It’s the gold standard by which all of your business relationships should be compared. You’ve struck pay dirt when you earn a customer's trust. Its value is huge and when your relationship with a customer gets to this level, congratulations are in order, because it can take years to build trust. One thing is certain, when you are trusted, you are a part of the inner circle and it is not a responsibility you should take lightly. You’ve worked hard to get here and you should be very proud of your accomplishment.
Trust does not come without investment. Time. Energy. Resources. You may have worked late for this customer, run around town at all hours day and night picking up and delivering products. You probably made many phone calls, driven more miles, stayed late at the office, missed personal commitments and gone to bat a few times to resolve their problems. Over the course of the relationship you have laughed and cried with this customer and you probably know his wife’s name, the college his kid attends and his last vacation destination. Nice work, well done.
So how do you describe trust to either someone new in business or to someone just beginning to understand the importance of trust in the business world? Each customer is unique and has his own standards that would qualify as trustworthy and while you may not be able to describe exactly how to win over a customer’s trust in a step by step process, there are some telltale clues that help you recognize it. For the record, there is no better indicator of trust than a customer providing you with their loyalty as a part of the relationship.
Be cautious when you read this list of 4 indicators, since the reward (in this case trust) does not come without effort. A customer feigning trust, providing it too early in your relationship, to gain your trust, will create a one sided relationship, always favoring him. Be on the lookout, customers that trust you should also be able to be trusted in return. You have rights as well, as you should. Trust is not a faucet that can be turned hot and cold on demand, but instead an integral part of a relationship that must be earned by both parties equally. With each of the points below, the level of trust may also be relative to the importance of the decision being made by your customer. Ok, enough of the legal mumbo-jumbo and fine print, on with the list of four.
“Can I ask your advice?” These are great words to hear from a customer. Your opinion matters and if your customer says these words, think carefully before you respond since your words will weigh when a decision is made.
“If you were me what would you do?” Similar to the quote above, your customer is putting you in a position to be a consultant, the professional expert, asking you to swap places with him. If you don’t know all the facts, now is your chance to ask more questions. Investigate before advising.
Your customer specifically wants you to handle his business and goes out of his way to make sure to give you the business. A customer that can do business with anyone but chooses to do business with you does so because you have proven yourself. This is a powerhouse position to be in, and one that only comes when earned.
Human to human conversations on any level, personal or business, are a great sign that your customer is comfortable with you and trusts you. It’s a great thing if you can have a conversation with your customer, put aside the small talk and rapport building chatter and have a real exchange, one on one. When your customer isn’t pulling a power play, exerting influence or telling you what to do in a condescending way you are in the clear to have a good interaction, deliver clear facts, professional opinion and expert advice.
People do business with people they like and people they trust. Your goal should be to build a relationship with your customer that includes trust as a major component. If it’s not a part of your relationships now, re-examine your approach to business. Over the years, I have found that business relationships involving trust are more profitable, easier to maintain (problem clients are high maintenance) and last longer. And that’s good news, all the way around.
I am very interested in your comments and would also love your shares on any social media channel you use including Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. I am available to speak to your organization, association or non-profit on the steps to building lifetime relationships with our customers.