Talking business

2012-01-31 00:00

IN today’s highly competitive economy, it is difficult to maintain a significant market advantage based on your professional skills alone. Developing a trusting relationship with your client is the key to your success. The most powerful value-added contribution in any business relationship is the trust factor.

Clients and prospective clients are in search of trust in his or her business relationships. Although people do business with other people they know and trust, building trust and credibility does not happen overnight.

Trust can be defined as a firm belief in the honesty of another and the absence of suspicion regarding their motives or practices. The concept of trust in business dealings is simple — build on an individual’s confidence in you and eliminate fear as an operating principle.

To cultivate trust, take the risk of being open with clients and prospective clients. This enables your client to perceive you as a real person, one with strengths and weaknesses that come into play as the relationship develops. When trust is reciprocal, you will find that your confidence in others is rewarded by their support and reinforcement of what you also stand for as a business entity.

Let go of fear, which restricts your ability to relate to others. Letting go frees you of behavioural constraints that can hold back your emotional and professional development. Fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of success, fear of being hurt and fear of the unknown are roadblocks to developing and growing a trusting relationship with clients. Let go of your fear of losing an account or not having the right answers.

Know who you are and know your potential value to your clients. The relationship that forms because of this can have a tremendous impact on your sales. People buy goods and services from people they can trust. The rapport and credibility you can establish with the trust factor will go a long way toward building a client’s confidence in your ability to meet his or her business needs.

Trust has both an active and a passive component in a business relationship. The active feeling of trust is confidence in the leadership, veracity and reliability of the other party, based on a track record of performance.

The passive feeling of trust is the absence of worry or suspicion. This absence is sometimes unrecognised and frequently taken for granted in your most productive relationships.

So how do you build trust with clients? First, you need to care about him or her. Your clients care about the level of concern you have for them. Successful trust building hinges on four actions — engaging, listening, framing and committing.

Engage by showing genuine concern and interest in your clients’ business and its problems. Maintain good eye contact and be mindful of your body language.

Listening with understanding and empathy will allow the client to tell his or her story. Put yourself in your client’s shoes when you listen to the business concerns, purpose, vision, and desires. Show approval or understanding by nodding your head and smiling during the conversation. Separate the process of taking in information from the process of judging it. Suspend your judgment and focus on the client.

Framing entails making sure you have formed an accurate understanding of his or her problems and concerns. Confirm what you think you heard by asking open-ended questions — “what do you mean by that?”.

Committing entails communicating enthusiastically your plan of action for solving the client’s problems. Help your client see what it will take to achieve the end result. Presumably, what you have said up to this point has been important, but what you do now — how you commit — is even more important. Remember the old adage “actions speak louder than words”.

In the final analysis, trust stems from keeping your word. If you say you will be there for your clients, then you should honour that commitment by being there. Trust results from putting the client’s best interest before your own, from being dependable, from being open and forthcoming with relevant information. It is impossible to overestimate the power of the trust factor in our professional lives.

Trust is the basis of all enduring, long-term business relationships. • Yvonne Reece is the CEO of lifestyle accounting firm, Graemor.

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