Wherever you work in the world and whatever corporate culture you are dealing with you should always foster openness and from your customer.
Being open with a potential supplier carries with it many risks. Can they trust you with sensitive information? If your proposal is accepted and then it fails, what will be the consequence?
Some cultures are comfortable being extremely DIRECT with you, but how can you get them to trust you? One of the best books that have addressed customer trust is The Trusted Advisor .
In the meantime here are some practical tips that I have found to enourage openness:
- Cafe or Coffee meeting. I personally don’t drink coffee! But meeting with a customer for a drink to discuss business can create a neutral environment which encourages openness.
- Making phone calls . Don’t be so eager to sell sell sell! First check if they are free for a minute, then briefly explain your proposal to meet with them. When booking a time give them over a week to two weeks ahead in the calendar. This shows that you are not desperately trying to sell to them.
- Ask more questions in the first meeting. The first meeting is an opportunity to build rapport and learn more about the customer’s situation. You will greatly impress them by asking questions, listening and speaking less!
- Find a small way to add value in the beginning. This could be a non-monetary way of helping your customer. It could be offering them free research, or an invitation to an event that relates to their professional life. When you provide someone with value they are more likely to trust you more.
- Be willing to admit to your past failings or limitations. Use this tactic carefully as it can backfire in a big way 🙂. The customer does not want to hear how bad you have stuffed things up in the past. But they will value someone that is open about what you are good and not so good at. Sharing an experience that emphasises a learning and new direction can also be helpful.
These are some of the tactics that have worked for me. Do you have any additional experiences or tactics to add in the comments below?