I recently read a Management Tip of the Day from Harvard Business Review that said:
“When working in a foreign setting with different norms and rules, you’re likely to make cultural mistakes. But you can lessen their impact by engendering people’s trust in the first place. Make sure your foreign counterparts believe you care enough to try to learn about their culture, even if you haven’t fully mastered the rules. Work hard to show genuine interest, curiosity, and respect.
But, you also need to be authentic. Don’t fake an interest in Indian food, for example, if you could care less about culinary arts. Find a pursuit that genuinely appeals to you and explore that. Otherwise, it will be clear to your colleagues that you’re trying to ingratiate yourself, not learn about the ins and outs of their culture.”
This advice applies equally to all aspects of client relationships. If you can’t build an honest and trusting relationship with a prospect or a client, you will never be able to take the relationship to where it creates the win-win needed for all to benefit.
Think about the process for prospecting or selling (up-selling or cross-selling too). You may have a better solution for your client or prospect, but they won’t be amenable to hearing about it unless and until they feel the trust and respect from you that warrants their attention.
And trust is based, quite substantially, on honesty. That means you need to tell the truth. If your solution isn’t the best one to meet the prospect’s needs, they need to hear that from you first. Tell them why you think that’s the case and give them the very same advice you’d give your best friend, even if you don’t benefit directly.
You may lose the sale as a result, but you will have gained the ongoing trust that will ultimately earn you far more business, from either that prospect or client or someone they refer you to. That kind of approach takes courage and it’s very different from the “sell at all costs / sell ice to Eskimos” traditional selling story.
But, in the long term, both you and your company will benefit from this approach.