How the right kind of trust made me $60,000

Let me tell you about how I tried convincing a client to spend over $20,000 dollars elsewhere.

Yup, you read right.

But as with any good story, the good guy wins. At least I like to think of myself as the good guy in any story of business! 😉

The meeting that propped me up for $60,000.

A client hired me to create a roadmap for a new intranet they wanted to build using SharePoint, a technology I specialize in.

During the last meeting, I strongly recommended a different intranet solution.

After voicing my recommendation, there was silence.

The VP of Technology broke the silence and asked, “How much would you charge to implement your recommendation?”

“I’ve done some research on that too,” I answered. “I’ve included the names of companies and consultants that can help you with that.”

Another moment of silence snuck in.

“Wait, so you wouldn’t be the one implementing the solution?” they asked.

“Unfortunately, no,” I responded. “I’m not an expert in this software, but the features would serve you better than SharePoint. You’re better off hiring someone who can give you the best bang for your buck.”

“We were really hoping to work with you, though,” they said.

I continued, “That means a ton to me, but I wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t stress the best option enough. Here’s what I would do if I were in your shoes…” Then I told them more about the alternate solution and listed the benefits again.

They asked for a moment and muted their phones (it was a phone meeting).

A few minutes later, my client unmuted her phone and said, “Okay, we quickly discussed some things and we’ve made our decision.”

I was certain they’d go with my recommendation since it was their best solution.

I was wrong.

“While we understand why you’re recommending another technology,” they told me, “we don’t want to begin any new relationships. We’d rather work with someone whom we trust. I’m sure we can figure out how to make up for some of the missing features on our end.”

I won’t lie, I was flattered… almost as if they wooed me! It was like that special someone telling you that you’re enough to make them happy. That they’d choose you over anyone else… Every. Single. Time.

So what was the big deal? Hint: at least $20,000.

I would charge a minimum of $20,000 for this project. My client was aware of this fact when I recommended another technology.

Later, my client told me they had never worked with a consultant who tried to convince them to spend thousands of dollars elsewhere. Even more exceptional to them was the fact that I used this wording: “If I was running your company, I wouldn’t invest in me. I’d invest in this other solution because…”

My client was impressed by the fact that I could have recommended SharePoint (where I would have made money) as the best option, and they would have never known the difference.

The $20,000 project evolved. It turned out to be a $60,000 project.

Wait, how did that happen?!

One word: Trust.

The livelihood of your business will depend on how much people trust you. Click To Tweet

Why? As a business owner, trust is your most important asset. Just as in any relationship, trust is critical to developing the deep connection that lets both parties feel valued.

You should protect and nourish her as much as possible.

She’s your sidekick. She picks up your slack and will defend you even in your absence.

How trust works in freelancing

When most people start their freelancing journey, they dream about having an unlimited number of clients and a never-ending stream of work.

In reality, though, it rarely plays out like that. Understand trust, and you’ll understand why.

Here’s the rule of thumb:

The higher quality of trust you earn, the fewer people you’ll need it from. Click To Tweet

I drew this simple graph for you:

Trust Graph

The higher quality of trust you earn, the fewer people you’ll need it from.

Price and trust go hand-in-hand.

This is one of the reasons others can charge more than you: they’ve earned the reputation (via trust) to do so.

Selling a $1,000 project requires less trust than selling a $10,000 project.

The higher the price and investment, the more trust you’ll need from your client. Click To Tweet

After you’ve built enough trust, you can sell those dream 5-digit (or 6-digit) projects. You’ll even attract better clients.

Start building trust—you won’t regret it.

Want more trust? Start treating your clients like best friends

If you don’t make for a good friend, then you’ll suck at freelancing. Click To Tweet

When a client trusts you, they trust that you won’t cheat, fail, or lie to them. They believe you’ll always look out for them and never leave them hanging.

It’s just like a good friendship: Friends don’t take advantage. They answer their phone (or at least return phone calls). Friends keep it real and look out for one another.

Don’t forget, friendship works both ways too.

Many of my clients have become good friends of mine. I know the names of (and have even met) their spouse and kids. Some even send me personal family Christmas cards every year.

I’m not saying that you have to be as close to your clients as I am to mine, but you do need some sort of connection.

Clients are way more understanding, forgiving, and willing to work with you when they see you as a good friend.

Now that we’ve discussed theory, let’s talk about action.

4 Practical ways to build trust:

#1 – Follow through.

This may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many freelancers fail to deliver what they promise. Stop missing deadlines. Follow-up when you say you will, and deliver what you said you could.

Be dependable. Dependability is always a good place to start building trust.

#2 – Think about your client before yourself.

This is the golden rule. Treat your client the way you’d like someone else to treat you. Be honest and upfront with them, even if it means you miss out on money. Admit your mistakes and say you’re sorry. Make up for things that went wrong. Say thank you and give credit freely.

Your client will trust you more when they know you’re thinking about them before yourself.

#3 – Over deliver any time you can afford to.

Be generous when you have room to be. Go the extra mile, and do unexpected things that make your client smile. Add that extra feature at no cost. Hold that 30-minute out-of-scope meeting.

Anything you over-deliver is like a well-thought-out gift: People appreciate it, and they rarely forget it.

#4 – Listen to your clients like a therapist (or best friend) would. 

Sometimes, your client just needs to vent. Be a soundboard for them. Let them think through issues and ideas with you. Listening is a powerful trust-building tool.

Think about some of the best friends you’ve had in your life. They were all good listeners, and because of that, they understood how you ticked. Do the same for your client: pay attention to their needs so you understand how to serve them best.

Do the same for your client: pay attention to their needs so you understand how to serve them best.

One last thought about trust

Trust isn’t a tricky thing. It’s very simple, actually.

Don’t complicate it.

When it comes to tough decisions for your business or clients, think about how you would treat your best friend. You’d never betray them (at least not intentionally). You truly want the best for them. Always.

If you take the time to build trust with your clients, you’ll soon see the results in the quality of your projects, clients, and work.

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2 Comments
  • Aranka Nolan
    Posted at 16:43h, 02 May Reply

    As usual you are right on the money Luis! Love your work and you think is the best way. Thank you for another page of sense in the business development book for introverts.

    • Luis Vazquez
      Posted at 10:57h, 03 May Reply

      Thanks Aranka. I appreciate the positive feedback! 🙂

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