Guide to Client Service: Volume II, RelationshipsChapter two

Building Trust & Rapport with Clients

In any professional partnership, internal or external, it’s important that a foundation of trust and respect is built. With a solid foundation, deliverables will move through with ease, recommendations will receive less pointed questions and the potential for renewals and extra scope increases.

Here’s three key ways to up that trust meter with your clients:

1. Be Mindful of Partners’ Time, Processes & Work Style

This isn’t just a matter of minding your P’s and Q’s. It’s important to be mindful of a partner’s time, processes, and work style.

Calls and Meetings

  • Start the meeting on time – don’t be late – bonus points for even being 3-5 minutes early so that you can be prepared to hit the ground running.
    • If you know you’re going to be late, shoot the meeting leaders a quick note letting them know you’re going to be late, your anticipated arrival time, and directives whether or not to proceed without you.
  • During that meeting, keep an eye on the time.
    • If you think the meeting is going to run long, stop and ask if anyone has any time restrictions. If there are some, suggest to pick up the call at another date/time, or condense what was to be said and provide an outline of the final call details in an email for comment.  
  • Try not to schedule or cancel meetings at the last minute without the client knowing.
    • They may miss either the invite or the cancellation, and either not make the meeting, wasting your time, or could be sitting on the line, wasting theirs.
    • If you REALLY need to talk to the client, pick up the phone and give them a call. They don’t answer? Leave a message. Call us old fashioned, but sometimes quick, direct action is needed, and is more often than not, is appreciated by the client.


Partnership Work Style: Pay Attention to Who They Are and What They Say

  • Speak their language.
    • Do they use “Plum” instead of “Purple” for their brand color? Do they call their “Service Lines” within their organization their ”clients”. When everyone is speaking the same language, it shows that you listen and avoids any misinterpretations. Both inspire trust and confidence.
  • Write to illicit a response.
    • Do you notice that when you write crazy-long explanations, you get no answer, but short, quick notes are responded to right away? Coordinate your writing style to what gets answered, and  follow up with an explanation where needed to ensure all of the details have been covered.
    • One particular partner is to the contrary, and needs all of the deets up front, lest you get a million questions afterwards? Get into the nitty gritty and educate them—this can only add value to the partnership and allows them to speak-up-the-chain the details that may have been initially fuzzy to them.
  • Listen “between the lines” for their pain points, and ensure that the work you do helps with alleviating them.
    • Does a client have a hard time with development? Can you batch our requests to move them along? Are they asking a particularly annoying question because they have to talk something up the chain? Can you provide them with more information on something in particular? Alleviating pain points makes them look like a rock-star internally, which can only help you.


2. Do What You Said You’d Do, and Then Some.

  • If you said you were going to deliver something on a certain date, deliver it on that date.
    • If you know you’re not going to make a deadline, communicate it as soon as possible along with when the partner can expect to see the deliverable.
  • Always offer quality. Put your best into every deliverable, every email, every phone call. Quality shines, and will show in your client relationships. Exceed expectations and go the extra mile, clients often recognize and recommend partners that are looking out for their business.


3. Be Yourself. Be Authentic.

  • When you are your authentic self on a call or a meeting, your genuine tone comes through. This puts the partners at ease, and helps your words become facts, not guesses.
  • Be honest and transparent. If a deadline will be missed, notify the client as soon as possible; if a mistake was made, let the client know as soon as possible. In both cases, also let them know how you’ve taken steps so that it won’t happen again. Showing that you’re honest and proactive furthers relationship trust.

At the end of the day it’s all about treating people like people, and remembering that clients are people too.