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Trust Exercises
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Inspire Confidence

Golden Rules for Building Client Trust

By Jo Eismont

According to a Gallup poll on the perceived honesty and ethics of various professions, most people (79 percent) rate lawyers average or low. Just below bankers. Congressmen and car salesmen ranked lowest.

How can you convey that you really are trustworthy? Trust is essential for all effective relationships, whether personal or business. There’s no quick fix when it comes to gaining the trust of others — especially once it is lost. It takes a genuine desire and small everyday efforts.

So where do you start?

Know yourself. A person secure in who they are will always be perceived as more authentic and trustworthy than someone whose core seems built on shifting sands. Even if you think you’ve got a secure idea of who you are, doing more work to figure out your strengths and motivations — especially how you come across to others — can improve your interactions with clients and help you begin to build trust. For example, you may describe yourself as forthright. It would be a useful exercise to consider who might perceive that as more like critical or nitpicking, and under what circumstances.

Appeal to the nature of others. To promote trust, you need to deliver what your clients and key stakeholders want. Turn detective. Observe and work out their motivations. For example, a client who places a high value on bonding over personal connections won’t be impressed by someone who cuts right to the chase. To build trust with this person, you might dedicate the first five minutes of meetings to non-business chat. Conversely, someone who wants to know details won’t be satisfied unless you can provide them all — so don’t come to the meetings underprepared!

Keep your “trust account” in the black. In “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” Stephen Covey explains the concept of a trust account. (Not that kind of trust account!) At the beginning of a relationship, he says, we each have a certain amount of trust in our accounts. This account can be increased by trustworthy deeds, or it can be frittered away, incrementally, by small repeated actions that reveal us as untrustworthy, until we are bankrupt.

While a catastrophic wrong move can leave you bankrupt in an instant, severe damage to a relationship can also be caused by smaller repetitive betrayals. So if you’re tempted to shirk responsibility for a mistake, to take a shortcut or to take solo credit for a team effort, remember that each of these can debit your trust account.

The Golden Rules of Trust

To begin to repair relationships and ensure that you start new relationships with a healthy amount of trust in the bank, keep these rules in mind every day:

  • Make decisions promptly. No one trusts indecisiveness.
  • Respect opinions. You don’t have to agree, but do show respect for differing views.
  • Walk the talk. Don’t overpromise and under-deliver.
  • Don’t dissemble. Be clear from the start about what you think is achievable.
  • Communicate. Keep channels of communication open, even when there’s not much to report.

Jo Eismont is a social media and Web editor for Insights Learning and Development, with years of experience in the learning and development industry. With two small children, a Twitter addiction and a love of blogging, Jo strives to share the Insights’ values so that her audience finds the right new position or way to love their job as much as she does.

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