Trust is at the center of every decision customers make. Over the years, I’ve narrowed the client decision-making process down to 3 questions:
If they believe the answer “yes” to all these questions, you should win the client. Let’s get into how to build trust in these areas.
Trust to Tell the Difficult Truth
When I was CEO of a startup, we installed beta software for a Chicago bank. Unfortunately, our overly aggressive installer disrupted their failover system. I took one breath and called the client at home to inform him. His wife answered, “He’s on the phone with work.” I replied, “I think I know why.”
Three months later, I’m at a customer prospect dinner with the Chicago bank client who started telling the fried mainframe story to the table. Shocked, I pulled him away from the group to ask why he was sharing such an unflattering story.
“You don’t understand,” he said. “Everybody that works with advanced technology knows the bad day will come. What they don’t know is how you’ll behave on that bad day. I was sharing how you behaved on a bad day, and that’s worth more than you’ll ever realize.” He is right.
Mistakes are going to happen. You can either work to be right in a situation by working to avoid blame or you can win, and the only way to win is to tell the truth.
I have this thing I call the “one breath rule.” It’s the idea that if you get really bad news, you take one breath and share it. The key is to be honest, and act quickly, so the client doesn’t hear the news from someone else. If you tell the client about your mistake, they’ll give you points for honesty; worst case they’ll think you’re foolish, but at least you’ll be an honest fool.
Trust to Get the Job Done Right
Clients need to trust that you can get the job done right.
Competency involves the technical know-how of product and service execution and delivery. Technological competence is the basis of knowledge, skills, and abilities in technology—in other words, can the vendor do what they say they can do.
Distinctive competencies are often what initially attract clients to an engineering services company. Building a team with relevant technology and/or vertical experience, exhibiting the ability to meet deadlines, and adhering to SLAs will garner the attention you desire. But what’s most important is the ability of your team to deliver its promised value, even when under pressure.
Bluffing about your competencies for the sake of winning a client will have compounding negative effects on your time, money, and reputation down the road. Building rapport with a client means leading with honesty from day one—your authenticity will reflect your dedication and eagerness to meet their needs.
Trust to Add Value
Clients need to trust that you can add value to their business.
The first question clients want to know is, “What can you do for me and my business?” Addressing plans to add competitive business advantages is at the top of my agenda when speaking to a prospect or existing client. This begins with a deep understanding of the client’s business, pain points, and goals. Then, it’s time to innovate.
There are three different ways to add value to a business via innovation:
The quote often misattributed to Walt Whitman, “Be curious, not judgmental,” certainly applies in these situations. If a client or team member has an out-of-the-box idea, I hear them out rather than shut them down. I want to discover the “Why?” behind their rationale. Understanding the motivation for their thinking opens the door to even greater insights. Exploring thoughts without judgment is critical to building trust and delivering innovation.
The Key Ingredient to Winning More Clients
Every interaction presents an opportunity to gain a customer’s trust. With fierce competition and increasing expectations of customers these days, businesses must never stop working to build confidence in their clients that they can deliver honesty, competency, and value.
As you build trust in these critical areas, you’ll see the relationships between you and your clients elevate. Not only will this help to retain clients, but it will also help you attract more business. When customers trust you, they are more likely to introduce you to their network. A referral is the most accurate indicator of customer satisfaction and business growth. Technology will come and go. Trust is enduring.