Are you credible? What sort of question is that? Of course I am. I have to be. And even if I’m not, why is this so important?

 

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What do we mean by being credible? One dictionary definition is: “Having credibility means you are believable and reliable.

Here’s another one from a long time friend and past colleague, Stephen Cobb: “Credibility is about delivering what you promise, not promising what you deliver.” I like that one.

If you accept that establishing relationships is based on trust and respect then being credible is fundamental to any relationship building strategy. It is the basis and foundation of a relationship-building pyramid.

So how do we build credibility? In 1988, I was working for Coca-Cola in the Middle East and we were bringing the brand back after a 22-year absence due to the Arab Boycott. For whatever reasons not pertinent to this article, The Arab League had chosen to place many companies on the boycott list, which meant they could not enter the Middle East markets. These were companies such as RCA, Ford, Cadbury, Sear Roebuck, Revlon and of course Coca-Cola.

So during that 22-year hiatus, Pepsi had enjoyed the soft drink market to themselves.

When we first started talking to retailers in Bahrain about advance orders for the re-introduction there was some skepticism. “Habibi, we have been without you for so many years, what difference will it now make? Our customers are used to Pepsi and if they want Coke they can get it when they travel abroad.” We were shocked! This reaction and attitude flew in the face of any anticipated view, or indeed what we felt was sound business logic. We expected to be welcomed back with open arms.

There seemed to be a credibility gap. Experience had taught us that supporting your brands with the No.1 soft drink brand in the world was bound to increase your business. But this was an environment in which many top brands had not been present over 20 years and business in the area was booming! We had to convince the retailers that their thinking was incorrect. We had to set about building credibility. How did we do it?

 1.Being the Subject Matter Experts

We positioned ourselves as the soft drink experts. Even though we had not been in the market for over a long time, we were able to point to our success before our disappearance as well as our impressive dominance around the world where there was choice. We helped our dealers with merchandising and marketing expertise.

 2. Demonstrating Diligence

We worked harder than the competition. We were hungry and we showed it. We followed up; we were consistent in our call cycles and ensured we got orders correct in every way.

 3. Adding Value

Instead of buying the business, we found ways to differentiate ourselves with service. We provided coolers and service out of hours when required by our retailers. We selected the best people with the best customer service attitudes.

 4. Practicing Integrity

Even though we were No 1 in the world, we had no such advantage in the Middle East and could not be arrogant and assume we would take market leadership again. We made sure we treated all accounts fairly and did not fall into the trap of going after business by reducing prices. We built partnerships.

Apart from building credibility with our customers in advance of launching, we did the same with our consumers with teaser marketing campaigns announcing the reintroduction. We executed the same four practices as with our customers.

When we started delivering to the first large retailers in Manama, Bahrain, sales were not can by can. They were case by case. It took us 3 hours to actually build a meaningful display in one large supermarket because as fast as we placed the cases on the floor, consumers would purchase them; such was the pace of consumer demand. Word spread as similar scenarios at different retailers occurred and so did our credibility.

Having credibility is key to satisfied customers and long-term relationships.

 

Peter M. Beaumont is a Management Consultant, Founder of ConnXN and is a Consultant for Pivotal Advisors. He is the author of The Relationship Roadmap and works with managers of B2B companies to increase profits quicker by managing Strategic Accounts differently. See more at www.ConnXN.net and http://www.pivotaladvisors.com