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Building trust with your customers will make them customers for life. No matter what else you do for your customers, you have to build trust. If you can get your customers to trust you, they will stay with you for life, even if you change companies.
In many columns, we have talked about what it takes to win customers. We have covered lead generation, prospecting, cold calling, sales meetings, and getting that first quote and winning the order. But, truth be known, there is one thing that surpasses everything else, one secret weapon that will guarantee you success with your customers: building trust.
You must get your customers to trust you with their products, their requirements, and their business. Customers need to know that they can rely on you as an individual, someone who will always have their best interests at heart.
The question is this: How do we build that trust so that customers will trust you unconditionally. You can talk all you want about how trustworthy you are, and you can show examples of how trustworthy you have been in the past. But there is only one true way to convince your customers that they can trust you, and that is to show them with real-life actions. Demonstrate to customers through your performance that you are trustworthy. In short, to gain your customers’ trust, you must do it the old-fashioned way: You must earn it.
Here are seven critical characteristics of a truly trustworthy person:
- Honesty: Always tell the truth, even when it hurts, even when you have made a mistake and you are going to look bad by admitting it. It doesn’t matter tell the truth and you will earn their respect you in the end.
- Caring: Show your customers that you care. Do things for them that are thoughtful and always in their best interest. If they have a problem, bring them a solution, even if that solution is not your product or service and goes against what you are selling. Bringing them the right solution at the right time will always create trust.
- Credibility: Let them know that they can always rely on anything you tell them, no matter what. You want them to be able to take anything you say to the bank, or in their case, their upper management.
- Reliability: Always be there for your customers. Rain or shine, snow or sleet, hurricane or tornado…always show up when you say you will. Be the most reliable vendor they have. Hell, be the most reliable person they know.
- Capability: Educate yourself about their company and its needs. Develop a thorough understanding of your customers so that you will be capable of meeting all of their needs. You want to be in complete control at all times. You want to make sure there is nothing left to the imagination when it comes to your customers’ needs and what your own company can provide to meet those needs.
- Integrity: This is arguably the most important characteristic of all. Conduct yourself with honesty, decency, respect, and integrity. Not many people have true integrity and even fewer people really know what it is. Integrity means doing the right thing at all times. It is the ability to resist the temptation to do the wrong thing. It is always doing things properly and avoiding short cuts. It means doing the one right thing that every situation demands. Once you have shown your customer that you have integrity, you will have his trust for life
- Respect: Yes, have respect for everyone you meet. Whether it be the person on the loading dock or the president of the company, always show the utmost respect for everyone, and that goes for your customer most of all. Do not allow anyone in your company to ever speak badly about your customers. Whether it be verbally or in an email, stop any disrespect of your customers dead in its track. Do not tolerate anyone in your company bad-mouthing a customer. It should never be allowed. And by the way, the higher the position you hold in a company, the more critical it is to show your customers the respect they deserve. If you publicly disrespect a customer, you are tacitly giving permission to lower-level staff to do the same. Remember that without customers, you do not have a business. Not rocket science, that.
And always under-promise and over-deliver. There is one more characteristic: courage. Have the courage to be there during the hard times as well as the good times. If your company does not deliver product on time and messes up your customer’s schedule, or you deliver product that is unacceptable, stop what you’re doing and meet with the customer right away. Offer as much help as you can, even if all they need is a live butt to kick. Just be that butt.
Customers will remember that, when there was trouble, you came in like the stand-up person that you are and took whatever frustration they had to dish out at that time. Always show up in the bad times, because in the end the customer will always remember that you were there. And in the end, they will respect you for showing up, and they will trust you like they have never trusted anyone before. It’s all about trust. It’s only common sense.