We need to talk about trust (and how to rebuild it)

17th August 2018

Is there a breakdown of trust between brands and B2B buyers?

Earnest’s latest video on B2B buying behaviour, Vital Stats 3, suggests so.

Apparently, 58% of buyers don’t trust vendors’ claims (even those they buy from) and 69% don’t trust ads. And it’s not only vendors’ content that buyers have a problem with – just 35% said they like salespeople.

What’s with all the distrust and dissatisfaction?

Too much sales flannel.
Too many broken promises.
Too few helpful reps.
Too poor a customer experience.

Take your pick.

Seems like a minority of brands have done a pretty good job of rubbing buyers up the wrong way.

Which is a shame for all the great people doing great work – but the fact is, whether or not we’ve contributed to the trust breakdown, we’re all affected by it.

Ten things brands can do to help restore the faith.

1. Let people try before they buy

Hardly a new idea, but the power of the product demo to cut through all the noise can’t be overstated.

According to the 2018 B2B Buying Disconnect Report – a study into B2B buyer preferences and vendor impact – the demo is the top resource for buyers researching a product.

It’s a chance for vendors to convince way better than an ad campaign ever can. So let your product do the talking, a buyer will know pretty quickly if it’s right for them.

2. Promote user reviews to showcase your product (including its flaws)

The second most common source of information for buyers researching a product and among the most trusted.

Buyers want the full picture on how your product performs, warts and all. So if they ask about your product’s drawbacks, you may as well direct them to user reviews.

Because chances are they’ll read the reviews anyway – and you might just earn some credibility for showing you’ve nothing to hide.

3. Create marketing that stands up to scrutiny

A big complaint among buyers is that it’s hard to find unbiased information. Everyone has an agenda.

Which explains why, on average, buyers look at five sources of information when researching. They want to cross-reference and validate vendors’ claims – things like insights, awards, accreditations and guarantees. The kind of things that differentiate competitors.

So make sure your claims ring true – any embellishment (or outright lies) will be exposed when buyers pick out the bones during their research.

4. Be open about your product’s shortfalls

Unsurprisingly, buyers see vendors that are transparent about their products’ limitations as more trustworthy.

Besides, buyers know every product has flaws. So you may as well be up front about them, not least because buyers will find out in the end anyway (see reviews).

And even if they don’t buy this time around, that brutal honesty could keep you on the buyer’s radar for next time.

Remember, you’re playing the long game.

5. Beware the honesty-perception gap

You may think you’ve been open about your product’s shortcomings, but buyers may see it differently.

Despite 85% of vendors claiming they’re honest about where their product works well, and where a different product might be a good fit, just 37% of buyers agreed.

So pushing a sale when you know, deep down, that your product’s not quite right does your brand no favours.

That long-game thing again.

6. Ask customers to be advocates

Do a good job and your customers will back you. Three-quarters said they’d be happy to be an advocate and give feedback to buyers – yet only 25% have been asked.

Which is a shame because 64% of buyers said peer reviews and feedback are what hold most sway with them.

7. Deliver a great customer experience

This one’s huge – 96% of buyers said this affects whether they buy from a vendor again.

The good news is, if you get it right people will spread the word – 83% said they’ll offer a referral on the back of a positive experience.

Which really matters when 84% of buyers turn to their peers for advice.

8. Harness the halo effect

Working with trusted influencers and analysts lends your brand respectability and authenticity – 64% of buyers said they’re most influenced by content authored by third-parties like these.

When you bring independent, unbiased voices to the conversation – voices you can’t control – you’re showing a commitment to building authentic relationships with buyers.

9. Tell sales reps to help, not sell

We opened with the stat that only 35% of buyers like salespeople. But that doesn’t mean they no longer have a meaningful role to play – 76% of buyers said they find it useful speaking to salespeople, and are five times more likely to engage with them if they offer insight to their industry.

So a personable, well-informed sales exec who adds value to the buying journey by helping, not selling, could end up being the clincher.

Did we mention the long game?

10. Banish corporate jargon

No one trusts it. Everyone hates it. For all the reasons that’ve been discussed countless times before.

Spouting jargon is one of the quickest ways to lose a buyer’s interest. To lose anyone’s interest.

Please, just don’t do it.