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I am working a project for a client at my church, and he's paid a lot of money and been completely ripped off. He is, appropriately enough, cautious. (Something would probably be very wrong if he weren't!)

I have done a few things to try to try to gain his trust. This includes:

First, listen. Maybe try to tell or convince him of XYZ later on, but start off by just listening.

Second, be transparent and give an immediate, full answer to anything he asks.

Third, show him visual, tangible deliverables as soon as I can.

Fourth, ask him to let me know if there is anything undermining trust that I could address.

I don't want to complain about the client; extending trust is hard when your trust has been abused. But I wanted to ask:

What should be my best approach to gaining his trust or the like

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  • "he's paid a lot of money and been completely ripped off." I'm assuming this was in the past with another contractor? How exactly was he ripped off?
    – David K
    Nov 28 '16 at 13:09
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Option 2:
Don't get a headache about this and keep up the good work.

Telling the client "you can trust me, you can trust me" like in some sect (just not that directly) has a high chance of backfiring if the client is suspicious right from the start.

Another point: Why is it so important to make him believe the result will be satisfying before he/she can see the result? It shouldn't be.
As soon as the product is done, if it is satisfying and not overpriced, the client has no reason anymore to believe you want to rip him off. And before that point ... you work, the client pays, and the client has at least enough trust to give the job to you.

If there are problems about secret informations or anything like that, and the client hesitates to give it to you to do you work, just ask how you could do it without having it. If it's really necessary, either you get it or there won't be a finished product. The client will understand that (or give you an feasible alternative).

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Reagan used to say: "Trust and verify!"

  1. Keep the lines of communication open with the client. The client should be able to reach you at any time during the workday, and after-hours through say email. Respond quickly and if it takes time to get back with a comprehensive response, acknowledge the client's communication quickly and give him an ETA for the comprehensive response.

  2. Show him that you're meeting the milestones and make the interim deliverables available to the client whenever he asks for them.

  3. I don't know what you've agreed with him in the way of interim payments but he has to make them. Even if they are being held in escrow until the project is over.

  4. Trust breaks down when client and service provider don't agree on what they agreed to in terms of deliverables at delivery time. Make sure that you and he are on the same page with respect to what the deliverables are supposed to be.

That's pretty much it. People choose to trust you, and not to trust you. They have their own reasons for choosing to do what they do. You can influence their choices but the decision is theirs.

In the meantime, you are transparent, you are hitting your milestones and you will be delivering what you're supposed to deliver when you are supposed to deliver it. If you cannot meet the time table, let him know in a timely way that you're not making it, what's holding up the delivery, what you're doing about it and what he can do about it.

When it comes to verification, you have to be proactive as much as is reasonable and feasible. Mainly because you don't want him to be thoroughly disruptive of your workflow with poorly timed and onerous demands for you to provide verification - it's best for you that you provide your own verifying evidence on timing that's convenient and optimal to you.

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You could say that he has created a personal bubble for himself. At this point, he won't be able to trust people unless they can casually enter and leave his bubble as they please. He wont and shouldnt trust words, but instead should trust actions that can be verrified. When you do something for him, get him directly involved. If you recieve updates, give him a small update.

If there's no updates for a long period of time, give him a call and give him a status update. When someone has been wronged, he'll be cautious as you said. More information will satisfy his current predicament.

If it's a product you need to sell him, you can give him the back story. What do YOU profit out of it, and what does HE profit out of it. People like this (and me) will often ask themselves "Yeah, why does this person want me to do this so badly? What does he benefit from this?!". Depending on how skeptic he is, you could even talk about the business model if you have one.

In the end, to get someone like that, you need to feed him all the information he needs or wants. Let him confirm his trust in you on his own through validation and proof.

Avoid cornering him. This is something that people do very easilly. Preferably, you should avoid having him to do anything at all, but still inform him about what you did. You know, the steps you took to provide him with x. People like this will easilly fall back when they are being asked to do the smallest things.

Depending how recent he has gotten "burned" he'll be WAY more skeptical. For as long as the things you say are logical and can be confirmed to be logical by others. He should have no reason to make things hard on you.

Also, words dont mean much to him unless it's written down. If you confirm something to him, write it down in an email or something similar to him.

What I'm suggesting here goes quite extreme, so I'll let you decide on how far you wish to go. Just see him as a skeptical person, and you should be fine.

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Document, document, document. This is a surefire way to keep the lines of communication open between you and the client, so that your client doesn't ever get the idea that he's being left in the dark.

On the other hand, you must assign milestones to the stages in the project (or bill by the hour), and make sure that the client understands that the time it's taking to document, or even talk, is a PAID part of the work product you're turning over. Don't do ANYTHING off-the-books. Be sure that this is perfectly clear from the beginning and if the client balks, leave him alone. Sometimes it's not worth the headache to deal with.

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We had to regain the trust of a very upset client. All of the things you describe are good things to do, but for us the single most critical factor in regaining teh trust was passing on bad news or potential problems that have arisen immediately instead of hiding them as previous people had tried to do. Now you always pass it on with a proposed plan of action and then you make those actions work once they have been agreed to.

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