Words: Corey Adams
It always astounds me when one of my sons makes a profound statement. Kids have a way of cutting through the gray and delivering a black and white approach to most things. It is a reaffirming proud dad moment for a parent.
Just as I sat in on client meetings, negotiations, and planning meetings growing up, I allow my four sons to be right there with me. They may think it is boring, but they are getting a crash course in business. They are learning nuance that can only come from immersion in a chosen field.
A few months ago, we took our boys to a parade. The same parade that every town has: floats, high school bands, and of course, candy. What followed on the way home was a lesson in networking and relationships.
Our second son, out of the blue and unprovoked, said, “Dad, did you ever notice how the kids on the floats throw more candy out to their friends?” BINGO!! I felt like a cartoon character with a light bulb above my head. We all preach networking, but do we often sit and break it down to its core? He may not have grasped the depth and profoundness of his question, but I was happy to help him down the path.
What transpired the rest of the way home was an informal Q&A that many aspiring networkers could have benefited from. How much was more candy thrown? Why do you think they are friends? Would you do the same?
The construction world often works the exact same way, only our candy is the equivalent of contracts. We work our tails off to build relationships, gain repeat business, and make life easier when it comes to filling our candy bag. What makes our clients throw more candy our way? In my experience, it boils down to one key ingredient —trust.
Your clients must trust you, your work, and your process, and if any of these three things are lacking, they will look elsewhere. This includes workmanship, professionalism, and promptness. Building that trust takes time, effort, and thought. It does not come overnight, nor should it.
When building a trust-based relationship, here are a few tips that have helped me develop lifelong clients and friends.
- Honesty. This should go without saying. Being a trusted source of non-bias information is the fastest way to develop relationships. Sometimes this includes challenging or pushing a client a little, but if you’re confident in your position, steady in your persuasion, and execute it flawlessly, then your honesty will be appreciated. Do not overpromise anything. Tell them what you can deliver and when, then make it happen.
- Availability. This is not the availability to do the projects, but the availability as a person, partner, and advisor. Relationship building should be focused on making each other’s life better, easier, and more productive. If someone needs advice, give it to them in the quickest, and most honest way you can. And for the 1 millionth time, answer your phone and return your calls promptly! This is a major key in how people view you, your company, and your abilities.
- Be Human. It is ok to be human! It is astonishing how many people turn into robotic drones when talking or meeting with a client. Bring up family, ask them about that picture on the wall, and share a laugh. This is a weird but true fact in trust. People must like you, and people like other people. I am not advocating for lying about enjoying the same things, but a little friendly chatter goes a long way.
We want our clients to call us first, last, and always. I have landed many deals where I was the only contractor contacted. Why? Because the clients simply trusted us.
Trust is a combination of past performance and future expectations. Develop trust in a relationship, and you will need two bags to hold all your candy at the next parade.