In the great majority of cases, clients do not need to engage or instruct you. They have a choice, so your challenge is to make them want to instruct you. Your relationship with them can really make the difference because your technical expertise alone is unlikely to be a differentiator.
In order to build that relationship, first you will have to establish three things:
- Your technical competence, although frequently that is assumed.
- That you have the relevant sector experience.
- Personal trust. You will have to show you’re a good fit and also that you’ll be good to work with.
In terms of establishing your expertise and experience, the most common mistake that people make here is just trying too hard. They feel that they have to impress the client by telling them stuff. This creates two massive problems:
Firstly, everything you say is based on an assumption of what you think the client wants. It’s like being given darts to throw at a dart board, but the board is somewhere on a large wall covered by a curtain. How on earth are you going to hit the board, let alone the bull’s eye?
Secondly, you do all the talking. All the research shows that if you want the other person to feel you’re interested in them, you have to let them do the majority of the talking.
So instead of going on ‘transmit’, you change your approach to asking questions. Your insightful questions will not only be the most effective way for you to demonstrate your expertise but if we go back to our dart board example, it means that you pull the curtain back, reveal the dart board and can now focus on what really is important to your client rather than what you assume is or simply what you just want to talk about. In effect this means that you are no longer selling. Instead you are attracting. Nobody likes being sold to!
To build up trust, here are 4 useful points:
- Be transparent.
- Have firm but not aggressive eye contact.
- Be authentic yet relaxed.
- Answer questions with total integrity.
In other words if you don’t know the answer to something, say so. Try not to fall into the trap of behaving like a politician and avoiding giving any definitive answer. While this may prevent you being held accountable for something, it will also do very little to positively build a relationship. Saying you don’t know the answer to a question or saying that you can’t deliver a certain product or service has a positive effect on building trust as it takes someone comfortable in their skin to admit it.