What Do You Do When People Are Scared To Trust You?

Sometimes it happens with women who’ve had bad experiences with men. The men want to take the relationship to the next level, but they keep holding out. In business, this problem of damaged trust from past relationships between people can create major obstacles to successful selling.

I’ve tried hard to keep quiet about it since I arrived here in Benin, but I think it’s time I wrote about this not very pleasant aspect.

At 8.00a.m this morning, I had a meeting with an elderly Beninese gentleman I admire greatly. He’s a scholar, a seasoned academic and professional. He is the author of 6 books that I’ve personally seen (5 in French, one in English) and has traveled to many countries.

He has also appeared many times as a guest on TV shows in and out of Africa. On two occasions (today being the second time) I’ve met with him in his well furnished office.

During my first week here, I mentioned meeting Dr. Leunamme Nagedes (not his real name) to my friend Ninotna Nayinal (also not his real name) who works with a popular TV station here. He instantly confirmed he knew this gentleman.

So, this is someone with decades of real world relevant experience.

How Did I Get to Meet Such a Man of Accomplishment And Means, in My Very First Week?

Here’s how it happened. I share this story because I feel it illustrates how being spontaneous, acting on gut level instinct, and refusing to let fear of rejection stifle you, can yield useful long term benefits.

It was the evening of Wednesday 3rd April 2013. I was visiting hotels in Cotonou to discuss my proposal to produce a custom City/Travel Guide branded in the name of the hotel. This was to be done in exchange for some of their services in kind.

At one hotel reception, I was trying to convince the receptionist to let me speak with the manager, when I spotted some glossy covered copies of a book stacked on the counter.

The receptionist told me it was okay to take a look. What attracted me in particular was the excellent print quality. The book was written in French. Curious to know who the author was, I turned to the back and quickly read the blurb about him. I was pleased to discover at the very bottom two phone numbers and an email address to reach him.

Comme d’habitude (i.e. “as is my usual habit”), my marketing instincts took over. I dialed one of the numbers on my mobile. He picked it up after 3 rings saying “Oui?”. Within 30 seconds I’d told him where I was, and asked if I could meet with him to explain how I could help with web marketing of his book. He indicated interest and told me to meet him “8a.m sharp” the next morning at his office.

And that was it. The next day we met – and it went quite well. I learned quite a lot about where he’d been and what he’d done. Including watching a video of an interview he’d done with a former French president!

Eventually, he told me (regarding my proposal):

“I do not really know you yet. We’re just meeting for the first time. I always prefer to work with people I know well. So give me some time. We’ll see how it goes.”

That was good enough for me. And I told him so, promising to stay in touch as I left.

When I Finished the Part 1 of My English-French Language Guide, I Immediately Thought Of Him

I wanted his opinion on how to go about marketing it. So, I called him up last week, and despite the busy schedule I know he keeps, he gave me an appointment for 8a.m today. It was a most rewarding 15 minute session. I went away with not less than 5 practical tips of what to do, and where to go, to make a success of marketing my stuff out here.

But what really got to me was something he said right after I finished demonstrating the use of my language guide. He looked right at me – with a hint of sadness in his eyes – and said (and I’m trying to use his exact words as I recall them):

“I’ve traveled all over the world – even as far as Japan. Even Nigerians do not trust themselves. So how can you expect people here to trust you?”

I’m convinced people I’ve approached here also thought it, but did not say it.

You see, I’ve had to wonder many times since getting here. Many had serious discussions with me and kept saying YES. But most never got around to actually buying from me.

Dr. Leunamme helped me discover why, when he voiced the above sentiment.

His statement confirmed what had bothered me for weeks. And I told him so. Many people had told me about bad experiences with Nigerians. As a result, they avoided associating with anyone they found to be from Nigeria.

So many people I’ve met in my travels to Cameroon, Ghana, and here have had similar stories to tell me. And it’s always so embarrassing…and annoying…and frustrating!

(NB: Today, I even read a Vanguard Nigeria Newspaper article by this Beninese consultant also expressing concern about this trend. Along with other alarming details, he told a story about two young Nigerian female students he helped get out of a Cotonou police cell.)

In my case, I think my social skills (and demonstrated competence) helped me get people to like me so much, they did not mind associating with me.

However, whenever I discussed selling my products and services, it seems they simply tried to humor me by playing along. Most times, they were never really convinced enough to go as far as parting with money to do business with me. This made a lot of sense as I reflected on my experiences. It was consistent with a trend I’d observed.

He did not stop there however.

He Went Further to Narrate a Bad Experience He Had With a Nigerian

He explained that once wanted someone to produce branded promotional CDROMs for marketing one of his books. A friend introduced him to a Nigerian church member who he said could do the job.

Based on the trust he had in his friend, he paid the other man what he asked and proceeded to await delivery of the completed CDs. That never happened. This guy simply disappeared (as the good doctor put it).

Thankfully, they were able to use his links with the church to track him down. As can be imagined however, that experience has stuck in Dr. Leunamme’s memory ever since. How could someone he met in a place of worship have behaved that way?

That’s a question I have always asked even back in Nigeria. And each time people would simply tell me to get used to it. “This is Nigeria” they would say. “Stop acting as if you’re from America.

The problem is I simply cannot get used to it. I can NEVER stop being amazed at the audacity of people who do things like that. It’s something I cannot conceive of doing, talk less of living with the knowledge that I did it.

Sadly, Honesty – or Integrity – is Not Written On a Person’s Forehead For Others to See

Integrity is something that takes people time to verify that you have…or lack. And once they conclude that you lack it, getting them to trust you afterwards can be a tough call.

This is why to get people to trust and accept you, you’ll need great patience.

In my meeting with Dr. Leunamme today, he told me to work hard at getting myself known in wider social circles than I have so far done.

He commended my efforts at integrating with the academic community in Calavi, and also with some business owners in Cotonou. But he recommended that I get involved in social groups as well.

In addition, he advised that I visit international organizations to make myself known to them – pointing out that I needed to provide my credentials.

And most importantly, he strongly advised that I get at least a little office where people can find me.

I’m Already Doing Some of The Above As Work-In-Progress.

Last week (from 7pm) I was in a small town outside Calavi to meet with a business man who trades and also runs a computer school. He paid my transportation to and fro, to discuss my offer to help interested persons establish a low cost drinks production facility using pineapple peels as the major raw materials.

When he saw a demonstration of my English-French language guide, he took me to his  school premises (10 pm at night!), saying he would like to have the finished version for use in teaching adult learners.

Hopefully, he won’t develop cold feet at some point and withdraw, like some have done (or seem to be in the process of doing).

Not that I blame any of them though :-)

It Can Be Tough Being a Nigerian Under These Conditions: But I’m Not Complaining!

After all said and done, I can still say without exaggeration, that I’m better off today, than I was when I arrived on the 1st of April.

Among other things, I have a new product I’m sure of selling both here, and in other countries, including Nigeria. Also, my French continues to improve greatly. Plus, I have excellent working conditions here (enabling me get more done in 24 hours) i.e electricity, water, great friends, peace of mind etc!

So, I intend to dig in and work on improving my strategies, till I get what I want.

Sooner than later, MORE members of my target audience in Benin Republic will discover I’m a good guy, and take advantage of they useful value I offer. It’s just a matter of time really.

And that’s what you do to win people over, when they’re scared to trust you: keep at it, until they accept you!

[IMPORTANT: This blog's contents are being updated following the transfer to www.tayosolagbade.com from my former domain - Spontaneousdevelopment.com. As a result, some parts of it may not work properly for now. Quick Tip: If a link contains "spontaneousdevelopment.com", simply change it to "tayosolagbade.com" - and it should work. This applies to article links as well as image links. Work continues to update the links(in over 500 articles). Tayo K. Solagbade.]

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