How to Earn Your Client's Trust
Trusted Advisor Associates surveyed 72,880 respondents between 2008 and 2015. What they learned about trust might change the way you interact with your clients.

We all know what trust means…or do we? A company called Trusted Advisor Associates developed a Trust Quotient Assessment. It breaks down trustworthiness into 4 measurable components:

  • Credibility: your words, skills, and credentials
  • Reliability: your actions and predictability
  • Intimacy: how discreet and empathetic you are
  • Self-orientation: how we make people feel we’re focused on ourselves vs. on them (this is the only component where you want a low score)

Next, they created a 20-question survey to help people evaluate their own trustworthiness and gave it to more than 72,000 respondents. Finally, they created a Trust Quotient score based on the answers. Scores can range from 20 to 100, with 100 being the high score.

The average score? Among their 72,000+ respondents, it was an 82.9. In school terms, that’s a low B.

Take a moment to think about how you’d expect to score. Does your expectation match this average result? You can take the questionnaire here, and read the white paper with their results here.

The Results

41% of survey respondents scored highest on reliability. On the other hand, only 18% of respondents scored highest on the ability to create a sense of intimacy. This isn’t saying it’s easy to be reliable…but it is saying that more people are good at being reliable than they are at showing empathy.

How does this finding translate into the real world?

To earn your client's trust, try to create an environment where the client feels comfortable confiding in you. Do they feel like you care? Do they feel like you’ve created a safe space for them? If so, they’re more likely to open up about their financial fears, or their feelings on disability and long-term care.

Te ability to make others feel safe, to demonstrate understanding, and to show empathy and personal vulnerability are keys to building trust.

Interestingly, the company also asked some respondents to have other people fill out the same questionnaire, giving their opinions about his or her trustworthiness. The goal? To find out if people’s impressions of their trustworthiness matched others.

As it turns out, other people probably think more highly of you than you do yourself. That’s what happened in the survey results. Survey participants rated themselves as 82.6 out of 100, while their contacts rated them at 87.1.

The Patterns

Next, the group looked at components that tended to appear together—participants who were strong in the first also tended to be strong in the second. Essentially, this means the person naturally uses these methods as a form of trust building. These characteristics come naturally, so they’re authentic and easy to deploy.

Then they named the patterns they saw, creating a short list of “trust personality” types. Here they are, ranked by commonality:

  • The Expert (38% of group): scored highest in credibility + reliability
  • The Steward (21% of group): scored highest in reliability + low self-orientation
  • The Doer (17% of group): scored highest in reliability + intimacy
  • The Connector (9% of group): scored highest in intimacy + low self-orientation
  • The Catalyst (8% of group): scored highest in credibility + intimacy
  • The Professor (7% of group): scored highest in credibility + low self-orientation

Ready for the plot twist?

Next, they re-ranked these results in terms of the subjects’ overall Trust Quotient. In other words, the above combinations are the most common. But is the most common combination also perceived as the most trustworthy?

In a word…no.

Here’s how that list looks when it’s ordered by most trustworthy:

  • The Doer: reliability + intimacy
  • The Connector: intimacy + low self-orientation
  • The Catalyst: credibility + intimacy
  • The Expert: credibility + liability
  • The Steward: reliability + low self-orientation
  • The Professor: credibility + low self-orientation

The most trustworthy elements, according to this survey, are reliability and intimacy.

In fact, intimacy is the element that connects the top three most trustworthy temperaments.

Next Steps

So…what does all this mean for you and your business?

According to Trusted Advisor, if you feel like you’re lacking in the trust department, use the following five steps to build trust:

  • Start a conversation on a topic that’s important to your client.
  • Hear what they have to say; listening gives you the insight you need to offer the right solution or advice at the right time.
  • Framing gets to the bottom of an issue as clearly as possible. Show the client you’re listening by summarizing their problem and making sure you understand it before moving on.
  • What will the future look like if you solve their problem? How will they feel? What will change? This is what’s a stake for them—specifics help make it real.
  • What are your next steps? How will you move forward? Here, you want to show that you’re committed to helping your client solve their problem and get to the future you just envisioned together.

One of Trusted Advisor’s founders, Charles H. Green, has written a book on trust-based selling. There are two more books co-authored with Green’s co-founders on becoming a trusted advisor. If this topic interests you, check out Trust-Based Selling, The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook, or The Trusted Advisor.

That’s our look at how to earn your client's trust!

Have you ever thought about trustworthiness as a skill that can be built? How did you score on the survey? Tell us in the comments!