Have you ever made a poor decision that haunted you for years after? I made such a decision in 2006; I bought a rental property. Yep, a year before the real estate bubble burst, I decided to become a real estate mogul. Buy high and sell low was my motto. That property became a thorn in my side for the next ten years.
I was able to keep it rented most of the time, but not without drama. Oh, the stories I could tell. When the market began to recover, I desperately tried to sell the property. After two years on the market and two failed contracts, I finally found a legitimate buyer. My decade long nightmare was about to end… or so I thought.
The time between the contract signing and closing was mercifully short, but that led to another set of problems. I had to take care of the list of “issues” the inspector found with the property prior to closing. One such issue was the water heater. He found a small leak.
I scheduled a plumber to take a look at the water heater along with a few other plumbing matters. He quickly found the source of the leak and spent an hour attempting to fix it. Water was no longer dripping, but the plumber wasn’t very confident with his repair. He placed a small cup under the leaking part and told me to check it the next day. If I found water in the cup, the heater would need to be replaced.
That was not what I wanted to hear.
The next morning, I checked the cup. It was full of water. With only a few days until closing, I went into full panic mode.
The plumbing company I had used couldn’t replace the water heater until after the scheduled closing, so they recommended a contract a plumber they used when they were short-staffed. My next call was to Peter the plumber.
Peter arrived late that afternoon. He was a huge, bald man with a thick Bulgarian accent. He looked and sounded like a villain in a James Bond movie. I wasn’t too sure about Peter, but I was desperate.
I took him to the water heater where he went to work examining the apparatus. For the next thirty minutes, he explained how the heater worked, the technological improvements made since my heater was manufactured, and he scrutinized the work done by the previous plumber. Then he stood up and said, “You don’t need a new water heater. Just replace this valve.” He pointed to the valve in question with the toe of his giant work boot.
He bent down, turned off the water, and unscrewed the faulty valve. He handed it to me and said, “Take this to Home Depot and buy a new one. It should cost about five bucks. You can do this yourself.” He gave me a few tips on how to do the job properly and then he left.
When I originally called Peter, I expected to pay for the installation of a new water heater. In my mind, the money was already spent. In fact, I told him over the phone, “I need you to install a new water heater.” He replied, “Let me take a look at it.” Peter could have installed a new heater and taken my money, but instead he saved me hundreds of dollars.
I have since hired Peter numerous times and recommended him to several friends. When I have a plumbing problem, I call Peter. So, how did Peter become my go-to plumber in just thirty-minutes time? He established credibility in two easy steps.
First, Peter demonstrated his expertise by teaching me about the workings of my water heater. He then taught me how to repair it myself. Teachers are authority figures. We view them as experts on the subjects they teach.
Next, he established his trustworthiness by “giving me back my money.” In my mind, the money to replace the water heater was already spent. I had resigned myself to that fact. He could have simply taken it and met my expectation, but he didn’t. In fact, he didn’t even make the repair himself; he taught me how to do it. He did the unexpected: he didn’t take my money.
If you want to establish credibility and foster a long-term business relationship, follow these simple steps: 1) Demonstrate your expertise by teaching, rather than telling; and, 2) establish your trustworthiness by giving, instead of taking.
Credibility = Expertise + Trustworthiness
Credibility is essential to persuasion and rather easy to establish, if you are willing to follow these two steps. If you are leery of establishing trustworthiness by giving something of value without the promise of receiving something in return, remember, without risk there is no reward. Just ask Peter the plumber.
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