Derek Saunders headshot

Derek Saunders is a freelance content marketer and runs a marketing blog at He aims to help freelancers, bloggers, and business owners grow in a better way online.


Gaining the trust of your clients is a crucial component of a successful and long-term business relationship. Whether the client in front of you is brand new or comes from a referral, you still need to build trust.

How exactly does one build trust? How can you effectively build trust right from the start?

Think about your best client; they probably seem more like a friend than they do a client. There is no secret that people like to do business with those they trust.

Building trust takes time and consistency, but you will be way ahead of most of your competitors if you can start building trust from the client onboarding process.

I’ve put together 5 key strategies for gaining the trust of your clients right from the start.

1. Get to know your clients better than your competitors

Believe it or not, most of your competitors are lazy. Whether they are bigger or smaller than your company. Most see their clients as dollar signs and do the bare minimum to get them onboarded.

Instead, take some time to get to know your clients not just on a professional level but on a personal level as well.

A few ideas that come to mind to make your onboarding more personal that allow you to get to know your clients are:

  • Tell me the story of how you started your business.
  • What made you want to get into this industry?
  • What motivates you to keep going every single day?
  • Where are some of your favourite places you have traveled to?

Notice how these questions are not about their company problems and how you can fix them. This is not the time to sell to them. It's the time to actively listen to your client and get to know them on a personal level.

Of course, you will need to dig into their business to understand their needs and why they are coming to you, but don’t skip this step. It’s a crucial part of the onboarding process to gain their trust and make you stand out.

One thing to remember is that this step will not be used to close a deal or in future onboarding steps. This step fosters an authentic and personal connection between you and your client. This primary step will set you apart from all your competitors.

2. Set clear expectations

Setting clear expectations from the beginning is a great way to show your clients that you are organised and transparent.

Think about your onboarding process as if you are taking your client on a journey. No one will go on a journey with you if you have no idea where you are going.

Taking the time to map out your client onboarding process from start to finish is a great way to see where you can improve or even add in a step or two to make it a smooth process.

Most clients can sense whether or not you are being transparent with them. It might be subconsciously, but it’s enough for them not to make the next steps necessary to do business with you.

Make sure to be open, honest, and explain what they can expect from you and your business. Try to keep it reasonably brief, or you can overwhelm your clients with too much information.

How to ensure a smooth client onboarding process

I would like to share a simple strategy you can start using right away to ensure your onboarding process is smooth and leaves your clients feeling reassured.

One of my favourite strategies is to ask someone that has not done business with you; think of friends, colleagues, or family members. Take them through a typical client journey and then ask them how they feel.

If they feel overwhelmed or confused about specific parts of your onboarding process, this is the perfect time to break down steps or add new ones.

Generally, we are too close to our business to realise there are gaps in the onboarding process. Getting an outside perspective to ensure your onboarding process is smooth and leave your clients feeling good about their decision to do business with you is always a good idea.

3. Communicate with clients regularly

Client’s like to know that you are thinking of them during the onboarding process. It’s crucial to maintain communication every step of the way.

It can be as simple as a short email or text asking them questions along the way or giving them updates on what you are doing for them during the onboarding process.

Communication plays a crucial role during the onboarding process to gain your client's trust. If you can master this step, you will be ahead of your competitors by miles. You might be surprised at how many organisations drop the ball when it comes to keeping their clients in the loop.

How to follow up with clients to earn their trust

Now that we have gone over the importance of communication with your clients, you might be wondering how to follow up effectively.

I have a process I like to follow when working with my clients. It’s a simple 3 step process which is:

  1. Follow up
  2. Follow through
  3. Follow back

I will go over a brief explanation for both, but this simple framework allows anyone to stay in contact with clients and maintains the business relationship.

Follow-up: This step takes place after an initial phone call or meeting. It can be as simple as a thank you text or email for their time or a phone call to check in on how their search is going and if you can help them in any way.

Follow through: During your initial phone call or meeting, there may have been promises made on things you will complete for your client. You must follow through with what you said and make sure to do it on time.

Follow back: This is where you need to take the time to reconnect with your clients, whether it's during the onboarding process or after the business transaction has already happened.

Just because the business transaction has taken place does not mean you should stop reaching out. Following up after the transaction is where you gain their trust even more by showing you care.

Following up makes you stand out by miles from your competitors. Gaining trust from the beginning is how referrals tend to happen, giving you more business in the future.

If you started a blog, I recommend sending an initial follow-up email with a few helpful posts from your blog that could bring value to your potential clients. This shows off some of your skills as well.

Using a CRM system to stay on top of things

You might think about what happens once you get quite a few clients. How can you manage all these follow-ups?

Those who are successful with following up use a CRM system to ensure things don’t fall through the cracks.

One CRM system that I highly recommend is NetHunt CRM. It has been designed specifically for sales and marketing teams to ensure they can stay on top of all their necessary tasks and follow-ups.

With most CRMs, you can set reminders so you can make sure to follow through for your clients and keep all your promises. You can also set up automated processes for added leads to your CRM.

Diving into exactly how to set up your CRM might be too much for this article, but NetHunt has some fantastic CRM guides they put together to help you out.

Consider using customer success chatbots

There might be times when you won’t always be available. Maybe you are tending to other clients or deep in the middle of a project.

Offering your clients a help centre or a space to get their questions answered immediately will also help build trust while you are unavailable. This is where customer success chatbots with a human-centered approach come in handy.

Though some clients might not know they are writing to a bot, it will give them the perception that you are always available when they need you.

4. Be transparent and honest

Sometimes you need to put yourself in your client’s shoes. Imagine if you are meeting with a potential company and they seem like they aren’t being clear on the next steps, and you feel that they keep contradicting themselves.

I’m sure this will set off some red flags, wanting you to end the meeting as soon as possible.

Transparency is all about being open with what the next steps entail and what they can expect, so there aren’t any surprises for your client. It’s like having clear driving directions to a destination.

Honesty is about telling your client something they might not want to hear. If your client asks you to complete a project by an unrealistic deadline, you must tell them it’s not possible. Though it’s not what they want to hear, they will respect you for being honest.

Honesty and transparency can be challenging for clients to find, so make it easy for them to trust you by being open and honest.

5. Follow through on the promises you make

It’s one thing to tell clients what you will do for them and another to follow through on your word. One of the easiest ways to lose the trust of your clients is to not keep your promises to them.

Following through on your promises may seem easy, but you might be surprised at how many people do not follow through. Making empty promise after empty promise.

If there is one thing you take from this article, make it keeping your word with your clients. If you want to build trust from the beginning, show them you can keep your word, even on the small things such as texting them when you say you will.

Final thoughts

Communication is vital when it comes to gaining the trust of your clients during the client onboarding process.

People like to do business with those they trust. By utilising these five simple client onboarding strategies, you can be sure to gain their confidence from the initial interaction.

Don’t forget to put yourself in your client’s shoes and consider every step of your client onboarding process. The onboarding process significantly affects how long your business relationship will last and how many people your clients will refer to you.

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