What you gain from business is influenced more by the trust and credibility you earn than the value of what you offer -- because with these things you'll offer only what is of mutual benefit to your clients.
Without trust and credibility, you cannot have a meaningful relationship with clients. How do you get these things? What you say (communications) contribute to establishing credibility, but only when you reinforce those words with actions do you begin to establish trust.
Clients base perceived long-term value of your organization on levels of trust and credibility established early in your business relationship. A high level of credibility shortens sales cycles, while strong trust increases client retention. This is critically important with new clients because you haven't yet had the opportunity to prove yourself.
It doesn't matter if you communicate in print, in person, or over the Internet, these interactions must convey certain messages that contribute to relationship value. Here are several ideas that help communications build trust and credibility with new clients:
Use communications as decision-making tools for client. Your messages should help frame decisions around your solution so that clients can make the best decision possible. Instead of distorting your message to make your solution most favorable to all clients, provide communications that help clients choose the solution best for them. Use worksheets, evaluation guides, and checklists to involve their selection process.
Reinforce current understanding while expanding knowledge. Familiarity and consistency breed credibility, so instead of overwhelming clients with the latest information, share with them a little bit about what they already know sprinkled with a few points they don't. The purpose of your communications isn't to show clients how smart you are as much as it is to reveal how smart a client could become with your solutions. Even if clients don't accept the new information, they will be reassured by those familiar points that demonstrate your expertise.
Under promise, over deliver. No matter what you are capable of delivering, you never really know when something might come up that limits performance. Set service expectations a little lower than you can deliver instead of trying to impress a client with claims you can't guarantee. Use conditional words to describe the results other clients have received, even if you're 99.9999% sure they will see the same results.
Speak of you through happy clients. Instead of telling clients how great you are, convey the experiences of satisfied clients through testimonials, endorsements, and case studies. If you don't have any satisfied clients willing to share their experiences, then stop everything you are doing right now and go get some. Clients will believe more what they here from other companies "just like them," than they will believe from your own words.
Answer questions important to the decision maker first. Questions represent concerns or objections to certain actions. Instead of compulsively answering any question a client can throw at you, prioritize decision maker's thoughts so that you are answering questions in order of importance. In many cases, you'll find not all the questions need answered to achieve a client's desired results.
Support your facts with third party research or endorsements. Clients won't believe what you have to say as much as they believe proof provided by a third party. Utilize industry and association research, as well as hard evidence even if a competitor collects it. This proof should help decision makers choose what is right for them while deeply evaluating your own solution.
Remove all risk, but make clients responsible through action or commitment. For complex solutions, certain actions are required on a client's side to produce the results they desire. Removing risk with guarantees and minimum performance levels does improve trust, but make them conditional in a way that highlights what is expected of the client. Be fair about removing risk and you'll improve trust.
Don't ask questions clients can't answer or at least you haven't helped them answer. You might feel smart when you ask questions a client can't answer, but it's often at the expense of that relationship. Clients feel dumb when they can't answer a question, so ask smaller questions they can answer, or help them find an answer through discovery. Embarrassing clients is a sure way to lose trust and credibility.
Demonstrate you are really listening with summaries and echoes. To communicate is to listen, but how do clients know you are really paying attention. Read back your understanding of what a client just said, and ask for confirmation. The simple question, "Did I understand that correctly?" asked right after summarizing concerns goes further to promote credibility than anything else you might do today.
These ideas will contribute to trust and credibility with existing clients but are critical to starting out new relationships with strength for longevity. Practice these points in all areas of sales, marketing, and service as they interact with clients daily. Audit existing communications to implement these ideas no matter how you connect with decision makers.
It's not enough just to say what you think clients want to hear. You have to develop a two-way conversation with each decision maker that specifically addresses their concerns, interests, and help them fulfill their objectives through your solutions. When you have done this, your communications will build trust and credibility with new clients in a way that lays the groundwork for a long-term healthy business relationship.