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Maintaining and Leveraging Trust-Based Relationships

Trust takes time, effort, and repetition to build and sustain. Evidence of consistent behavior built on the best interest of the other party will allow each to succeed. Open and honest communications by both parties as to strengths, weaknesses, measures of value, and expected successes are required to sustain trust. Sellers need not always acquiesce their positions to buyers, but without trust, their position will be dramatically weakened.

Once you have “relationship traction” where trust is a component, the seller must intensify his or her focus on consistent behavior and predictable open communications. These efforts will allow for the development of strengthened positions, access to key individuals, knowledge about impending decisions, and an opportunity to exceed the customer’s expectations.

In our research, CPS has learned from buyers that what they want from suppliers is consistent quality, delivery, and service. As some have said, “I just don’t want any surprises.” To sustain strong relationships, the seller must implement their solutions in a way that the buyer can depend on, and provide open communications about the “good, bad, and ugly” of all issues.

Sustain and Leverage.

In their book, The Trusted Advisor, David H. Maister, Charles H. Green, & Robert M. Galford discuss at length the essential components of Trust building that include Credibility, Reliability, Intimacy, and a low Level of Self-orientation. The following tables summarize what a seller should do to reach a position with the buyer that permits a relationship to be sustained and leveraged to the benefit of both parties.

Take Responsibility and Action.

Relationships are difficult to develop and are sometimes fragile. The most successful relationships are not typically built as a result of a single defining event, but rather are developed over time with many small incremental steps. The focus is always credibility, reliability, intimacy, and a low level of self-orientation. “Real” interest in others is strikingly simple because it is so rare, yet it offers a key to development of the relationships that will permit both parties to sustain and benefit over time. If you take the time to develop the Relationship Strategies, rally your team around these strategies, ask for the customer’s input and review of ideas, make good on your commitments, and you are respectful of all involved you will have succeeded in laying the foundation for trust-based relationships that can lead to business and personal success.

Source: (1) (2) Maister, Green, and Galford. 2000. The Trusted Advisor, New York, NY: TOUCHSTONE

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