In the race for slicker processes, lower overheads and greater efficiency, there is one element of business that can be easy to overlook: the people we do business with.
Having people trust you is the kind of capital that just can’t be generated by sales margins. Being able to ask for a delayed deadline or deferred payment can be a lifesaver if you find yourself in a pinch.
Here are several strategies for winning greater trust from your vendors and clients.
Having standard practices for how you interact with your contacts will make you more predictable, and thus, more trustworthy.
Get back to emails within a time limit. Pay your invoices at regular intervals. If you have to ask for an extension, have a deadline for asking for one, rather than springing a last-minute request on your vendor.
With clients, keeping your communication regular and predictable is essential if you want them to see you as dependable.
Keep in touch
Speaking of procedures, establishing the preferred channel as soon as possible is a good first step to consistent communication. Keeping a client or vendor in the loop will show a willingness for transparency on your part.
If possible, go the old-fashioned route and meet up in-person. Face-to-face interaction allows people to read each other on a deeper level than the purely linguistic, potentially increasing trust.
Be up front
All the communication in the world won’t inspire much trust without transparency.
Be honest about your limits and troubles. Trying to appear perfect will raise nothing but suspicion.
Think of yourself as a problem-solver
Your client or customer is in the market because they have a want or need – in other words, a problem – and you want to solve that problem. Not just because solving that problem will get you paid, but because you want to run a good business and build good relationships.
This perspective will open you up to looking out for the client’s needs, making you more likely to spot other potential problems and maybe even solve them before they happen. Doing so will elevate you from “contact” to “ally.”
This is key to spotting those potential problems I mentioned.
In sales, you get accustomed to going on long spiels about yourself or your product or service. But clients will tend to trust the person who takes an interest in them, rather than the person who can’t stop spruiking their business. When you ask a client about themselves and their business, you show that you’re genuinely interested in adding value to the relationship.
Knowing how your obligations line up with their needs will help you to be a more considerate, proactive partner.
Take the long view
If a little short-term pain will strengthen the relationship, it can sometimes be worth it to skip the haggling and do your client or supplier a favour.
A relationship is, after all, a two-way street, and you never know when you might need a little help down the line.
Joel Svensson is a Melbourne-based freelance writer specialising in politics and business.