Building client trust is something I have very minimal experience with so far in my professional life. Since I don’t do technical or freelance work, there is little opportunity. However, working retail at The Limited, I do have to build a certain level of trust with our customers in order for them to take my suggestions to heart. I find that when shoppers trust me to tell them what looks good or is in style, I make more clothing and credit card sales. This means pay raises and job satisfaction for me. Throughout my time selling clothing, I’ve found that the 8 steps McManus and Glen lay out for building client trust loosely apply to my experience in sales as well as technical work though my examples don’t necessarily relate to conflict but simply building trust.
1. Be Prepared: When selling retail, I need to know personally how to be prepared for all outcomes and to know the products well.
2. Get the Facts: As a customer walks into the store and I begin my approach, I always have to think about what they’re seeing and hearing as I come to start the conversation.
3. Find the Feelings About the Situation: This happens when I begin to ask them about their wants and needs in walking into the store.
4. Let the Client Know You Got It: I affirm their wants and needs by rephrasing what they’ve told me and saying it back to them for clarification.
5. Question Facts (If You Must): Sometimes when customers walk into the store, they’ll already have ideas of what they want and how things will fit. In order to build trust and make a sale, I have to destroy their preconceived thoughts and replace them with reality, but only if it is the truth.
6. Frame the Problem: This would be more applicable to my sales experience if I were ever solving conflict, but what I believe the authors are saying is that this step is used in order to further clarify the changes in facts that I may have made during step number 5.
7. Handle the Feelings About the Problem: I think this step relates most to when I’m closing the sale in the dressing room. When the client asks for my opinion on her clothes or expresses doubt, I need to step in and assure her through those feelings. If the clothes don’t look good, I nicely suggest a different size or fit, however if they actually look great but she’s having low self esteem, I try to point out specific things that look great and empathize because I know exactly what she’s feeling in that moment.
8. Handle the Problem: Once the sale is locked in place, I follow through by ringing her up at the register and offering as many money saving tips as I can. Sometimes the customer will come back to do some more shopping and because of the relationship built, I have the opportunity to make more sales as well as inquire about the clothes she purchased last time or events she bought them for.
With our culture moving more and more to cyber relationships, I am shocked that I did not immediately think about the effect of social media on cultivating and maintaining relationships with customers and the role that can play. The authors of our book do not touch on where social media fits into client trust, however I think it’s something to be considered. Onwallstreet.com stresses the importance of regular communication via social media to client relationship and trust building in this article. Clara Shih, founder and CEO of Hearsay Social says about the role of social media, “Many people turn to these online networks to get information and recommendations about products and services before paying for them, even for those that they will pay for offline. They are more welcoming to being contacted via social media because they are already communicating online with friends and family about their needs and what services are available.” Face-to-face communication is always best, be we should never underestimate the power of connecting on social networks to maintain the trust and relationship previously established.
In the end, client trust is vital in any business endeavor whether that be technical related or not. No one wants to work with someone they do not trust to do a great job and be honest throughout the relationship. Following the 8 steps laid out by the authors of our book will give those who maybe struggle with relationship building, a place to start. As I stated before, we should also consider where social media comes into play and strive to make the connection beyond the face-to-face business interactions.