When do I get to be a “trusted partner”?

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard someone in IT say something along the lines of “we want to be a trusted partner,” I’d be wealthy. If I had a nickel for every time a business person said it, I’d be broke. Becoming a trusted partner seems to be something that IT is obsessed with, but not so much on the business side.

I do think that being trusted is important, but no matter how much you talk about it, it will never be granted to you. It must be earned. While I can’t tell you how to earn it, I can give you a simple example of how it could be earned.

I’m not an auto mechanic, so I am forced to trust the guy at the mechanics to take care of my car. Because of the information inequality – he knows way more than I do about cars – I am always suspicious of his motives. After all, he is in the position to diagnose my problem and then make money on me by fixing the supposed problem. Here’s a person I inherently distrust. Sort of sounds like IT as well to me…

One day I took my car in because I swore something was wrong with it. I was prepared to pay for new brakes mentally. So, when they put it up on the lift, told me that the brakes were fine and then didn’t charge me, I started to see this shop in a different light. And it wasn’t just once that they didn’t push unnecessary work on me, but several visits. Usually I was just in for an oil change and since I was there I’d ask about something else. Time and time again they probably could have fleeced me and didn’t.

After that, I trusted them to tell me when things were wrong and was more willing to have them done. That’s what establishes trust. It’s not doing as you are asked, even if you do it cheaply. It’s not suggesting all kinds of new and shiny things you could do. It starts by doing something that is truly in the customer’s best interest in a way that they know it is. Sure, a fancy architecture might be in their best interests in a really long run, but your customer isn’t going to sense that.

Save all that for later, when they’re finally listening to you. Start off by demonstrating a willingness to solve their immediate problems, to save them money and time, and to help them avoid unnecessary work and you will have a much better chance of becoming trusted by the business. Continue to pretend you know better and you can just keep talking about becoming one.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *