12 Sep Getting personal professional to build trust
Moving conversation away from either safe technical discussions or superficial personal chatter can help you build intimacy, trust and also help you better understand your customer’s personal value triggers. Let’s get personal professional!
Do you ever feel uncomfortable in your client/customer conversations? If not, the chances are that you are staying in one or more of your safety zones.
Many conversations start with the personal-personal – the superficial chats about the weekend, the weather, sport, family and other typical ‘safe’ conversations product. There is nothing wrong with these, and if you find the right topic or point of commonality, these types of conversation are great at building rapport, which is of course very useful in seeking to build trust. The problem is that this type of conversations will only get you so far – they usually stay at the superficial level before drying up – prompting you to press on with business technicalities or specifics. These can build rapport, but rarely do they press on to build the deeper levels of trust that truly strengthen client relationships.
Alternatively, or after the initial rapport building, conversations go straight to the professional-professional. This is where you get down to business and discuss the details of any possible deal or offering. This area has a lot of potential – you can identify and understand needs, communicate value, demonstrate some credibility and over time some reliability. You can certainly start building some trust – but again its all quite superficial and transactional. You may have communicated effectively in relation to needs and priorities – but have you really connected on a human emotional level?
It is this human emotional connection that is actually the most powerful element in building deep, high-trust, customer relationships. The personal-professional level is where you seek to develop a deeper trust and understanding about your customers hopes and fears, their anxieties and pressure-points, their stresses and motivations, their personal value priorities.
Customer intimacy isn’t about sharing personal information, but about understanding the human emotional side of the business life. Shifting customer discussions onto the personal professional level helps focus conversations on what really matters – how people feel about their career/employment/business and how you might be able to help them.
You can help them by first empathising (which already makes them feel better about their situation), and then (if the opportunity arises) offering more specific help in terms of saving them time, reducing their stress and anxiety, making them look good in their organisation or anything else that really matters to them on a human level.
How to get personal professional
Shifting conversations onto the personal-professional isn’t easy of course. You can’t just dive in and either ask people about their problems at work, or how they feel about different challenges without the appropriate opportunity. You can, however, be alert for the opportunities.
Here are my tips for moving conversations and relationships onto a personal-professional level.
- Listen for and respond to any emotional language:
- Empathise and ask further questions so you can truly understand
- Ask if there is anything you can do to help
- Where they mention a potentially stressful, frustrating or emotional situation in unemotional terms, ask them how they feel or felt about it
- Ask permission to get personal – either by asking a question or saying something personal yourself
- Say thank you – in a genuine, personal heartfelt way – for any kindnesses they show you
- Express your own emotions (anxieties, worries, hopes) about any work/business situation
- Acknowledge difficult or uncomfortable situations
- Be more direct and honest than they were expecting
- Take responsibility for mistakes
Moving relationships onto the person-professional level often involves taking risks and opening up yourself before you can expect a customer or client to reciprocate. It means that customer conversations can get uncomfortable, but the payoff in terms of genuine trust and deeper customer relationships can be significant.