How to Build Trust in Your Client and Business Relationships

Trust is one of the most important assets that a project manager can have. Undoubtfully every project manager wants to gain the client’s, team member’s and other stakeholder’s confidence. Because trust is a natural part of any individual’s life. Therefore everybody tries to think of ways to earn it. On the other hand, it will be difficult to build trust again if it is lost. In this article, we will discuss how to build trust in your client and business relationships.

A Real-Life Example to Discuss How to Build Trust in Your Client Relationships

Before to start, let’s analyze the following real-life example. You assembled a kickoff meeting with your client and demonstrated how skilled you are. You made a good impression and the client trusted you.

The client was sure that you have both technical and soft skills – this is exactly what they need to complete the project successfully.

After three weeks your team started to complete some of the project tasks but the client has difficulties in connecting you through phone calls. Most of the time they could not reach you and they start to think that things are going bad regarding the deliverables. According to their criticism, you realized that they no longer seem to trust your words.

What has happened?

Trust is Vital at All Levels

Trust is a critical success factor in business and customer relationships. It is not something that you can easily buy from a supermarket. A shared purpose, expectations, and relationships bring people together. If the level of trust is low in a project, people will be reluctant to share their knowledge and experience. On the other hand, if the trust level is high, people will be eager to share more. Therefore, trust building is important at all levels (Personal Level, Contractual Level, Industry Level, etc.)

Is There a Way to Formulate Trust?

The answer is “YES” according to David Maister, Charles Green, and Robert Galford, who is the author of “The Trusted Advisor”. This book discusses many significant points regarding trust relationships with clients. However, one of the most important contributions of “The Trusted Advisor” is the Trust Equation.

The Trust Equation is a formula that calculates trustworthiness by using four variables which are Credibility, Reliability, Intimacy, and Self-Orientation.

T = [ C+ R + I ] / S

T: Trust

C: Credibility

R: Reliability

I: Intimacy

S: Self Orientation


Now, we need to talk about the importance of credibility in trust building. Credibility is one of the most important traits that any industry or individual must-have for success. As a project manager, if the client believes that you have knowledge, skills, and expertise to deliver the product, they are sure that you are credible on the subject. Note that you can credibility over time depending on your proper actions.


Reliability refers to how dependable you are. If you deliver your promises on time, you are a reliable person.


Intimacy is related to emotional safety. Intimacy can be at Professional, Personal and Private levels.


Self-orientation is related to personal focus. If your self-focus increases, your trustworthiness decrease. If other people think that you primarily concern yourself all the time without taking care of their requirements, they will not trust you.

Illustrated Example for Trust Equation

Up to this section, we discussed how to build trust in your client, business and personal relationships. Now we will analyze an illustrated example for the trust equation to provide a better understanding.

Assume that you are a procurement manager and your relationship with a key supplier might look something like the following:

  1. Credibility 7/10: The supplier is active in this industry for more than 30 years and completed many projects successfully.
  2. Reliability 8/10 – They supply materials in a timely manner and generate solutions when needed.
  3. Intimacy 7/10 – They know the strength, weaknesses, and bottlenecks of the project but do not talk about it anywhere else.
  4. Self-Orientation 5/10 – They take care of selling their products but they also recommend other types of products that they don’t have.

So the calculation will be as follows;

T = [ C+ R + I ] / S

T = [ 7+ 8 + 7 ] / 5 = 4.4

As shown in the formula, the higher score for three factors (C,R,I) refers the higher level of trust where the higher score of Self-Orientation reduces the trust score.

The Trust Equation provides an approach to measure the trustworthiness of an individual or an organization. It may be useful for decision making. However, while scoring each parameter, you need to be nonprejudicial.

How To Build Trust

So, how to build trust in your client and business relationships? Here below are five steps to build trust;

  • Engage with people through meetings, emails and phone calls to build trust.
  • Listen to others rather than talking all the time. Because listening builds credibility rather than speaking.
  • Frame the concerns of clients or stakeholders in a way to demonstrate how well you understand them.
  • Envision the power of collaboration and teamwork.
  • Commit what you need to do


As a project manager, if you don’t’ trust your team members or the team members do not trust you, everything will be challenging and draining. Therefore, trust is essential to anybody because it increases the chance of success by improving collaboration. The same goes for project teams. When they feel comfortable, they will work more effectively as a team, rather than individuals.

Everybody knows the importance of trust in the workplace, however, not everyone knows how to build trust in business relationships.

Do you think trust-building is important for project managers? How do you develop trust in your relationships? Share with us through the comments section.

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