Trust building is an essential stage in business without which your desired level or goals might not be reached. This article introduces you to necessary steps to be taken in order to have the best relationship with your clients and deliver extraordinary solutions to their problem.
STEPS TO TRUST BUILDING WITH CLIENT
- Respect Their Time
As our society, in general, loses some of the courtesy and respect previous generations showed one another, I think we are well served to raise our awareness of other people’s time, personal schedule, and needs. This concept translates to:
- Promptly returning phone calls.
- Promptly replying to emails and thoroughly addressing all points raised.
- Log on to a scheduled call 2 minutes in advance of the start time.
- Hold fast to estimated call end times, or (near scheduled end time) inquire if attendees are free to keep going.
- Conform to Their Work Style
You’ve read how some people get all their writing in as the roosters’ crow? Or maybe heard the phrase “Call me anytime, I’m always working”? Consider establishing communication preferences as part of your new client onboarding process. Sure, you may intuit somewhere around week 4 that your contact is always available at 8:30 am except on Thursdays, but if you establish preferences for modes and times (Call? Email? Skype? Breakfast meeting?) early, then that demonstrates you’re thinking of all the details and willing to take some steps to accommodate the client.
- Keep Your Commitments
This concept ties in with respecting someone’s time, but goes a bit further. Consultants can’t accomplish work without input (feedback, tangible assets, consent, etc.) from clients. You can’t expect a client to do their part to uphold a timeline if you’re not toeing the line yourself. This translates to:
- Keep appointments.
- Promptly getting back in touch with any follow-up items promised.
- Regularly communicate progress made toward an established deadline (this is a great way of demonstrating you’re always thinking of the client and it keeps the client up to speed in case others ask them about status).
- Listen for Their Pain Points and Relieve Them
It can be hard to dig down beneath the basic barriers to being more productive we all share too little time, too many meetings, too much bureaucracy. But if you listen closely enough for the underlying root cause, you may just find ways to make your client’s life just a little easier. And that’s just one way to demonstrate your commitment and gain some trusted ground.
- Does your client have to take the data you report and mash it into a bigger aggregate report for use by internal stakeholders? Offer to format your information so it slides in easily. Or offer to do the admin work yourself (if it makes sense to do so).
- Find flaws in your client’s processes they didn’t know they had, and improve upon them. What, he can’t give you an editorial style guide for the blog you’re assigned to write? Then offer to use the bits and pieces of info they can feed you and write a draft of one for them.
- Establish Level Ground
Sometimes people can articulate the problems they want to solve. Other times they just know the outcomes they want. Come closer to delivering on client expectations when you:
- Ask them to thoroughly complete a project brief at the onset of working together. Some people will try to avoid it, saying it takes too much time. Those people will be very hard to satisfy because they haven’t zeroed in on their priorities.
- Get them to talk about projects that they consider to have been successes. What variables contributed?
- Get them to talk about projects that failed. What were the communication failures? Administrative or logistic failures? Learn from what worked and what didn’t.
- Communicate Clearly and Openly
We all have different attention spans and information requirements. Some people like to be carbon copied on all activities, even if they don’t have an assigned deliverable. Others don’t want the full picture, only to be looped in if a problem arises.
However, you are to push information out. This may mean:
- Writing conference reports detailing phone discussions or in-person meetings where decisions and task assignments were made and outstanding questions raised. I first experienced this early in my career on the agency side. Still a good practice, maybe more so with less frequent in-person meetings.
- Maintaining a central repository of messages and associated files. For projects or ongoing assignments with clients (not a simple, quick info exchange), I rely on project management tools like Asana to be a “hub” with clients. We’ll write more about collaboration and project tools later.
- Never assuming information/requests sent was received. “Well, I emailed her but didn’t hear back” is weak. Passing a hot potato doesn’t absolve one of responsibility, check back and be sure they got it