Building trust with your clients is essential in any business. It’s even more critical when you’re a consultant, and your reputation is everything.
That’s why it’s critical to build and maintain trust throughout the client journey – the initial contact, working relationship and post-project. Each stage presents opportunities to gain and retain client trust and, in turn, bolster your reputation as a great consultant.
Let’s break down 7 top tips throughout all three stages.
How To Gain Client Trust Before They Hire You
If you could build trust before ever speaking with your client, would you? Of course. Here are two great ways to do just that.
1. Create A Trustworthy Online Presence
If you’re looking to build an outstanding consultancy and charge good rates, your online presence must command attention. It’s not just about having a pretty website or profile (which helps), but about presenting an approachable brand that encourages clients to connect with you.
One method that might help is the “know-like-trust” factor.
Ask yourself these three questions whenever creating and releasing online content.
- How does this help clients get to know me?
Especially useful in social media, this question reminds you to share little bits about who you are. Your personality, your uniqueness – because it’s easier to do business with people you know and like.
- How does this help clients to like me?
Is what you’re showing appealing to your audience? Know your target market and know what traits they look for in service providers. This way, you’ll know exactly how to present yourself to your future clients.
- How does this help clients to trust me?
Are you showing clients your expertise, allowing them peace of mind when it comes to placing their trust in you? Blog content is a great tool here. Dive into in-depth topics and show them what you can do.
Ideal content focuses on one or two of these factors at a time. Social media is great for the know factor, video content for the like factor and in-depth blog content for the trust factor.
As always, there are exceptions to every rule. The best advice is to experiment with your marketing and see what appeals to your ideal client.
2. Testimonials And References
Testimonials are fantastic. They’re one of the best ways to build client trust before that initial meeting. It’s a good idea to create a testimonial page or file that you can easily send to your clients when they reach out.
Presenting testimonials on the front page of your website is also a best practice that’s well worth following.
How To Maintain Client Trust During Your Client Relationship
You’ve built enough initial trust to get them to sign that contract. What now? It’s vital to maintain client trust throughout the contract or risk getting the contract pulled and your reputation ruined. As possibly the most crucial stage, here are three great tips.
3. Stick To Your Commitments And Deadlines
This goes without saying, but when you commit, follow-through is non-optional.
A single miss in months is fine, but regular occurrences will quickly erode client trust beyond the point of no return. Here are some tips to keep you on track.
- Set Early Deadlines
Set your own deadlines at least a few days earlier than communicated to your clients. That way, should something go wrong, you’ll have some leeway to get things done.
- Be realistic about what’s achievable.
Don’t over-commit yourself. Be mindful about what’s realistic and what is not. Set achievable deadlines and expectations. Under-promise and over-deliver, if you’ll excuse the cliche. It does ring true though.
- Plan A Holistic Calendar
It’s a good idea to pen personal events into your calendar as well. Got a family birthday coming up? You know it’ll take time out of your day, so schedule it in, and you’ll get caught off guard less often.
4. Practice Direct And Honest Communication
Always keep channels of communication open between you and your clients. That said, don’t let a consistent stream of messages suck the time out of your day.
Schedule a slot in your calendar to deal with or send out client communications. 30-60 minutes a day should be enough.
Also, keep a lookout for any technical jargon in your messages that clients won’t understand. The last thing you want is to make clients feel foolish. Be timely with reports, and consider including a breakdown for busy clients who don’t have time to digest long, technical reports.
5. Go That Extra Mile (When Justified)
This point is easy to misunderstand. You’ve likely agreed on a pricing structure with your client before the contract commences. Going the extra mile is cause for additional compensation, but charging for unsolicited extras could actually damage your trust relationship.
So while a client will enjoy the extra value without extra cost, don’t let it damage your own business financially.
If you spot something quick and easy to fix but was not determined in the scope, get it done and let the client know. If you spot something that would justify the extra cost – but that has a tangible benefit linked to it – talk to the client about it. They’ll be grateful that you spotted the problem and offered to help.
How to Retain Client Trust After Your Work Together
Many consultants spend time building trust before and during the client relationship but neglect essential aftercare.
This is where happy clients turn into life-long fans.
How you leave the client relationship is how you’ll be remembered. It’s the difference between a glowing referral and complete radio silence.
6. Maintain Confidentiality
One of the simplest ways to maintain client trust after working together is to maintain confidentiality. Often, businesses trust you with sensitive information that they would prefer to keep secret.
Be vague on your portfolio where necessary. Keep those comms open and ask your clients what they’d be comfortable sharing with the public. This goes for case studies on your website as well.
Never gossip about past companies when talking to new clients either. It’s a lightning-fast way to destroy trust since most clients will wonder whether you’ll be sharing their information at your next gig.
7. Create A Send-Off Routine
You probably have a fully mapped out client onboarding process. It’s only natural to give more thought to the front-end of your sales process – but what about the conclusion? Do you move on, never to talk to your past clients again?
There are two great reasons to keep in touch with clients.
The first is that clients will feel genuinely cared for – and it’ll show when they talk to other potential clients about you.
The second reason is that this could lead to repeat business. A simple conversation could have the client asking you about a new problem that’s cropped up, and, before you know it, you’re back for more work.
Start with a simple farewell email. If appropriate, ask for a testimonial or honest feedback. Finally, set a reminder to check up on the client 1-3 months after the project’s conclusion. This is always likely to trigger the response: “Wow, this person really cares about their job!”
Adapt Your Learnings To Your Business
Not all of these methods will apply to every situation. For example, disregard point seven if you had a bad time working with a particular client (we all have them at some point). Do you get more business than you can handle from word-of-mouth referrals? Point one doesn’t apply in that case.
The key to moving forward is to keep testing. Test what works with your target market, and don’t hesitate to cut what doesn’t.
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Curious to find out more? Check out our Consulting Partner program here.