Busted to Trusted

A tail of building client relationships
By Martyn Canham

I am reminded of a time a few years ago where my team was shut down unexpectedly in the closing stages of a large contract negotiation and forcefully questioned about our proposition.

I was totally baffled at the time by this sudden turn of events. Predictably, we didn’t win the contact, and the client’s apparent poor perception soon began to migrate into other geographical areas of the business.

A few months later, I moved into a new management role that allowed me to approach the source of the previous problem. With the defeat still fresh in my mind, I decided to meet with the same representative. After six (very guarded) months of using the method detailed below, that once-hostile connection turned into one of the most trusted and valued relationships for my company.

The final frontier

It’s important to note that building authentic trust in a client relationship is one of the most potent, yet overlooked, key differentiators available for creating an extraordinary enterprise.

More than any other time in history, your clients have a vast array of suppliers available at their fingertips, all of which offer similar quality, functionality, innovation, aesthetic, delivery and price. The final frontier, and by far the most powerful of the traditional differentiators, is the ability to build trusted relationships with your key clients.

The three phases

After reviewing phases one, two and three below, you can see that trust is comprised of three components: character, competence and confidence. When these components are plotted over the three phases of a business relationship, a valuable and long-term rapport is formed that can withstand nearly any hurdle.

The job of the business leader is to move as quickly as possible through the first two phases of business relationships and arrive at phase three where the client has complete trust in you, your products and services.

7 steps to building authentic trust

With hard work, dedication and the skillful application of the following model, you can, over time, arrive at a place where your targeted or existing clients consider you as a trusted partner or advisor.

1. Be prepared to listen. Remove all emotions by putting yourself in the client’s shoes and understand what they are really looking for.

2. Design a structured plan. Cover all requirements and exactly how you will satisfy them all.

3. Confirm the understanding. Meet with the client to present what you plan to do, and verify the plan contains what he or she needs.

4. Pledge and commit. Look the client in the eye, and give your word that you will take full responsibility for personally delivering what’s required, and if you don’t deliver, you won’t expect to get any additional business.

5. Deliver. Do whatever it takes to follow through with what you said you would do.

6. Present the results. Take pride in updating the client with progress on the achievement of the plan until everything is complete.

7. Reap the rewards. If you have followed the previous six steps, you should now have earned some level of mutual trust with the client. The relationship is now on a stable footing to be able to build a trusted relationship over time.

The final key

The final key to maintaining the trusted relationship is communication at a frequency where you are not a pest, but you’re always available to provide stewardship or overview.

When you consciously target the building of trusted client relationships into your annual objectives, you will grow your business geometrically through referrals with quality clients who will stay loyal to you for many years to come.

And with the right approach, behaviors and attitude, I know that even the toughest of characters can end up being your greatest supporters.

So step back and reexamine the relationships you have with your key clients. What phase are you in today, and what actions do you need to take to ensure you start to reap the rewards of a truly trusted client relationship?

Martyn Canham

International business groundbreaker, influencer and entrepreneur.

Martyn Canham has more than 25 years of experience within international business management. His areas of specialization include business startups, emerging markets, growth management and client relations.