Trust – A firm belief in the reliability, truth, or ability of someone or something.
Trust is not a given. We encounter it daily when interacting with people, including family. Trust must be earned over time, and requires dedication and consistency. It takes a long time to build trust, and merely a split second to lose it. The smallest misunderstanding, the smallest incident, an inaccuracy or an untruth, can crack the wall of trust. That crack can never be patched up completely.
How do we build trust with clients? Trust must be at the forefront of every interaction with clients. From our brand messaging and positioning in the marketplace, to keeping our promises to them to the letter. The ongoing communications can be flawless during a project, but if we promise a specific date, and don’t deliver for whatever reason, we crack that wall of trust. Trust is fickle that way.
It’s the little things, not the big promises, which make or break trust with those around us. I clearly remember explaining to an employee a mistake my payroll team had made, which caused the employee much grief. Once I rectified the situation, the employee responded with:
“We don’t talk very often, but whenever we do you seem very honest, open and straightforward with me. I really appreciate it…”
We all make mistakes – owning up to them and rectifying them helps to build trust with others.
I don’t mince my words. I choose to simplify client conversations. Not because I don’t know the industry terms, but because people instinctively understand, and don’t need to pause and think about them. People tend to distrust what they don’t understand, so why put additional hurdles in relationships?
We all need to understand the value of clear and simple messaging; brand and reputation. Company brands and personal brands go hand in hand. A very successful businessman with whom I had closely worked, referred his brother to me for advice. I clearly remember him telling me: “My brother is a very clever man, and doesn’t suffer fools lightly. I don’t refer people to him normally, but I trust you to get along with him because of your direct approach.” We got along just fine. We still do.
How to earn clients’ trust:
1. Own your shortcomings
I’m not perfect. I’m not trying to portray an image which I can’t live up to. People can subconsciously relate to that. Although I’m an advisor, I don’t always know everything. Being aware of your shortcomings allows you to work towards searching for answers.
2. Keep time
When making a plan, stick to it at all costs. We are the only ones who can control our time. We all have the same time in the day and get to decide how we spend it. You made a plan – stick to it.
Although life happens and you may be unable to keep promises, be upfront with your client about why you cannot meet them or a deadline and apologise profusely.
3. Actions speak louder than words
I can’t stress this enough – practice what you preach. The more your actions match your words, the easier it will be to earn trust. The more discrepancy exists between your words and your actions, the harder it will be to gain (or regain) trust.
4. Communicate your feelings
Stoicism puts a barrier between people. Being perceived as emotionless doesn’t help in building trust. If your feelings can impact your working relationships, find a way to express them. Be respectful without hiding your emotions. They need to know they are working with a human being, not a machine. We all have feelings and can relate to others displaying theirs. We all trust others we can relate to.
5. Demonstrate integrity
Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.
Do the right thing. Always. Even if it isn’t for your personal gain. Sometimes it will even hurt you, at that point in time. Yet you’ll gain a lot more than what you may lose by doing the right thing. You’ll gain respect, and trust.
On a personal note:
Steer away from phrases asking others to trust you! “Believe me”, “in all honesty”, “to tell you the truth”, etc. are the worst things you can say if you want to build trust. If you are genuinely honest, you need not convince people of that with leading phrases. Just take those out of your vocabulary. Trust me on this one!