Most of us assume that a client’s decision to work with a developer is based on price and skill alone. While this rational assessment does play a role during the initial screening process, their final decision to work with you (or not) is influenced by a much more emotional factor; the ability to trust you.
Trust is arguably the most important part of any successful business relationship. When a client hires you to design or alter their website, they assume a certain degree of risk that the work will actually get done to the level of quality that was promised.
By taking the time to foster a sense of trust between you and your client, you’ll bolster their confidence in your abilities and help reduce that initial uneasiness that comes with entering a new business relationship. Knocking down these barriers will not only make your life easier during the project, but it may actually help you win more business in the future, too.
Building trust doesn’t have to be a long-term process either. In this article, we’ll walk through four simple techniques you can start using with new clients to win their trust quickly.
Let’s get started.
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1. Develop a client-oriented mindset
“Client-oriented” has become a term loosely tossed around by agencies and freelancers as a tactic to woo prospective clients. Despite its rise as an industry buzzword, having a client-oriented mindset is an effective way to show prospects that you are someone they can trust with their business.
But becoming a truly client-oriented developer is much more than just saying you are one. It means actually having your client’s best interests at heart, and reflect that in your actions. You want to be seen as a trusted advisor for your client, and not just another freelancer looking to make a quick buck.
When you first land a client, they may believe they need every feature under the sun on their site. While completing this request will help you earn more money, it is slightly unethical to accept that work if the client’s business truly doesn’t need it. A client-oriented developer will advise them to spend less if they notice the project’s objectives can be accomplished through a simpler, cheaper alternative.
Another example of this kind of decision-making can be seen earlier in the sales funnel. Client-oriented developers will be apt to pass on a job they do not have the capabilities or bandwidth to complete adequately. To help soften the blow, they’ll refer another developer or agency who they know can meet the client’s expectations better than they can.
While forgoing income may seem counterintuitive to some, it’s better to be open with your clients about your abilities and availability from the get-go, rather than giving false promises and disappointing them after a commitment has been made. You never know what a project passed on today may become in the future.
2. Show genuine interest in their business
In your eyes, a web design project may be just another source of income, but for the client it’s something much larger. They are entrusting you, someone they barely know, with an invaluable facet of their business and your decisions can have serious implications on its success. This perceived risk is one of the main reasons why a new client may be skeptical during the early days of a relationship.
To help you build trust in this kind of situation, it’s important that you focus less on the sale itself, and spend your effort actively learning about their business and the unique challenges blocking their success.
Do some research on their company, product offering, and website before you even meet them and take note of obvious areas that need improvement. Going into your initial meeting armed with this insight will not only make you appear more professional, but you’ll help remove any uncertainties they may have about your ability to benefit their business.
Take it one step further and use your initial research to pre-emptively fill out a few sections of a simple design brief. Coming to your meeting prepared with this document is a sure way to impress a new client, and springboard into a meaningful conversation about their business needs.
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3. Be transparent about your mistakes
No matter how hard you try to consistently deliver on promises, there is bound to be a time where you don’t. It’s in these moments that you have a choice; hide it from the client or be transparent about your mistake.
Despite the obvious role transparency plays when building trust, many freelancers and agencies continue to keep their clients in the dark when things go wrong. This reaction is understandable considering you never want to deliver bad news that may jeopardize your contract. While this type of deceptive behavior may never be uncovered, if it ever is, it will quickly erode any trust you had previously built with your client, and your working relationship could unravel as well.
Some quick rules to follow: don’t bury costs, hide overage charges, or ‘forget’ to mention missed deadlines. Instead, address any problems head on. Explain to your client what went wrong, why it did, and offer a solution for remedying the problem. While this honesty may elicit some initial disappointment, your client will appreciate your transparency and value your integrity as a professional.
The sooner you let them know something went wrong, the sooner they’ll get over it.
4. Strive for small wins at first
While the behaviors above will undoubtedly help you establish trust over the long-term, nothing will build a client’s confidence more than seeing results early on. One of the quickest ways to accomplish this is by striving for small wins within the first few weeks of your new project.
When you accomplish something tangible for your client, even the smallest task, you’ll start to build momentum within the relationship. Seeing results in the early days will help alleviate some of their concerns about working with you, and make them more optimistic about the outcome of the project. Over time, the more small wins you can share with your client, the more they’ll trust you with more significant tasks.
If your client is uneasy about working with you on a larger project, try to take on something small to prove your worth. This could be anything from conversion rate optimization for a single product page, to setting up some simple ecommerce reports. Small wins don’t even need to be individual tasks either — feel free to break down larger projects into manageable chunks and report of progress intermittently.
A great small win project that many agencies and freelancers use with new clients is the website audit. Audits are a great way to get your foot in the door with a new client because they are essentially risk-free.
Clients will often be more comfortable letting you perform an audit of their website to assess your worth before they approve any design or development work. If you can identify several areas of their website that are performing poorly, and can suggest recommendations (without selling too hard), you’ll build credibility with them right off the bat. The bonus that comes out of an audit is that they’ll probably also look to you to implement those very solutions for them.
Trust is the key to successful client relationships
Trust isn’t built in a day. It’s something that’s slowly crafted and maintained over time.
By putting your client’s needs first, taking the time to learn their business, and proving your worth, you’ll build a relationship that is strong enough to stand the test of time.
How do you build trust with skeptical clients? Let us know in the comments below!
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