Trust is the cornerstone of any relationship. The breakdown of which can spell the end of friendships, marriages and business partnerships. Not being able to establish trust at the beginning of a relationship tends to significantly limit that partnership’s chance of getting off the ground.
The influential work on trust, The Trusted Adviser, suggests there are four key elements to build trust — Credibility, Reliability, Intimacy and Self-Orientation. All of which must be in place to establish trust. It’s fair to say that these points will be characteristics found in the best leaders and new business people.
Looking at these points in more detail, what do they mean in the context of building new business relationships?
This is about what is said and how it’s communicated. It also encompasses any marketing materials, website, advertising, social media etc. This is where the line between sales and marketing continues to blur. The importance of a credible and informative online and offline presence is paramount.
The notion of credibility is also hugely important to the individual representing a business. How one looks, acts and behaves in a business environment also adds to or diminishes credibility. The ultimate aim here is to ensure the potential new client (or investor) trusts what they are reading or being told.
Consistency is key. New business people must by systematically dependable in their dealings with potential clients. Call when you say you will (or don’t when you say you wont), send proposals within the timescales agreed, never be late for meetings (appreciate there are certain exceptions to this), reconfirm meetings, set small goals in the process and consistently hit them (sending agenda, setting diary entries, sending timely post meeting thank you emails). Each of these small ‘wins’ will compound to add to the potential client’s ability to trust.
Intimacy is about connecting on an emotional level. Sharing information and discussing subjects that are not limited to business. This can’t be forced and will have to be developed over time but is a very powerful part of the equation. Taking business relationships out of the office can be a good way to break down barriers and provide the environment for more intimate conversations. Correctly used, a drink or meal with a client can help solidify a relationship — again, it’s important to remember that this can’t be forced.
The final point is about focusing solely on the client’s needs and business challenges. Asking open questions, listening without distraction and acknowledging their feelings. It’s a quiet confidence that earns respect and builds trusts. Low self-orientation is never pushy, showy, salesy or overly talkative — it’s wholly consultative.
Most of the best new business people will already be doing the points mentioned above but there is always room for improvement. I’m sure if you reflect on your most successful client relationships, all of the 4 core elements of trust will have played a part.