It’s all well and good to talk about trust, but how do we get to the position of becoming a client’s trusted advisor. Believe it or not, trust is something that is built and nurtured. Trust isn’t an accident. It is a deliberate effort on both party’s parts to engage in an honest relationship with each other’s welfare in mind. Ultimately it arises from the cumulative experiences between two parties over time. Sound like a dream? It’s not. It takes knowledge and work, but it’s worth the learning and effort. Here are just a few.
Put your client’s needs first. What drives the person? What does the organization need to be successful? Find ways to be of help, even if you’re not working together yet. If you’ve read an article or book that could be helpful, send the person a copy. Offer referrals to people in your network who might be of help. Demonstrate that you’ve heard their challenges and want to be of help.
Be authentic. Don’t inflate or otherwise misrepresent yourself or your firm. Know who you are, what your firm is about, what you have to offer, as well as what you or your firm can’t do. When you speak about your business purpose with this kind of authenticity, it rings of truth. It’s also powerful to admit your limits. It tells someone you know the edges of your knowledge and aren’t afraid to admit them, which demonstrates confidence and honesty.
Operate with integrity in all your dealings. Today skepticism and doubt pervades business and public service. Now more than ever people want to know that you are reliable and credible. To earn trust, do things when you say you will. Show a genuine interest in the person you’re meeting as an individual, not just as someone fulfilling a role. Be straightforward and direct about past mistakes or problems.
Pay attention. Whether professional, personal, or familial, relationships grow because we attend to them. Enduring relationships survive the test of time because we commit to them. We make time for people who are important to us. In business, this means finding time for existing and potential clients. Regular, ongoing contact demonstrates a sense of care. Paying attention also means being fully present. When you are with someone, it means giving your full attention. Next time you’re with someone, try listening to the end of his or her sentence.
Finally, what most people feel is the most important, I would list last: credibility. Why last? Because credibility is the foundation of your business. If you can’t provide what you say you will, you shouldn’t even be at the table with a potential client. You should be at the office figuring out how to do what you say you’re able to do, or how to do what you’ve you commit to deliver. If you’re at the table authentically, then your credentials should speak for themselves—or already have. If you’re asked about your credentials, it’s best to present them in a humble way, sharing credit for successful outcomes with your previous clients.