Your client pays your invoices. You passed all the background checks. But how do you know they trust you? We look for signs of trust from our partners, and we reinforce patterns that increase that trust. Here are some cues to watch for:
They grant access to data
You can pass a background check and sign a confidentiality agreement, but if your client doesn’t trust you you’ll never get access to the data you need. Each organization has its own policy for sharing data. Because you understand the impact of your request, you ask for just what you need to get the job done. And when your partner trusts you, they give it to you.
They share plans and aspirations with you
By sharing future plans, a client is investing in you. By sharing aspirations, they become just the tiniest bit vulnerable to you. It’s a sign that they know you’re on their side. They feel their outcomes will be better if they tell you what they really want.
They communicate about exceptions
When something out of the ordinary happens--good or bad--you don’t find out in the retrospective. Instead, you get the news early from somebody who trusts you to make the most of it for everybody involved.
They share credit and responsibility
We never ‘win’ at the expense of our client. We only win when our client wins. Likewise, we don’t work for recognition. But when something goes well or poorly, a client that trusts you shares both the credit and the responsibility.
They give you personal, constructive feedback
Relationships are maintained at a personal level. It’s often appropriate to ask your client “How am I doing?” The easiest way for your client to answer this question is to tell you that you’re doing a good job--but not too good a job. This keeps the relationship on an even keel. But when a client gives you some personal feedback or otherwise goes out on a limb (even if what they have to say is unpleasant to hear), that is a sign of substantial trust.
They want to be represented by you
They want you to tell others about them. They ask you to lead a sales call with them. They have you help with due diligence for an acquisition. They send you to conferences under their banner. When they talk to others, they refer to you as a colleague and a co-worker.
They introduce you to others
The highest form of business development is getting a new partnership on the basis of an old one. When a client represents you to others, they have to first understand what you do, and they have to trust you. Though they may not introduce you to their competitors, if they introduce you to somebody they like, that is a good sign that you’re moving up the trust ladder.
They ask your advice
And they listen. They may not take your advice every time, but asking means that they want to hear what you think before they make a decision. When your client encounters new information, they enlist your help to interpret it. And it’s especially satisfying when a former client reaches out to you for advice because of the strength of the relationship you built on the job.
They embrace taking the conversation up a level
You and your client share goals beyond the projects you’re working on, such as hiring and retaining talented people. Or contributing to the open source community. Or documenting a new methodology that you created together. If you ‘get meta’ with a client, and they don’t turn away, that’s a sign they trust you.
They encourage you to discover and explore
They give you space to experiment with the best way to perform the task at hand. Beyond that, they may also get you to explore the space of possible contributions you can make, and thereby discover the very best way for you to help.
They ask you to participate in planning
You can help your client better if you know their plans, but when they ask you to help with the planning itself, you’ve reached a higher level of trust. This is apparent even in a simple question like, “Is it reasonable to get the first phase done in six weeks?” Setting goals together is a form of joint planning.
They ask you to help recruit
A client who trusts you may ask for you to contribute to (or write) a job description for a new position, to help screen resumes, or interview candidates. On the flip side, it’s also a sign of trust when a partner asks you for advice on downsizing.
Are you the trusting type?
At Lab Zero, relationships matter. A good relationship can make all the difference when the going gets rough--and relationships built on trust are the strongest ones. We would love to get the chance to earn your trust.