Michael T. Buell has written an important article in The SMPS Marketer — The Impact of Trust.
In it, he asserts that far too many professional service providers take the trust for granted; and that is a mistake. Trust, after all, is the foundation of effective marketing and business development — if current or potential clients trust you, you don’t have to fight an uphill battle to be considered or make your points through the clutter.
But like virtually everything that sounds simple on the surface, it is really a challenge to truly earn and retain trust.
Buell suggests three key elements behind trust in the RFP process, but I think these apply in almost all business development and marketing systems.
Consistent and inspired listening, understanding and responding efforts.
Clients do not want nor need a “sales pitch”. They want to be recognized and understood — and if you can help them solve real problems because you know what they are, and how they happened to be, you’ll be ahead of all the others who arrive on the scene with their prepackaged “solutions.”
Identifying opportunities to help
This is the giving, rather than selling, framework. I think it is one reason that community service, charitable work and association participation are so powerful (long-term) for building relationships and business opportunities. In these contexts, you and your potential clients are working together to help on a common cause — and so naturally they’ll feel much more comfortable accepting your sincere help on their challenges.
Letting chemistry evolve naturally
Personal “chemistry” is especially challenging for some people, especially me. While some people have natural people skills (our wonderful 22-year-old son has proven that with his incredible roster of friends, many of whom are high-achievers in different fields) others like me struggle to connect names and faces, associate with others and “get along”. But that doesn’t entirely excuse me from either finding the way to make the chemistry work, or as a business owner, putting others in front of potential clients with more of the right interpersonal stuff.
We can certainly learn a lot about improving trust — and I think it is safe to say that the more you can genuinely increase client trust, the less money you will waste on expensive and inexpensive marketing.