“If [customers] don’t trust you… they’re not buying from you because they want to buy. They’re buying because they have to… The person might buy what you sold them, but they don’t go away feeling good about it,” said Keith Dugdale, founder of I Owe U International and The Business of Trust, at the Strategic Account Management Association Annual Conference a few years ago.
You can watch part of his talk here:
A situation like the one Dugdale presents does not lead to customer loyalty, a long lifetime value (LTV) or maximizing per-customer revenue. If you want to increase your profits by 25-95%, you must improve your customer retention rates, which often means improving trust rates.
Here’s how to do it.
1) Create Realistic Expectations
We’ve all heard we need to exceed customer expectations to win their hearts, but in order to do that, we need to have a conversation with them and figure out what it is they expect.
Otherwise, we might find out that only 1% of customers feel their expectations are met.
If a client needs you to deploy faster that your team can manage, she might not be a good fit. If she needs more features from a CRM, she might want to check out Salesforce instead of your small business CRM.
You’re better off clarifying and being honest with the customer up front – especially in B2B, where stakes are often really high – than having a dissatisfied customer on your hands.
As we previously reported, 80% of the revenue that the largest companies generate often comes from existing customers, partially through referrals. If you’re honest and upfront, they’ll respect you and send relevant customers your way. But if you fail to meet their expectations, expect them to tell even more of their friends how disappointed they are.
Of course, sometimes the customer is a really good fit… if they only understand the work they need to do to succeed.
2) Make Sure Your Customers Know Their Part in Reaching Success
Chances are, you and your team worked really hard to identify your ideal customer, and then refine that identification as you went into the market, started working with real life companies, and eventually expanded.
But even customers that fall into your perfect category sometimes need guidance.
After you identify their expectations, one of the key ways to build trust with your key accounts is to make sure they know what they need to do to optimize success with your product.
For example, here at ContextSmith, we sell an sales and account management software. If you use it well, you can improve your sales goals and even inter-department collaboration, identify and handle bottlenecks, and therefore, increase your top line. We really believe in everything our software can do for our customers, but also know our software isn’t magical.
Instead, we build trust by guiding our customers through the work they need to do to make the most out of the software. Oh, and we do something else, too. We…
3) Show Customers All Departments are On Top of Things
“With a large account, it’s inevitable that you won’t be the only person in your organization talking with your client. Instead, there’s a complex array of relationships across departments and contracts,” wrote Richard Young, former director of CRM sales, EMEA at Bullhorn, and current sales director at Fonteva, on the Bullhorn blog.
As Young pointed out, that means the account manager responsible for a customer might not be aware of a challenge the customer is experiencing until the customer calls her, which might be too late, because the trust has already been broken as your team has been unable to take care of the issue, and failed or didn’t know to inform you in time.
Young recommended embracing “radical openness” in your company, so “you’d have sight of all emails to and from your client – regardless of who sent them. You wouldn’t be restricted by what someone else thought you needed to know. You could make that decision for yourself,” he wrote.
You can see an example of what Young talked about in the screenshot from our software below, but before you even go exploring tools, make sure collaboration is rooted deep in your company culture.
4) Always Keep Your Word
Customers want to trust you. They really, really do. They spend a lot of time researching vendors before they sign off on a deal, and they master up a lot of courage to even recommend you to their management team.
If they put their faith in you and it turns out they were justified to do so, they’ll have evidence of expertise and of wise decision making to take to their bosses. If you fail them, you won’t just fail them on a business level, making them work harder to make up for the financial loss – you’ll fail them on a personal level, too.
One of the simplest ways you can help your customers prove in-house that your product was the best choice is to always keep your word.
Always deliver what you say you will, the quality you advertised, the tech support you agreed on, and the results you promised.
We’re all human, and sometimes we all want to make ourselves look a little better than we currently are. But make sure everyone on your team knows it’s better to be upfront now than to work 12 times as hard to rebuild the trust later if the customer will even give you a second chance.
Source: Salesforce via Slideshare
5) Be Empathetic and Proactive When Things Don’t Go Well
Sometimes things don’t go well and trust does get broken, but according to Michael Dalis, senior consultant and executive sales coach at The Richardson Company, ignoring the “elephant in the room” won’t lead to anything good.
In an article for HubSpot, he recommended talking to your customers after trust has been broken. Specifically, he recommended asking them open-ended questions and showing empathy, so they’ll see you still care. He also said that showing empathy will likely help you get to the bottom of what’s really bothering them.
Only after you’ve gained insight into the customer’s perspective does Dalis thinks you need to start offering solutions. He emphasized that you need to link solutions directly to the customer’s concerns, explain how your suggestions will make a difference, then ask more open-ended questions to get the customer’s feedback.
Building Trust with Your Key Accounts Takes a Long Term, Company-Wide Commitment
As you can see, trust is critical to your relationships with your customers, which means it’s critical to your company’s long-term success. You and your team need to show up every day willing to collaborate with each other, do the work, and over-deliver for your customers.
As a reward, you’ll get to enjoy all the benefits of upselling your way to your dream bottom line.