Trust — why it’s important in business relationships and 3 ways to build it

As an entrepreneur, I’ve spent a significant portion of my working years outside my comfort zone. Presenting new business ideas, selling my expertise, and navigating corporate hierarchies have all put me positions of asking other people to put their trust in me before they’d even truly had a chance to get to know me.

Isn’t that how the world works? We might get recommendations or ask for references but in the end it’s up to us to trust that the person across the table will do what they said they would do.

Those who can build trust quickly can move faster and get more done. Their influence magnifies with every kept promise, completed action item, and on-time delivery. To them, those are the table stakes. They go beyond. Being trustworthy becomes part of their brand, as valuable as a sought-after skill or hard-to-attain credential. I’ve seen this time and time again, which is why I’m continually focusing on this trait in my personal development.

What can you do to build trust faster? Here are three approaches that have worked for me:

Keep the customer or prospect updated. This should be obvious but it’s surprising how many people get caught up in the work they’re doing for a customer and forget to update the customer on exactly what they’re doing.

It doesn’t take much. Send a quick email or text after a call to confirm any decisions or directions made. Follow up on a regular basis letting them know what’s going on with the project or proposal, next steps, and if/when the customer/prospect will need to make a decision. Anticipate their questions. If you get a question you can’t answer, tell them you don’t know and that you’ll find out. Then do it.  

Be direct and open about all things financial. Don’t shy away from talking about budgets. Most prospects are open to hearing about what you can do for them as long as you are transparent about the costs. That said, make sure you are clearly communicating the value they’ll receive from your product or service.

When you begin working with a new client or customer be clear about payment terms. Don’t assume they are keeping track of when payments are due. Send an email or professional invoice to help remind them and to serve as backup in their files.

Don’t assume. Anything. If you’re waiting on them, make sure they are aware. If that waiting is going to cost them money or program efficacy, doubly make sure they are aware. Don’t use a read-receipt with email (that’s just annoying) but if an email is particularly important, send a text or leave a voicemail to alert them.

If you’re working with multiple people at the same organization, include everyone on correspondence. Don’t assume they’re talking about your proposal or sharing information. It’s not mean-spirited, it’s being busy.

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And a bonus tip:

Communicate on their terms, don’t make them adapt to yours. If they prefer emailing and you prefer text, default to emailing. If their communication style is to the point, don’t make them hear the details about your weekend. When scheduling, always talk in terms of their time zone. Mentally translate that to yours. If someone says “we should set up a call,” you should take the initiative to set up the call.

And yes, take the initiative. Anticipate. Be one step ahead of their questions and concerns.

If you’ve surmised these approaches take more time, you’re correct. However, the payoff, in personal satisfaction from operating on a higher plane and increased professional accomplishments, will quickly become evident. Trust me.

Wisconsin-native Stephanie DiGiovanni, serves the Milwaukee area as division partner for Hydrotex, a high-performance lubrication and fuel improver company.

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