By Allwell Nwankwo

Do your customers trust you?  Can they easily refer their relations and best friends to you?
Whether you work for an organisation as an employee or you run your own business, you definitely need the trust of your customers to succeed.  Most people in business would like to be trusted, but not all work to earn trust.  In fact, some actually seem to work hard to fritter away trust.

Trust, in its simplest form, means that there is a feeling of confidence that someone would always do what is deemed to be right.  It doesn’t come easy.  Nor is it built in a day.  It is usually the result of a series of consistently positive experiences.

We all need our customers to trust us.  But we must earn their trust.  We cannot buy it or commandeer it.  We must work painstakingly for it.  Let’s consider some sure-fire ways to build trust with customers.  You’ll notice that these tips are interrelated.

Understand customers and their business
People can only trust those who understand them and appreciate their peculiar needs.  To earn the trust of your customers, you must take interest in them as individuals and in their business.  You need to demonstrate a clear understanding of their needs.  Don’t assume anything.  Do your homework.  Research the customer.  Ask questions.  If you seem to know more about your customer’s competitors and even appear to hold them up as the best in the industry (no matter how truthful this assertion may be) you stand the risk of rubbing your customer up the wrong way.  You’d probably be better off working for competition since you seem to know so much about them.

Become a consultant
How would you like to visit a doctor who has a reputation for prescribing drugs even before he knows what the ailment is?  Would you trust him?  Wouldn’t you feel he is a quack that is only interested in your money?  Well, that is the way you think as a customer (patient).  Your customers will think the same way if you don’t take time to ask about their current situation and the challenges they face.  Your listening skills will come in handy here.  Let the customer voice his challenges.  Then will your diagnosis be accurate.  Sometimes, we are in such a hurry to make a sale that we just railroad the customer into giving us an order.  If things work out, great.  If they don’t, too bad.  The customer will begin to suspect your motives the next time you ask him to buy.  What’s more?  Consultants are like confidants. Aim to become a confidant to your customers.

Offer solutions, not products
Is any one really interested in your products?  No way.  It’s trite marketing knowledge that people are not interested in products, but in the benefits they offer.  Unfortunately, sales people sometimes focus more on the technical features of their products (examples: Bluetooth, Gigahertz, torque) instead of showing the customer how these features will serve him.  In any case, you cannot offer solutions if you have not done a good diagnosis of the situation.  Helping customers solve problems in practical ways helps you earn their trust and patronage.

Help customers save money
At first glance, you may wonder whether this is for real.  After all, aren’t we in business to make money?  Sure, we are in business to make money.  But ultimately, we make more money through customers that trust us and remain committed to us.  I’m not talking about ripping customers off.  I’m talking about earning their trust.  Sometimes, you may let go of an order today, to get something bigger tomorrow.

There are times customers think they need a particular gadget (or service) when they really don’t.  You’ll be building trust if you tell the customer not to buy – or to buy a less expensive product.  But to do this, you must understand the customer well and you must be willing to serve as a consultant – offering solutions, not products.  Don’t fall into the habit of pushing your product to the customer just to make a sale.  Such a sale may cost you the customer when she realises she didn’t really need your widget.

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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.