Creating a sense of trust with clients, colleagues, business acquaintances and mentors (or mentees) is essential to your brand (personal and professional). Instilling trustworthiness takes time, dedication and concerted effort, but pays in dividends in likelihood of referrals, company culture, employee tenure and general reputation in (and out of) your network. One of the most effective ways to instill trustworthiness is by incorporating a culture of giving within yourself and your company. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
ALIGN YOUR ORGANIZATION – OR YOURSELF – WITH A FEW SOLID NONPROFIT ORGANIZATIONS
Whether you offer pro-bono work from your company, serve on a board, give funds or simply have an employee day at a local nonprofit, giving you or your team time to give back to the community and to worthy causes amplifies your commitment to making our community a better place. Employee engagement for a few hours at a food pantry or helping to beautify a local park helps build camaraderie around your staff as well. Be sure to include your team in the decision-making process and do your homework in regards to the organizations you choose: they should reflect your mission and values, and be a reputable, responsible organization. Don’t be afraid to share your company’s nonprofit affiliations on your social media channels or in your client newsletters either.
When you send a congratulatory basket to a client who just won a major industry award or a thank-you to a member of your network that referred you to your latest account, giving a random bouquet of flowers or a generic gift may be an easy way to go (and certainly better than nothing at all), but taking the time to select a thank-you or congratulatory gift that reflects that person’s interests, likes and nonprofit work shows that your effort was thoughtful and personalized. At the very least, consider that the gift should be about your recipient, not your company. In other words, this isn’t the time to hand them a branded promotional piece with a thank you note on company stationery. Be respectful and show how much you appreciate their gesture to you—and reciprocate.
It may sound trite, but the best gift you can give another professional is a good word. In fact, according to a recent McKinsey & Company study, word of mouth is the primary factor behind 20 to 50 percent of all purchasing decisions. Peer review is more important than ever, and people are more likely to try brands and companies based on others’ recommendations (think of how much you rely on platforms like Google reviews, Yelp and TripAdvisor). Referring business to others is a sign that you trust them with your name and good reputation, and that the company you’re referring is also trustworthy.
NETWORK WITHOUT THE “ALL ABOUT ME” MENTALITY
When you attend a networking function, asking the right questions of new contacts is key to establishing yourself as a memorable potential service provider. Ask questions of the client’s needs, issues your products or services can address and how you differentiate yourself from the competition. Be sure to follow up using a specific tidbit from your conversation to jog their memory. Giving your prospect or new contact the “mic,” whether literally or figuratively, can give them an outlet to explain how you can be of assistance to them.