How To Build Trust, Personally

By Mo Bunnell

What's On My Mind

Here's the second in our four-part series on trust...a great series to work through with your entire team.

Last week we ended with the three questions your clients are asking about you.

  1. Do I trust you?​
  2. Do I trust your team?​
  3. Do I trust your organization?

I gave several practical actions you can take to build trust at each level.

Click HERE to revisit those.

​Today, we'll go deeper on the first question focusing on building personal trust.

​This is where the client or strategic partner is asking Do I trust you?

​From the client's perspective, there are four perspectives that roll up into Do I trust you?

  1. Do I trust your technical abilities?​
  2. Do I trust you'll get things done safely and on time?​
  3. Do I trust you "get" me and my business?​
    and the big one...​
  4. Do I trust you have my best interests in mind...or yours?

(Hit reply and let me know if you see the Easter Egg in that framework!)

More on building personal trust in each of these four areas below...

What We Just Created

Oh man, I LOVED having friend and strategic partner James Barclay of Passle on the show this week!

​James is my favorite digital content guru for expert-driven professionals, and his insights were fantastic.

​If you've wondered how to create magnetic digital content for your marketing and BD, James and I will show you how.

CLICK HERE if you want to learn how to successfully use digital content.

​​CLICK HERE if you want to learn how to build trust in a digital world.

​​CLICK HERE if you want to learn how to focus your digital content on connecting with clients.

​​CLICK HERE if you want to learn how to keep your momentum going (and practically speaking, we talk about how to start a podcast too).

These were four power-packed and practical episodes!​

James is a gem!

What's Worth Lingering On

OK, back to personal trust.​

Let's tackle the Do I trust you? perspectives one at a time.

Do I trust your technical abilities?

​This one is foundational.

You have to have the goods.

​But just as importantly...

You have to communicate you have the goods.

Things to do:​

  1. Build a digital presence. (See the content James and I created above!)

    These days, most people research before they meet you. Google your name right now, just like they would. What do you see? Does that content convey the technical expertise and brand you want?
    ​Specific action: Revisit our show's content above and build the digital brand you want. It'll take time, and it's worth it.
    Team question: What can the team do to enhance your digital presence?
  2. Craft your story.
    Our GrowBIG Training teaches how to talk about what you do in a way that creates confidence and curiosity to learn more about you.
    Specific action: Write down how you answer the question "So what do you do?" Think through how you communicate your expertise and brand. What clients do you mention you work with? What value can you crisply communicate?
    Team question: Who does the best at talking about what they do? How can others learn from them?

Do I trust you'll get things done safely and on time?

This one's best conveyed through action.

Example: simply sending something to a prospective client earlier than expected sends a stronger message than saying you get things done early.

Specific action: You'll win the battle of expectations based on the date you promise things, not through some herculean effort near the due date.

This isn't my strong suit, so I try to add buffer time when I promise something. Simply put, I try to add one "unit of time measurement" to my in the moment promises.

If my brain says I can do it in an hour, I suggest a day. If I think I can do something today, I ask if this week would be OK.

When I remember to do this, it works great. And hey, aren't we all a work in progress?

Team question: What can your best team member teach others about how they convey they are a safe choice?


Do I trust you "get" me and my business?

From the client's perspective, this is intuitive.

No spreadsheet needed; they just feel it.

Two great ways to convey "getting them" are:

  1. Paraphrase their situation back to them.

    This is one of the most powerful skills in relationship building.

    "So it sounds like you're dealing with..."

    "Let me see if I've got this right. The Board is suggesting..."

    "We've seen this movie before. Your people are feeling... Did I get that right?"

    Specific action: Ask as many questions as needed to paraphrase the situation back to the client. If they correct you, great! If they say, "Yes, that's it!" that's great too.

    Either way, they trust you're in alignment.

    Team question: How can you document your best scoping questions into a shared list?
  2. Mention models you work with that they can become

    I know some people poo poo name dropping, but it works. They're overthinking it. I get it that too much of anything is a bad thing, but the properly mentioned client you work with makes all the difference.

    My friend and author Luke Burgis wrote about Mimetic Desire in his excellent book Wanting.

    Mimetic Desire describes why we want what we want, and the key to wanting is that we have models in our head. Models of who we want to become.

    (HERE is a video of the two of us describing Mimetic Desire and how you can use it. High recommend!)

    Short version: we humans are wired to mimic others.

    Specific action: Share client names you work with that the client you're talking to would like to emulate.

    They'll trust you not only understand them now but also where they want to go.

    Team question: Who are your best client models to share?

Last up...

Do I trust you have my best interest in mind...or yours?

​Saved this one till the end. It's big.

​This is gut level.


​Building trust like this is hard to describe, but there are some practical things you can do.

Specific actions:

  1. Point out what the client doesn't need from you.

    This is easy to gloss over or not mention at all.

    Don't fall for that trap.

    "Many of our clients hire us for ___, but I wouldn't recommend that in your case because..."

    That one sentence will build personal trust.

    Specific action: When it's true, add that sentence to your scoping calls.

    You'll be amazed at its impact.

    Team question: How can you incorporate this into your conversations?
  2. Look for Moments Of Truth

    This is what we call times where the client wants to get your help, but there's nothing to buy.

    My take: these moments build 10x the trust that purely commercial conversations do.

    I was talking to a client yesterday about this very thing. Let's call her Susan.

    Susan worked with a client on his career planning. He was thinking of leaving his current company and taking a big risk. She took the time to talk with him, asked deeply thoughtful questions, and guided him to the right decision for him.

    Surprisingly, it was to stay where he was.

    Know what?

    He'll remember Susan's investment in his success forever.

    That's building personal trust.

    Specific action: Double down on Moments Of Truth

    Team question: Who is the best at doing this on your team? What do they do?
  3. Stay in touch when there's nothing to purchase.

    This is different than moments of truth.

    Here I just mean that you'll stay in light touch consistently over time.

    Specific action: Find ways to stay in touch with your most important clients and prospects, especially when there is nothing to buy.

    Team question: What mechanisms can you set up across your team to make sure you do this? To share learnings? To enable helpful outreach?

I end with the client asking Do you have my best interest in mind...or yours? for a reason.

It's the most important.

​I end that section with staying in touch when there's nothing to purchase for a reason.

It's the most important element of that perspective.

All four elements of trust are important.

​Expertise matters, but it's tough for a client to tell who's technically better.

​Getting things done safely and on time is table-stakes once you prove that's the way you operate.

​And many people can "get" someone and their business.

​But the client feeling like you have their best interests in mind?

That's the game-changer.

I hope you use everything in this article.

But make sure you do one thing.

Create a mechanism to stay in touch with your most important clients when there's nothing to purchase.

Here are our best practices to do just that: High Impact Relationship Deepeners. (This is great to scale across a team.)​

Managing your opportunities is important. You know our content–we have great ways to do this. You have to get it right to get the deal.

But I'd put even more effort into managing trust.

Staying in touch and adding value when there's nothing to buy.

Those little ongoing efforts are the things that make a BIG difference.

Imagine a group of your clients deciding on who to use for an important engagement.

People's careers are on the line. This is a big deal. Big numbers.

​When the stakes are high, one thing will determine the winner.