The foundation of any business relationship is trust. It’s easier to build trust when you can look someone in the eye and shake hands. It’s harder to do online.
But there are techniques you can use online to make it easier to build trust and develop a deeper relationship. When you do those things systematically and strategically, you can arrive at a position of trust faster. Making the effort to do this will bring a big difference to your business success.
Three things make up the basis for trust. You want to show people that you are:
- Likeable and
Most people emphasize the last one, but the world is full of competent people. It’s being reliable and likeable that really makes the difference.
Of course, you need to be authentic. If you aren’t actually reliable or competent, you don’t want to pretend you are. (We know you’re likeable!) But assuming that you are competent, reliable and likeable, how do you show that? How can you make it easier for people to see that you are trustworthy online?
Here are five ways to build trust online:
- Make and keep a promise. This is a simple way to get a relationship off to a strong start. Don’t just promise you’ll call or email. Add specifics to the promise – and then follow through. This shows you’re reliable.
- Use social media. Social media provides a forum for showing others you’re the kind of person they want to do business with. Transparency is one of the building blocks of trust, and social media — with its history of your actions and interactions with others — makes it possible for people to see at a glance who you are and get comfortable with you.
- Stay in touch. Staying in touch in a predictable and personal way allows you to make strides to build trust online. It can be done simply and inexpensively, without investing in pricey marketing automation platforms.
- Show you care about them. No doubt, you want to make the sale. But pushing hard to close can backfire. When you show you care by taking a genuine interest in their work initiatives, favorite sports teams and hobbies, you let them see that they matter to you as an individual, not just one step towards a quota.
- Make them (your clients and prospects) look good. If someone compliments you in front of others, doesn’t it make you feel warmer towards them? You can do little things like forwarding recent news about a competitor that they can share with their coworkers and bosses. It’ll make them look good.
Some people use trust as a tactic, but it won’t come across as sincere. Buyers can sense a difference between someone whose main objective is winning and someone who puts the client’s interest first. “When your only focus is to win, customers become objects, tools for achieving that goal. And customers don’t care to be treated that way,” writes Charles H. Green, author of Trust-Based Selling.
If you follow the steps above, in an authentic way, you’ll find it easier to build strong business relationships online, and easier to make sales and get referrals.
I subscribe to emails from a client’s competitor to stay in the loop on what the competitor is doing. In an email, the competitor announced receiving rave reviews from a website that provides impartial coverage of its industry. Curious, I went to the website to search for my client’s product. Nothing. So I contacted the site’s editor to consider reviewing my client’s product.
I forwarded the competitor’s email to the client with a note that I contacted the editor. When the editor replied, I updated the client. Because I subscribed to a competitor’s email, I found two excuses to stay in touch with the client and made her look good as she took the valuable information to her boss.
Move from me-focused to client-focused
One of the principles of building trust online is client focus. To do this means listening without any distractions, allowing the client to lead conversations and asking questions for deeper insight. In doing this, you’ll better understand your clients’ concerns and learn more about the projects they’re working on.
I take notes during client calls, and then enter action items into our CRM, along with tags to identify topics and companies of interest to the client. (Some people prefer to make their notes after they finish the conversation with the client, so the client knows they are listening 100%.)
For example, the client mentions he’s working to find the right marketing automation platform. When you return to your desk, you search for articles and objective reports comparing marketing automation vendors, such as Gartner’s Magic Quadrant. Forward those to the client. Now the client has valuable information to take back to the team and boss. Result? You helped make him look good.
Ways to make your clients look good
Here are seven ways you can make clients look good:
· Search for recent news and insights on your clients’ competitors.
· Dig up stats that support the work you do or what clients need.
· Find articles and reports that help clients in their jobs.
· Deliver complimentary tickets or VIP access to an event.
· Provide a report on results your company got for the client to show coworkers and bosses they made the right decision hiring you.
· Let clients know about something that hasn’t gone public.
· Share information clients will want to re-share with others in the company.
What can you do for your clients that allow them to show others they’re on top of things? What can you do to help them show others they’re respected?
Another time, I found a great report that was right up the client’s alley. The client liked it so much that she wanted to buy the report to send it to her mailing list. Little things like this show clients that you care about them and their success. It builds trust and gains favor. Zig Ziglar explained it best: “You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.”
What other ways can you make clients look good?
How can you make them look good?
One way is giving them information they can pass along to others.
Help prospects in their buying journey
Enterprise buyers shop for high-priced software only a few times in their careers. Your company deals with it every day. Who better than your company knows the buying process for your market? Now use that to become a trusted resource by sharing information from objective resources.
Put yourself in prospects and clients’ shoes and think about what information they need.
For example, you might share news articles, statistics, trends and best practices. That’s information they can share with others involved in the buying decision. It will make them look like they are on top of the evaluation process – deeply knowledgeable and aware of what’s going on in the market.
You know where to look for that information better than they do.
So here’s a simple process to follow:
- Set up a content aggregation tool to keep you on top of news and blog posts. We like Scoop.it, but there are lots of similar tools.
- When you find a neutral blog post or article that would be useful to prospects, bookmark it.
Over time you will build a solid library of classic posts, statistics, and articles to address a wide range of issues. These give you information you can share with your contacts, which they can then re-share and will make them look good.
Types of resources to share
Watch for reports from independent analysts who evaluate competing products. Their report reveals how each company did in meeting set criteria. Gartner’s Magic Quadrants and Forrester’s Waves, for instance, provide impartial analysis of multiple vendors in a variety of major markets.
These reports advise buyers on what features to consider, issues to be aware of and trends to know about. It’s not unusual for a company to distribute third-party articles and reports when the company comes out a winner. But it is unusual to forward a report that doesn’t have all positive things to say about the company’s product.
Rarer still is the company that shares a competitor’s feature list. Along with that list, the company includes notes explaining what is and isn’t in its product, what features matter and don’t matter, and how it compares. In reality, buyers know every company has its strengths and weaknesses. It’s hard to trust a company that focuses on just its strengths.
Their trust in you multiplies when you share expertise with honesty and you’re candid about your product. Yes, warts and all. It takes courage to do it. But because it is rare, people who do it stand out.
Here are a few more types of information you can send:
- Statistics about the size of the market or the demand for the type of software you sell.
- Best practices related to your technology or methodology.
- Trends data that shows where the market is heading.
- Upcoming webinars on topics related to your software.
- For real-world events, complimentary tickets, discount codes or VIP access.
What can you do for clients and prospects that let them show others they’re on top of things? What honest information can you provide to help them in their customer decision journey? How can you help them show others they’re respected?
Someone on Twitter asked about marketing automation vendors. I sent her links to three independent reports. She was appreciative and connected with my team to get more questions answered. Little things like this show you care about them and their success. It builds trust and gains favor.
“You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want,” said motivational trainer Zig Ziglar.
What other ways can you make clients and prospects look good?
Researchers have found that what we do with our faces affects how we feel. When we smile, we feel lighter and happier. A person undergoing an uncomfortable procedure with a frown has a greater chance of experiencing more pain than a person who doesn’t frown.
Try this on for size… Psychologists at the University of Cardiff in Wales conducted a study where half the participants received frown-inhibiting Botox injections. These recipients claimed feeling happier and less anxious.
Think client first
So what does smiling and frowning have to do with building trust online? The first principle of building trust is to put your customer’s needs first. Once you do that, you can’t help but care about clients.
“Trust-Based Selling is a paradox, but not an oxymoron. People demonstrably prefer to buy what they must buy anyway from those they trust. And they trust sellers who put the buyer’s interests first,” writes Charles H. Green, author of Trust-Based Selling. “You can’t fake trust. The trick is — you actually have to care. The solution is simple to state, hard to live.”
Taking a “think client first” approach becomes routine as you interact and learn more about them. Not just about their business and projects, but also their favorite teams, their kids and vacations they’ve taken.
How to put “think client first” to work
How do you manage all this stuff? Keep it simple by making it a habit to take notes when you learn something new. Enter these notes in your CRM, or if you don’t have one, try using LinkedIn Contacts as your CRM or Contactually.
You can set it up to alert you to follow up. For example, I heard about a client’s daughter’s upcoming religious ceremony on a specific date. So I created a follow-up alert to occur at least a week after the event (to give him time to catch up and recover) and checked in with him to see how it went.
If someone mentions plans to go to Florida or takes an interest in a new hobby, note it and create an alert to follow up. When the time comes, do an Internet search on the topic to find something useful. This can be news, tips, articles and what have you. Now you have a genuine reason to touch base.
You do what you can to help the client — not only in business, but also in their personal lives. Of course, companies want to improve the bottom line. Taking a client-first approach builds trust, which leads to growing revenue. This lets you do it meaningfully without the uncomfortable feeling that comes with trying to make a sale.
Transparency means showing others who you are – by being yourself, open and honest. Your actions and communications give people a clue about your honesty and integrity. It helps them decide whether they want to do business with you.
Social media is a fantastic tool for showing people who you are.
A face-to-face (F2F) situation can only provide real-time information about someone. To get a grasp on a person’s character in a F2F situation requires watching people act and react over time. Furthermore, people can be on their best behavior for the length of a meeting.
Social media, on the flip side, has a long memory in its history of people’s actions. It’s hard to fake or be on your best behavior in your social media interactions over a long time, which means you can get a very good picture of someone pretty quickly.
Getting to know you
Others can get a bit of history by glancing at your social media profile and updates. Use that to give people insight into who you are, and make sure they see what you want to show them.
True — like in F2F — you can monitor yourself by controlling what you share online. However, the more you interact online, the more likely you’ll reveal your character traits. Staying all business all the time will have the opposite effect because there’s little personality and authenticity.
Think about a potential business that interests you. Check out the company and employees’ profiles on different social media networks to learn more about them. Then study their updates and actions for more insights. As you do this, note anything interesting so you can apply it to your own profile.
What social media updates say about you
Your social media posts allow you to show the following things about yourself and your company:
- You’re competent in your area of expertise. You know who is worth listening to in your industry and you share high quality relevant content.
- You’re connected. You are who you say you are, and your connections to clients, prospects, partners and influencers prove it.
- You’re respected. Your connections interact with you and mention you to others.
- You care about quality. You share posts about delivering great customer experiences. You also help clients and prospects by answering questions or solving a problem.
- You show you care by giving back. You share posts about the charities and non-profits you support.
- You’re successful. You share good news on a regular basis, without it sounding like bragging.
- You’re proud of your business. Invite your customers to learn about your employees, processes and pricing, answer tough questions and admit difficult truths. And never, ever lie.
- You have a personal side worth sharing. You share posts about your favorite sports team, authors, hobbies, city and local events. People buy when they feel a connection to others. Talking about things outside of business lets people get to know your personal side. Little by little, others will relate to what you share. And those connections grow.
Joining online conversations backs up your company’s claim that you’re open to feedback and criticism. Customers value this trait. Yet few companies do this. Companies don’t need to be afraid of getting caught making mistakes. Customers forgive mistakes when companies handle them quickly and aptly. Acknowledging a customer implies your company is listening, an important step in gaining trust.
When your actions show you have nothing to hide, you differentiate your company. Be open, communicate regularly and hold your company accountable. Do all this in a professional way with a touch of personality and trust will follow.