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The Relationship Between Incontinence, Credibility, Trust and Value

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Yes. You read it right. Here’s the back story.

Whenever I’m a guest lecturer or conducting training, I’ll frequently start out with a story. (And just for the record, I’ve been telling stories long before it became a recognized sales tool!) Anyway, my clairvoyance aside, I use the story to make specific points, and always tell the audience they will remember three things after I conclude my presentation or training session.


The story goes like this…

At one point in my career, one of my colleagues was a woman who worked in the company’s finance department. Her responsibilities included things like generating accounts receivable and payable reports, profit and loss statements. She also produced invoices.

This one particular day, she had just hit the send button for the last invoice, when she realized it contained a mistake. But, rather than panicking, she was proactive, corrected the invoice and re-sent it. She also did something few of us in business (or in life for that matter), rarely do. Along with the corrected invoice, she admitted her mistake in her follow-up email and then went a step further. She copied the client’s senior management, as well as my company’s senior management and updated everyone involved by explaining what had happened.

She then closed her email by apologizing for any ‘incontinence’ it may have caused.

It’s always fun for me to watch the audience’s reaction after I repeat her email comment. Some people immediately laugh when they hear the word ‘incontinence’. Others are awkwardly silent, not knowing if they should feel sorry for me because I used the wrong word, or laugh. But without fail, and usually within seconds, everyone in the room will laugh. Which is a good thing, because in my experience, I’ve found humor to act as a tremendous ice breaker, and makes people more receptive to listening and learning, especially when it’s delivered in a story format.

There’s a mountain of neuroscience information as to why that works. It happens to suit my personality and I’m comfortable with it. Here’s a good example of why humor works in business and one about storytelling written by Roger Dooley, about sales expert and author, Paul Smith.

At this point during my story, I tell people from that day forward, I always remembered the woman. Not as the person who accepted responsibility for her mistakes and corrected them. Not as the woman who was proactive and made sure everyone on both the client and company teams understood what had happened. And not for the rare quality exhibited by her honesty.

No, from that day forward, I always referred to her as ‘The Incontinence Lady’ and I tell the audience, that now they will too. And how all the good things she did were obliterated.

I go on, explaining to the audience, “Did she use spellcheck and grammar check?”. The answer was yes. And incontinence was spelled and used correctly in the sentence. But, did she read it?  The answer was no. Why? Because, like most of us, she was busy and didn’t take or have the time.

Was it a little thing?  Yes.

About now you’re probably thinking:


“OK Bob, but what does incontinence have to do with credibility, trust and value?”

Plenty. While it was a misused word and a seemingly little thing, there are a lot of little things like that, and subtleties which fall under the broad umbrella of ‘micro-messaging‘. And in my opinion, those messages can also have a negative or positive effect on relationships which impact credibility, trust and value.

It’s basically my Business Development Feng Shui Syllogism as follows:

  1. If you have no credibility, then people will not trust you.
  2. If you have no trust, people will not value what you are proposing.
  3. If you provide no value, you will not generate revenue.

Those are the three things I want audiences to remember and it doesn’t matter what vehicle or ‘hook’ I use to accomplish that objective. It’s the takeaway which is important and I believe those three things need to be evident in every aspect of your business in order to have and keep revenue. My simplistic formula is:

Credibility + Trust + Value = Revenue


How to communicate Credibility, Trust and Value

Here are four key, inter-related revenue generating areas I’ve found most businesses and non-profits have in common when it comes to business development. Each has several supporting subcomponents; all represent opportunities to communicate Credibility, Trust and Value. How you communicate those three things to and with your clients and prospects will impact your revenue base…as well as your clients.

1) Awareness

This includes things like branding with regard to advertising, public relations, social media, your website and blog. If your company and colleagues are not telling the same story and don’t have the same, shared objectives…then that in itself is a story. Branding expert, Denise Lee Yohn has some good advice on the subject in her HBR article.

2) Presentation and Proposals

You’re doing yourself a huge disservice by not preparing for your meetings. And I don’t just mean rehearsing for new prospect meetings (although that is very important and usually not done very often). I mean internal meetings and client meetings too. Don’t waste people’s time with presentations and proposals telling clients and prospects how great you and your company are with endless slides and self-praising rhetoric. They don’t really care. They do care about how you can help impact their revenue base. Show them quantified value you’ll be delivering based upon their objectives, not yours.

3) Account Management

Once you have the business, you need to do whatever you can to keep it. This includes providing clients with regular outcome reports and making sure results (and complaints) are communicated internally and with the client. Doing so provides opportunities to demonstrate your credibility and value so your clients will trust you with future projects. One of the best ways to build on that base is with regularly scheduled, face-to-face meetings.

Virtual meetings, when well executed (which is a key phrase) are also good platforms for saving time/money, addressing logistical problems and providing modular elearning. But by relying exclusively on virtual meetings, opportunities to deepen revenue-building relationships on a more personal and intimate level are missed, which only a face-to-face environment can provide.

4) Protection and Expansion of Revenue

This includes things like: lead generation, overall satisfaction with close rates vs. proposed business, referral and retention rates. If you’re happy with how your company ranks in those areas, then good for you. In my experience, people are typically not happy with their lead generation efforts and close rates vs. proposed business. Generally speaking, they are happy with their client retention rates. But it is happiness which comes at a high price, and that price is time. The trick is to control the demands beyond the scope of the project, which is frequently referred to as ‘service or scope creep‘. When left uncontrolled, it will detract from time you could be spending on improving lead generation, close rates and referral rates. It’s a delicate balancing act.

There are multiple subcomponents within each of the above categories and I’ve touched on some of them. I bet you can easily add to the list. I also know it would be an eye-opening exercise for you to compare lists with your colleagues.

If you’re interested in seeing more of the subcomponents, you can find them in a diagnostic tool my company created a while back to measure how well companies communicated overall value to clients and prospects. It was part of a preliminary benchmark study sent to senior management at 50 diverse companies. How did they do?  The average respondent score out of 100 possible points was 62.5 or the grade equivalent of a ‘D-‘.

If you’d like to see how your company compares, email me at [email protected] and I’ll send the tool to you.

Bob Musial
You know when you run into a sales person who talks, but doesn’t listen? Does bad, really bad, self-serving presentations? Never follows-up with you on time and basically is just annoying? Well, I help people (and companies), not to be like that and try to have a little fun in the process. I’m pretty easy to reach. Pretty easy to talk with too.
Bob Musial
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