You’re sitting down with a homeowner who is considering going solar. They have questions, concerns, and are looking for guidance. In this scenario, how can you establish yourself as the go-to expert and someone they can trust wholeheartedly?

It all boils down to two crucial elements: trustworthiness and expertise. These factors are the building blocks of a successful relationship between you and your potential customers. 

In this blog post, we hear an excerpt from The Psychology of Solar Sales course from HeatSpring instructor Taylor Jackson, as he discusses the science behind these qualities and becoming a trusted authority. 

You can see this every day in the toothpaste aisle. You’ll see “dentists recommend” and “American Dental Association” plastered all over packaging. And that’s because several studies were conducted decades ago that showed that people really responded to expert authority when it came to their toothpaste purchases.

Now at this point you may be saying, well, exactly, I need to go in with authority and I need to tell these people what they need to know, and they cannot backtalk me. I am the expert. And that actually is exactly the wrong approach to developing a sense of authority with another person. You can’t go in arrogant and expect people to respect you as an authority.

Remember the goal here is to be a guide, not to be a bully. And in fact, bullying will not have the positive impacts that being a guide will. 

So if it’s not useful to be forceful and arrogant in order to establish our authority in the solar sales situation when we’re talking to a client, what is useful?

Cialdini identified two different factors that contribute to a person’s perception of authority. The first is expertise. That one probably doesn’t surprise you. The second one might, and that is trustworthiness. Let’s handle these each in turn.

Now when it comes to trustworthiness, you may think the most important thing to developing trust is to not make any mistakes, so it’s important that the client doesn’t know about the mistakes that I’ve made and that I make sure to present myself as an infallible, perfect expert. That, again, is not actually correct.

And it may surprise you to learn that the opposite is true. To understand what actually creates trustworthiness, it’s useful to return to the science. 

One study looked at this very question among restaurant staff. They looked at the waiters with the highest tips and compared them to those who got less in tips. They found one common feature that built that individual waiter as an expert, and that was that they disclosed that they thought elements of the food were not good, and that in fact the restaurant had some faults.

By guiding people away from those faults, they established trustworthiness, which then translated into authority when they later on made recommendations sometimes for expensive bottles of wine or expensive dishes instead of, let’s say, the fish that they considered to be subpar today. 

You can see how by disclosing a fault in disclosing that the restaurant really isn’t perfect, you can create a sense of trustworthiness – and as a result, a sense of authority on the matter.