article about that movie she referenced while you were talking with her.  Get extremely into Foreigner’s “Jukebox Hero” on karaoke night, complete with a face-melting air guitar solo on top of the bar.

After doing those kind of things, the influencers will actually want to talk to the target about you and they’ll have nothing but good things to say.  When they talk about how great you are, the target will actually believe it and will be about 100 times more receptive to whatever message you want them to hear.  That’s how you successfully piggyback trust, and you can work on building a deeper relationship from there.

Some of you might think piggybacking trust is kind of devious because it’s consciously using people as a means to an end.  But the nature of these interactions really depends on the person who is executing the strategy.  You can be a sleazeball if you want, or you can be ethical and caring.  It’s really up to you, but approaching it from a moral standpoint will yield far greater results in the long run (for your bottom-line, happiness, etc.).

Piggybacking trust is just a smarter way to promote yourself.  It’s a circuitous strategy that enables you to build a relationship very quickly.  Most of us take an unexamined, one-dimensional approach to earning someone’s trust, which is why most of our approaches will fall short of expectations.  For instance:

A company wants everyone to love them and buy their products after seeing their clever Super Bowl ad…

A college grad wants an employer to see how smart she is by emailing them a boring, bullet-pointed, Times New Roman, cookie-cutter resume…

A desperate guy wants an attractive girl to realize how awesome he is, even though they’re in a crowded and noisy bar with way too many distractions…

The company, the grad, and the desperate guy all have one thing in common: they don’t deserve what they want because they haven’t earned their target’s trust. This ultimately stems from them being selfish and egocentric.  They need to put themselves in their target’s shoes and find out who influences them.

The company wants to provide value to their customers, so they should join a select message board and interact with the community.  It will help them understand their customers better and ultimately improve their business.  They’re not trying to make a quick buck — they’re in it for the long haul.

The grad wants to get a job at Company X, so she needs to distinguish herself from every other applicant.  She can’t expect them to notice her because she’ll be in a stack of hundreds of other faceless resumes.  If she spends 15 minutes on the phone making the secretary feel special and appreciated, then the secretary will be sure to put in a good word for her to the person who makes the hiring decisions.

And every guy wants to have the most attractive girl in the bar interested in them.  So why do so many of them try to sell themselves with their self-aggrandizing prattle?  She doesn’t care how great you say you are — you just met her and therefore you have no credibility.  We’re social animals and our opinions are swayed by what the people we trust think.  So make her friends laugh and ensure that they’re having a good time while they’re around you.  Once they give you their approval and actually enjoy your company, you’ve won.

And even if they don’t like you, at least you rocked the house with your sweet karaoke performance.  You win either way.

Comments

  1. says

    Brilliant. Because you faced head on the assumption of most that this is manipulative.

    But piggybacked trust is more honestly relational. The target is already maxed on genuine relationships, so you’re helping them by simply going through their filters.

  2. says

    That is actually a fair point. In a way, you are helping a busy person out by going through their filters. As long as you aren’t ready to dispose of the filters once you’ve gotten past them, I think this is a legit tactic.

  3. Satvik says

    Sheep Sexy, Piggybacking trust…I really like the way you phrase things. I can remember the whole concept just by remembering two words. Thanks Charlie!

  4. says

    Excellent article on the principle of “social proof.” Charlie, have you read “Influence” by Robert Cialdini? I’m assuming that you have given your interest and knowledge of the subject. If not, I highly recommend it.

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