Our firm recently delivered an on-site business development program for a large law firm. One segment focused on ways to build trusting relationships with clients and why that is so important.
During the program, we highlighted the results from a survey conducted by Miller Heiman, which showed lack of trust as the top reason why prospects don’t buy products from certain providers.1 In fact, over 50 percent of respondents quoted lack of trust as the primary reason for turning down a service provider. In contrast, only 13 percent of respondents stated that they didn’t need the services. This survey shows us that trust is the most important factor, even more than the need for services.
Building trust is getting harder to do. One study found that 55 percent of consumers trust companies less than they used to. Trust is a critical factor in building relationships with your client, and it’s essential to understand the common reasons clients trust their service providers. Here are six simple ways that you can build relationships based on trust.
What is the best way to communicate bad news to a client?
Communicating bad news isn’t fun, but it can go a long way to building trust with your clients. Being as transparent as possible is essential; this lets the client know that you aren’t hiding anything. A phone call or face-to-face meeting is more personal and an effective way to deliver bad news. Also, come prepared with an action plan on how you intend to fix the situation.
1. Always Deliver on Your Promises
The best way to build trust with your clients is to always deliver on your promises and commitments. It’s easy to make big promises to secure a sale, but you must deliver on your promises. Unfortunately, missing commitments and not living up to your promises sets you up for failure right from the beginning.
Instead, be clear with the client on estimated time frames or expectations. If their demands are unreasonable, help them understand the requirements for a good quality outcome. In most cases, it’s best to make commitments that allow you to overdeliver. Professionals who meet their commitments, deliver on promises, and adhere to timeframes have a better chance of securing additional business.
2. Keep Your Customer Top-of-Mind
It takes a lot of time to build trust and develop long-term relationships with clients. A great way to do this is to show them that you are interested in their success and always look for ways to bring them value.
It’s essential to learn as much about your client, their business, and industry as possible. If you understand their pain points, you can be on the lookout for information that could be helpful to them. For example, if you read an online article related to their industry or business, you can forward them the link. Be sure to include a short note that lets them know why you thought they would find the article interesting and how you feel it would benefit them. This helps demonstrate that you are interested in them, their business, and understand their challenges.
In addition to bringing them value, this allows you to maintain regular contact and check in with them. The key is not to expect anything in return. A genuine, thoughtful note will go a long way in building a business relationship based on trust. Then, when your client or prospect needs services you offer, you and your company will be the first one they think of.
3. Ask Thoughtful Questions
Knowing how to ask the right questions provides your client or prospect a chance to open up and share information. It allows you to better understand their needs and the challenges they are facing. Asking open-ended questions encourages the client to provide detailed responses.
It’s also important to understand the power of listening. Let the client do more of the talking as you absorb the information they are sharing with you. This may feel awkward at first, but with practice, you can uncover important information that they normally may not share.
4. Encourage Collaboration by Providing Options
Clients don’t want to be told what they need. Sometimes, it’s best to show them the available options and help them discover the option that is best for them. By collaborating with clients, you will strengthen the relationship and build their trust.
Provide your client with options and alternatives to offer potential solutions and ways that they can benefit from your services. Take the time to review each option with them thoroughly. Be sure to review the pros and cons of each possibility. Full disclosure of information demonstrates sincerity that you are open and honest with them. This will help them see you as an advocate that wants to contribute and participate in their success. Always focus on their desired outcomes and the options you believe will provide the most benefit.
5. Have Their Best Interests in Mind
As you review your client’s options, demonstrate that you have their best interests in mind. If the client feels that you are trying to sell them something they don’t need, this will damage any attempt to build trust. If the client perceives that you are putting your interests before theirs, they will likely prefer working with your competitor instead. The best client solution may not be the most profitable option for you. However, it’s much better to have a client who trusts you and provides a steady flow of business over the long term.
A few years ago, our firm was working with a client on a critical business project. We proposed two possible solutions but strongly recommended the least expensive option. Why? We felt that the cheapest option was a better solution for our client. The client immediately recognized our integrity and selflessness to put them first. Later, when the client had another project, they called us right away and directly awarded our firm the work. The client trusted us enough to also refer our firm to other companies.
6. Be Transparent About Challenges or Issues
From time to time, you will face unexpected challenges or issues with your client’s projects. How you respond to those challenges will significantly impact the level of trust that your client has in you. By being transparent and honest about issues, you let the client know that you are trustworthy. It’s never fun to deliver bad news, but the sooner you do it, the better. When delivering a difficult message, be clear about what happened and what course of action you plan to take to correct the issue.
Being a trusted advisor will help clients be more receptive to negative news. If you have a strong relationship, clients are more likely to overlook the problem and recognize your effort to correct the situation.
Build Trusting Relationships With Clients
Remember, the single most important reason that prospects don’t buy is a lack of trust. If you treat trust as an investment, you will reap the benefits of having strong relationships with your clients. By putting your client’s needs first, you will build trust more quickly. Having this mindset will help you secure more clients, grow your reputation, get more referrals, and increase your revenue.
1Miller Heiman, Conceptual Selling
Bill Taylor is president of Corporate Ladders, a business development consulting and coaching firm specializing in helping professional services firms grow top-line revenues. You can reach him with your questions or comments by phone at +1 201 825 8296 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.