Build Credibility With Clients
It’s often said that you’re only as good as your last project. When you’re in the project business, that means making sure you’re creating credibility as an organization that serves clients and gets projects delivered on time and to budget.
Credibility is a blend of two things: competence and confidence. You have to be seen to be good at what you do, and confident in your ability to do it. There is a third thing that helps build credibility with clients, and that is using the right tools so you can carry out your work in a professional way. Let’s look at each of these and how they help build credibility with clients.
1. Build competence
No one wants to hire a firm that doesn’t have the skills to do the job. You have to prove that you know your industry and you can do the work. All your staff should have the skills required to complete their tasks in a professional way.
You can also become certified in relevant fields, for example by holding EVMS certification. Staff involved in project delivery can undertake project management training to improve their skills and technical abilities. It might be appropriate for them to go and do professional certification exams like the Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification.
Make sure these credentials are showcased to your clients and prospective clients. You can put credentials, testimonials and case studies on your website. If you have a section about your team, include their professional certifications in their staff bios. Think about what you would look for when choosing a partner and make sure that your own interactions with potential clients meet those expectations.
Competence is also something that can be applied outwards – the points we’ve talked about above are inward-facing competence as things that affect individuals and your organization. However, by taking an outward-facing approach, you can build competence in different ways. Do your homework on clients. Take time to understand their industry and what is important to them. If sustainability, for example, is one of their core values, point out the initiatives you are involved with that support those goals (if there are any – nothing undermines credibility faster than lying).
2. Build confidence
You can have all the skills in the world, but if you can’t demonstrate that you have them, clients will lose confidence in you. In addition, you can better influence others if you can present your arguments in a confident way.
Confidence takes many forms. For example, how you present yourself in writing when emailing a proposal to a client, or your body language when presenting your pitch. It’s the tone of your voice when you give a recommendation, or the words you choose when drafting up documentation. It’s making sure you’ve got your facts right when sharing data and knowing your brief before a meeting.
Being confident is very different to being arrogant – that’s certainly something to avoid. Confident leaders are also willing to listen and are open to different perspectives.
Acting in your client’s best interest is another way to create confident working relationships between both parties. Let them see that you are taking decisions with their best interests at heart. When you explain the rationale behind a recommendation, point out why this is the best option for them. Following through on decisions, hitting your deadlines and doing what you said you would do are all simple things that contribute to building trust in professional relationships, which is another side of the confidence coin.
3. Use the right tools
Finally, make sure that you choose and use the right tools for the job. A 6-month engineering project with multiple stakeholders will be harder to deliver if you’ve got a simple To Do list on a spreadsheet. Your clients expect you to use industry-standard tools like Primavera P6, Primavera P6 EPPM or Deltek Cobra. Encourage your team to get Primavera training and hands-on practice with the software so they feel confident using it. Clients feel confident in your abilities if you can input and access project data quickly and you know how to use the features and reports built into the tool.
In fact, sometimes tools are mandated in your project contract. If you don’t use Primavera P6 for scheduling in-house, but need to provide your clients with schedules in that format, outsourced scheduling services will meet that need while leaving you to plan in the enterprise tools you prefer.
Whatever tools you choose, they need to be fit for purpose and able to produce the output that both supports delivery and underpins your credibility as a service provider. That means reports should be accurate, timely and relevant as well as easy to understand. Data integrity is key to positioning yourself and your company as credible project partners.
Credibility is important, but it can take a while to build up the reputation you want. Capture case studies about what you can do and ask for testimonials as these can help evidence your skills. You can build credibility even from day 1 of a new business by being honest, transparent and leading in an ethical way. Just be the leader you aspire to be, create a culture of excellence and the organizational credibility will follow.