More than anything, establishing trust is the key to getting hired. But how do you persuade clients to trust you?
When I bought the house I currently live in, I had a problem. It was next to a post office and I was worried about the noise early in the morning. The owner showed me around and had been honest with me. He’d even pointed out some issues with the house I had missed. So when he told me that although the post office is noisy, you learn to tune it out, I believed him. I trusted him and decided to buy the house.
That is the power of trust. It can make or break a sale. If you don’t trust the person you are buying from, then you will not buy. It doesn’t matter how good the price is, or how impressive their offering.
Also, if you have more than one supplier providing a similar service for a similar price, you will go with the person you trust the most. In fact, people will pay a premium to go with the supplier they trust.
Trust is the single most powerful sales tool in your arsenal. So the question becomes, how do you get clients to trust you?
It begins with honesty.
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Don’t be afraid of honesty
Why did I trust that homeowner? Because he wasn’t afraid to point out the problems with the house. He was honest with me.
Too often, we tell clients what we think they want to hear. This is especially true in the sales process. We over promise in what we can deliver within their budget, and agree to deadlines that seem too tight.
It’s not that we’re lying. We’re just being optimistic. We convince ourselves that we can deliver, when in truth we know we cannot.
But it’s not just about what we tell our clients. It’s what we fail to tell them as well. How many times have you read a brief that you know is asking for the wrong thing? A brief asking you to deliver a solution that is just not right for the circumstances.
Yet often we fail to challenge the client over this. We just give them what they ask for. This isn’t dishonest. But it is letting the client down. If we sell based on our expertise, then failing to share that expertise when the client needs it most is a kind of dishonesty.
But honesty is crucial, even after we win a project. If you want ongoing work with a client, you need to establish a good working relationship. That involves being honest with them, especially if we think we might fail to deliver on time.
Once again, we’re not being intentionally dishonest. We convince ourselves that if we work weekends and evenings we can deliver. We don’t want to let the client down.
But we are better being upfront with the client about the potential problem. This means you can only exceed expectations when you work weekends, and manage to deliver.
When it comes to sales, honesty is the best policy. That’s because honesty helps build a relationship with the client.
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Build a relationship
People trust those that they like. They like those who are honest with them. But liking somebody isn’t just about honesty. At the least, it’s about having contact with them!
It’s amazing how many agencies and freelancers fail to connect with prospective clients. So much of the correspondence happens via email. You are never going to build a relationship that way.
If you want people to trust you enough to buy from you, then you need to be speaking to them. In an ideal world, you would meet them face-to-face, at least a couple of times.
Always call a new prospect when they first contact you. Ask some questions, and get a bit of background. Most of all, take the opportunity to build a connection. I don’t mean you have to be friends. But at least empathize with the process they are going through and the challenges they face. It will go a long way.
Of course, building a relationship is no good if you can’t deliver. That is why we also need to prove your track record.
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Prove your track record
This is why some clients still ask for speculative work. They want to see that you can deliver.
You shouldn’t be doing unpaid work. But you can show them the work you have done for others, using things like case studies. Don’t just show them the pretty pictures, make sure you talk through the project and how it went. Put particular emphasis on the working relationship with the client. Include some testimonials if you can.
Some clients will ask for references and that’s fine. Be sure to be extremely forthcoming in this area. Rather than pushing one or two tame clients, ask the prospect if they would like to talk to any particular client. This shows them that you are confident enough to allow them to talk to anybody.
Finally, when it comes to demonstrating your track record, try and tie some hard numbers to the projects you do. It’s not always possible, but being able to say you caused a 20 per cent increase in conversion always builds confidence. Confidence will lead to trust in your ability to deliver.
Another thing that will build a client’s confidence in you is if you have a solid process for working.
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Show your process
Clients find a clearly articulated process reassuring. It says that you have done this before and that you are an expert. It reassures them that you are not making this up as you go along!
But it also lets them know what’s going to happen. For many clients, the web design process is an unknown. People fear what they don’t understand, and building a website can feel like walking into the dark. By outlining your process, they can see the way forward, which calms their fears, and builds trust.
It’s a magic bullet
Few problems have a magic bullet solution. But I believe building trust can be a magic bullet for sales. If you get it right, the chances of winning work skyrocket.
That said, building trust is not easy. But if you build an honest, open relationship with clients, it will go along way. Back it up with a solid process and a proven track record, and you will be in a strong position.