Most of us in the business world have worked with a “client” in some form or another… Whether your clients are internal or external stakeholders, building trust with your clients should be a top priority. Trust is the main factor that either makes or breaks a project, a relationship, and even an entire company’s reputation. Obviously, delivery – going above and beyond expectations – is key, but without trust your delivery is a moot point. Whether you’re leading a multi-million dollar digital transformation, or simply providing the weekly revenue report to your boss, the trust that you’ve built up makes your delivery credible.
If you agree on the importance of trust, the key question then becomes, “how does one obtain a certain level of rapport and trust with his or her clients?” Below are a few effective tactics to build trust with your clients:
1. It’s about them, not you
- Whether your clients chose to work with you, or it’s something that they have been tasked with (from their boss, the internal org structure, or whatever other powers that be), they are the priority.
- Respect their time – doing simple things like showing up to meetings on time and responding to emails or calls as soon as possible shows a genuine interest in respecting your clients’ needs.
- Respect their values – if they don’t want to work this weekend because they have their kid’s baseball tournament (or for any other reason), don’t push for a deadline they cannot commit to.
- Be mindful of other priorities – a lot of times, whether working as a 3rd party consultant or an internal team member from a different group, your clients likely have other commitments and priorities that still need to get done. Even if you’ve been told or you think your job is the most important, it’s likely not, and that’s ok.
2. Listen for pain points and address / solve them
This may seem like a no-brainer, but oftentimes when you speak with your clients, they are describing the symptoms of their problems and not necessarily the cause. With enough practice, you get good at reading between the lines and asking the necessary follow up questions so you can effectively alleviate their pain points. Similarly, various stakeholders might have different pains around the same problem; keep that in mind when developing solutions.
3. Be consistent, clear and open
These trust-building pillars are key when making a connection with your clients. Trust is built when someone knows they are getting what they expect, every time. It is also built when people know they are getting the full story, and not just bits and pieces to make them happy. From the client’s perspective, they want to know what you deliver is consistent as well. Is your data consistently accurate and formatted well for the monthly revenue report the finance team puts out? Do you provide sound weekly updates on the digital transformation project you are implementing? Whatever you’re working on for your clients, be precise, open and clear in your communications and delivery.
4. Claim accountability
Everyone is quick to assume accountability for a reward or praise, but few are those to own up to their mistakes. Playing the finger-pointing game never got anyone anywhere. Taking accountability for an action is not just about putting your hand up. Rather, it’s making it clear that from the start, that your intention is to follow through on a particular action or deliverable. This act of claiming accountability also lowers your clients’ guard, so that the trust factor is increased even further. It shows you have a strong character and are willing to accept the bad along with the good. Building trust is all about being accountable to those we work alongside – as a client, as a partner, as a colleague.
5. Strive to be more than just another input
When you can differentiate yourself by being more than just an upstream provider of something (data, numbers, technology, project management, etc.), your trust factor will increase/improve. The goal is to become a trusted advisor – someone that your clients rely on to get the job done right, every time. A few ways to achieve trusted advisor status:
- Be genuinely passionate, enthusiastic, and authentic
- Connect emotionally and get up close and personal (if and when possible)
- Be credible without trying too hard
- Show commitment for the long-term, not just short-term gains
There is plenty of reading material out there about how to effectively manage your work relationships, whether it's with internal or external stakeholders, but it’s no secret that trust is the number one factor which boosts those relationships to the next level. Putting together the profit and loss statement for your executive team doesn’t have to be such a daunting task… just do it right and rely on the credibility you’ve built up with them. If you’re new in doing such a task, make sure to follow some of the steps above to gain their trust. If you are an external consultant working on a million-dollar digital transformation for your client, again adhere to some of the steps above and you will more than likely succeed and be recommended for further projects. Whatever you’re tasked with when working with clients, make a concerted effort to gain their trust - it will take you to great places.