First impressions are very important.
But it’s the second and third impressions that might matter even more. Especially in the small business world.
Like many relationships, there can be a honeymoon period. Both parties are feeling the excitement of possibility. That can lead both to overlook the flaws that might be deal breakers down the line.
Usually in a new business relationship, the client will give the new business they’re working with a little leeway. They’ll give them the benefit of the doubt the first time. The second time they’ll let things slide. But after that they’re going to be watching closely.
If things continue to break down early on the client will usually leave. Either by breaking the contract or opting out of the trial period.
If you’re looking to build trust with your clients past the point of the honeymoon phase, here are a few key steps…
Step #1. Understand Your Process
When clients get disappointed it’s almost always a result of misaligned expectations. And you have to look at this from your perspective, as the owner or operator of the business. Somewhere, your new client expected more than what you were likely to provide. The trust was broken and you lost their business.
So the step you can take is to understand your process. Every step from the client first discovering you to when they sign up to when they are onboarding as a new client.
You’ve probably gone through this at least a few times (if you’re new) and many times if you’ve been in business for awhile. Schedule time to document this process. Understand what is going on and then lay it out on your website, in your sales process and when you’re onboarding a client.
The more you and the client know what to expect the more trust there will be.
Step #2. Don’t Overpromise
It seems obvious, but it’s easy to fall into this trap when you’re trying to get new business. It’s part of understanding yourself and your business. If you’re seeing an issue with clients leaving early. Call it “churn” or whatever you want. Then you have an issue of overpromising.
Look to figure out where the overpromising is coming from. Then remove it from your sales process. Including what you say in person and on the phone. And also what you say on your website.
It’s a balance. You want to sell yourself and sell it well, but you always want to maintain the trust with the new client. Overpromise and you’re at risk for a lot of failure that is costlier than losing a client before you know you’ve lost them.
Step #3. Fulfill Every Promise Early On
Early in the relationship, it’s critical to make sure you’re doing what you say. It seems simple, but it’s often overlooked especially if there is some time before a new client starts paying for your service.
When you or an employee tells a client that something will happen, no matter how small, make sure it happens.
There is almost always more work early on in client relationships than there is later on. You’re getting to know the client. Unexpected things come up. Plan for this in your process and make sure someone is on top of what is going on.
Even something simple like telling a client you’ll send them something via email by a certain date. “By Monday” should mean “by Monday” and probably first thing on Monday.
Step #4. Overcommunicate To Understand The Client’s Expectations
Things can go a little off script with new clients. They’re all a little different. Make it your priority or the priority of your account manager to overcommunicate with new clients. Keep them in the loop with what’s going on. Make sure they’re following up if they’re waiting on clients for information or assets or things like that.
This is mostly to make the client feel important, which they are. It’s critical in the early stages.
Step #5. Learn From Every New Client
There is always something to learn. You’re going to change. Your processes will improve without you even focusing on them. But bad habits can also sneak into your sales and onboarding processes. So take the time to audit new clients every few months.
It doesn’t take anything super official. Just take some time to think about and go over each new client from recent history. What went right. What went wrong. All the things that led to the success or failure.
Then adjust what needs to. Fix things that are broke including the wording and process you use to gain trust.
Gaining trust with a new client can lead to great gains down the road. Restaurants know that once they get a customer to come a third time that the customer is likely a committed customer for the long-term. It’s not that they will ignore the customer in the future. It’s just that it’s worth working hard upfront to win them over.
Do the work upfront to win the trust of your clients. It’ll payoff in the long-term even if you lose a little time, energy and money early on.