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One Trust-Building Technique You May Have Overlooked

Precisely 308 words from now, I’m going to reveal a technique for building Trust with prospects—a critical determinant of whether you’ll win consulting projects.

Stuff you already know: Darth Vader was Luke’s father; when you let the internet name things, you end up with a ship called Boaty McBoatface; and, clients choose the consultant they trust most.

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Illustration of stuff you already know: I received an email introduction to Isaac, a VP at a credit union, on a Tuesday. Isaac called me that day to discuss a consulting project opportunity. He had already established his budget and had talked to numerous consultants. I was last on the list—receiving a call only because of the introduction. Friday, I closed the project for 55% higher fees than he had budgeted.

How did I close a deal in three days with a totally new prospect? Simply put, I built enormous trust. Quickly.

How do you build trust with a prospective client—particularly one with whom you have little or no history? And how do you build trust pronto?

I’m not going to catalog the many paths to establishing credibility and building trust. You see, there’s a fundamental problem with your case studies, your speeches, your books, your impressive processes, your testimonials, and even the glowing recommendation from your prospect’s colleague.

They’re all hearsay.

They’re not believable to your prospect at the same, visceral level as personal experience.

To create trust, we have to create first-hand, personal experiences for our prospects that signal “this consultant is trustworthy” at a gut-level. Given the opportunity and time, we can create that experience by delivering on the big promise of a project. That’s why repeat clients are an easier sale.

But, when prospects don’t have experience with your trustworthiness on the big promise, they turn to the experiences they do have. That’s where this oft-overlooked technique comes in:

Small Promises

By deliberately making and keeping small promises, you can quickly engender high levels of trust. This entails going out of your way to create opportunities that demonstrate you live up to your commitments.

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In all likelihood, you’re inadvertently skipping many of these opportunities in every interaction with your prospect.

A few examples of Small Promises:

  • When your prospect raises an issue, tell him you’d like to finish your current line of thought before addressing his concern. A few minutes later, circle back and address the issue. I call these “loopbacks” and even though they seem very simple, they are enormous trust builders and I purposely insert them into many conversations.
  • Come up with some reason to send a specific piece of information by close of business, then send the promised information.
  • Indicate that you’ll follow up with a phone call the next day, then (this’ll shock you) follow up with a phone call the next day.
  • Promise an introduction to someone specific, then broker that introduction within hours.
  • Note at the start of a meeting that you’ll only take a certain amount of time, then make a point of concluding the discussion punctually.
  • At least once during the discussion, honestly admit that you don’t know the answer to a question or that you don’t have the expertise. Professing ignorance implicitly makes—and immediately fulfills—the promise that you won’t exaggerate your skills and capabilities.

That’s just a handful of small promises you can purposely initiate.

I’m interested in hearing your other ideas. What small promises could you build into prospect discussions to quickly build trust?


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6 Comments
  1. Baldwin H. Tom
    March 8, 2017 at 9:06 am Reply

    Love the small promises you suggest. While I no longer am an independent consultant, I occasionally read your postings and then tell others who can benefit from your advice.

    • David A. Fields
      March 8, 2017 at 9:12 am Reply

      Baldwin, thank you for your comment and, of course, for passing the post along. Making (and keeping) small promises is a good, general life approach. When we’re in the habit of making and keeping promises, we’re creating a pattern for ourselves of being in integrity.

  2. Anatoli Naoumov
    March 8, 2017 at 10:18 am Reply

    Calling at exactly scheduled time; not earlier, nor later. Works even better if call was set at uneven time, like 10.45am. Combined with a starting sentence “Last time we spoke I promised to call at 10.45, is it still a good time?”
    This promise has resulted from an earlier conversation:
    – What’s the best time to call you?
    – 9.30-11 will be fine
    – I’ll put 10.45 on my schedule.

    • David A. Fields
      March 9, 2017 at 11:23 am Reply

      That’s a very good point, Anatoli. Punctuality, in general, is appreciated. When you make it obvious by using an off-hour time, your fulfilled promise is that much stronger. Thanks for the suggestion.

  3. Del
    March 8, 2017 at 7:45 pm Reply

    Love the information and believe it is so true. One client, whom I have done over $50,000 worth of business, told me the main reason I was chosen over two other consultants is because I followed through on what I said I would do during the proposal process.

    • David A. Fields
      March 9, 2017 at 11:25 am Reply

      Wow, Del, that’s a perfect case study. Isn’t amazing how the little things we do at the beginning of the process pay dividends until the end (and beyond)?

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