Make Trust your No 1 competitive advantage
”Trust is the one truly sustainable competitive advantage in business, yet all too often it is overlooked, ignored or misunderstood.”
(The Trusted Advisor Associates LLC, thought leaders in the field of client relationship management and trust building)
The Trust Equation was introduced by the world-renowned professional advisor Charles H. Green in early 2000 when he wrote the book The Trusted Advisor together with David H. Maister and Robert M. Galford. Since then it has been one of the most well-known concepts within client relationship management and simply put, as the title reveals; on how to build trust.
In short, the concept describes how trust, or more precisely, trustworthiness, can be broken down into the four subcategories; Credibility, Reliability, Intimacy and Self-orientation. The sum of the first three categories (Credibility, Reliability and Intimacy) divided by the last (Self-orientation) ultimately determines your level of trustworthiness.
Trustworthiness = Credibility + Reliability + Intimacy / Self-orientation
(Charles H. Green, 2001)
The concept can easily be used as a tool to strengthen the level of trust in professional relationships, as it can be broken down into twelve concrete action points to use in any professional role.
Here are 12 tips on how to build trust:
Credibility: What you see is what you get
Credibility is all about credentials, truth and transparency. A client wants to know that you have the relevant credentials for the task at hand. This means that it is not enough to have good credentials in general – the credentials need to be good for the client and his or her particular request. However, this will have little value if the client does not believe you are speaking the truth. Hence, the client should be able to say: ”I can trust what she says about…”
Therefore, in order to gain credibility:
1. In discussions, have your own point of view
2. When talking about your credentials; demonstrate your experience (don’t just talk about it)
3. When you don’t know the answer to a question, be transparent about it and say “I don’t know”
Reliability: The reliable rock
Reliability is referred to as the sum of dependability and predictability; therefore, the focus should be all about aligning expectations. This is due to the fact that people in general 1. Want to feel that they know you, 2. Want to have no (or very few) surprises and lastly 3. Want to understand the road you are leading them towards.
The goal is for the client to be able to say: ”I can trust him to…”
Therefore, in order to show reliability:
4. Always set agendas for meetings
5. Be very responsive (e.g. answer emails fast)
6. Never under -nor over perform
Intimacy: Client’s professional BFF
Intimacy boils down to discretion and empathy, and the feeling of being able to discuss all things in a secure and transparent way. This is because people in general trust someone who is open and secure.
The client should be able to say: ”I can trust her with…”
Therefore, in order to create intimacy:
7. Comment on your feeling as well as the client’s feelings
8. Make a habit out of ‘thinking out loud’
9. Write your proposal together with your client
Self-orientation: Serve the larger need
Orientation is all about your motives and attention. Your level of trust will decrease if your motives and attention are too self-oriented. For example, the goal should not be to solve a problem first or fastest, instead – focus on understanding the objectives behind solving the problem and what the client’s ultimate goal is.
In other words, the client should be able to say: ”I can trust that she cares about…”
Lower your level of self-orientation by:
10. Focus on serving the larger need
11. Don’t jump to problem-solving
12. SUAL (Shut up and listen)
Of course, time is also an important factor – as building trust takes time. But remember, the time you invest in building Trust today, can ultimately lead to big business in the future. That is why Trust is viewed as the one truly sustainable competitive advantage in business.
This framework has helped me a lot, and I believe anyone can benefit from breaking down what trust actually means. It is a worthwhile exercise for anyone.
Do you want to know more about Beyond Retail and how we work together with our clients? Don’t hesitate to contact me at email@example.com or +46 70-3488002. We can support you with interim solutions and-/or work on a project basis to advise on your next steps.