We live in an age where trust has become like the elusive unicorn. In fact, according to the Edelman Trust Barometer, trust is in crisis and there are more “distrusters” than those that trust business, government, media and NGOs to do what is right. In an era where we question what we read, see and hear, it may seem like an uphill battle to develop trust and long-term relationships with clients. The good news is that while general trust is waning it is not dead. Not only can we win trust, but should fight for it. As counselors setting the path for those who hire us, winning trust enables us to restore public trust one client at a time. When clients trust you and your counsel, they follow your advice to do the right thing internally and externally.
Winning trust does not require technical wizardry or algorithms, but is surprisingly old-school. In this post we share five quick tips that will have you rocking your client engagements and building relationships that last.
Set a solid foundation
It is important to begin building trust with the very first client meeting. Do what you say that you’re going to do when you say you’re going to do it. If you say that you will follow up in three days, follow up. If you say that you can solve a problem, show them how you will achieve the outcome you’re proposing. From the start be a trusted advisor and demonstrate that what you do will help them achieve the things they care about.
Make it about them
You are excited about landing a brand new client you love the work that you’re doing and are happy to be a part of it. But from day one the way to build trust is to keep the focus on them and not you. Be engaged with their organization. Care about the issues that they care about. Show them in every way that you are thinking of them and their needs.
Give to Get
One way to gain your client’s trust is to trust them. Don’t just hear them but listen. It is important to not dismiss their input or ideas, but make them part of the process. You will gain trust and cooperation when clients and their teams feel heard.
Be the Expert
Clients hire you for your expertise, not to agree with everything that they say or do. Push back when necessary, and stand firm to guide clients in the right direction. You will earn trust by being confident in your role and protecting the client’s interests even when they do not agree.
You don’t have to work in a silo focusing only on your area of expertise. If you see other ways that you can help your client (within reason, of course) make suggestions. If you spot problems, or areas that can use improvement, speak up. Share information and insights with your client and you will become more than a contractor, but a trusted partner.
Earning trust in a world in which mistrust seems to be the rule, is still possible. Care about the people you serve and do the right thing. Your integrity will demonstrate that you are worthy of trust.
Have you noticed a decline in trust? What have you done to get clients to trust you? Share in the comments or on social media using #solopr.