Every company that delivers services to organizations wants to be that organization’s trusted advisor – and that is especially important for an MSP. As an MSP you don’t want to be seen as the people that just turn up when something is broken, or to install a new laptop.
You don’t just want to be talking to the decision makers, you want to be involved in the decision-making process from the start.
This article looks into how you can become your customers trusted advisor – and how can you build trust with new customers where you don’t have a proven track record.
What is trust?
Before we talk about how to become a trusted advisor, let’s see if we understand what trust means.
If you Google “what is trust” (or maybe, ask ChapGPT!) it will give you a dictionary definition a bit like this:
- Trust (noun) – the firm belief in the reliability, truth, or ability of someone or something.
The interesting word here is “belief” – this is a very difficult thing to put your finger on. You can’t easily measure “belief”.
So how do we get people to trust us? Again, if we go to ChatGPT you might get a list of ideas that aren’t very helpful; “don’t lie”, “be kind”, “don’t gossip”, “keep secrets”. These feel like things we teach our 3 year-olds, and don’t help us learn how to build trust with customers.
Trust vs Credibility
We know that trust is a vague “belief” in something, but what about credibility?
Trust is based on character and intent, while credibility is based on evidence or track record over time.
- Trust is personal, emotive
- Credibility can be proven
So, if credibility can be proven – how do we build credibility?
And, more importantly, how do we build credibility when we have no proven track record with the customer?
The keys to building trust
First off, as we have learnt, building trust with someone you have only just met is not easy or simple. However, we know that the following tips will help.
1. Ask good questions
This really should be tip number 1, 2 and 3. The primary way to get customers to trust you is to ask good questions.
Say something like “Let’s pretend I know nothing. I’m going to ask a number of questions to get it from your perspective”. Now, the fact might be that you don’t know anything! But if you ask good questions you will prove to the customer a) you are interested in their business and b) you can prove your ability and experience by asking them good questions and probing their answers.
The questions you ask need to generate interactive discussion:
- Don’t ask “closed” yes or no questions
- Don’t just accept their answers, follow up with more questions until you satisfy yourself you understand
- Don’t tell them what to do or tell them the answers (let’s face it you probably don’t know the answers anyway!)
- Work out the problem and solutions together
2. Listen well
This sounds obvious, but listening well is absolutely vital. You can’t ask pertinent follow up questions if you haven’t listened to the answer. Another key is to tie their answer back to information they have given you in previous questions – for example “you’ve said that your staff are able to work from home, but you mentioned you have warehouse staff – how does that work?”. Again, you can’t do that if you’re not listening. Taking notes can help here, too.
3. Speaking from experience helps
There is no getting around this – being able to speak from experience helps.
Having some grey hairs and wrinkles helps. If you have designed, quoted and delivered a project and seen it through to the end of its life 10 years later you will see what worked well and what didn’t.
That experience doesn’t need to be in the field you are discussing, a lot of experience is transferrable – we have had great IT consultants that have come from an financial or construction background.
4. Try and embed yourself at the customer
We deliver IT Manager-as-a-service (or VCIO) to customers and the key to do this is embedding ourselves at the customer, so they see us as a part of their team, not an external MSP. If you are embedded effectively at a customer, they will trust you.
So here are some tips to embedding yourself, and thereby building trust:
- Say “we” – “we need to help HR with their onboarding process”
- Use their language – every organization has jargon, acronyms, sayings – use them
- Know their key staff – every organization has some key staff who know how everything works – get to know them
- Get invited to their management meetings or planning days – this is absolutely vital to be involved at the start of the decision making process
- Get an account or email – be visible on their internal systems and address lists
5. Be like a swan
Sometimes you have to fake it until you make it. You need to be confident and calm to the outside world, whilst under the water you are paddling furiously. This means you will be asked advice about things you don’t have specific knowledge about. Be honest, but be helpful and solution focused – for example “I have seen x and y before, but I haven’t come across that. Let me get back to you on that”.
Then do your homework, do the research, talk to your peers and start paddling furiously. Having a great network of colleagues and peers helps here – you are always stronger as team. Then get back to the customer calmly and confidently with the information and advice as though it was no problem at all.
6. Use getKambium!
You knew this was coming right? The reason we built the getKambium portal was to help MSPs ask good questions, and listen well. It has smart questions, and smart recommendations built-in, and you can add your own.
It provides a consistent framework to engage with your customers, and lets you learn from your smart colleagues more easily.