Sales Must Be a Trusted Resource for B2B Buyers

Sales leaders must work with their marketing counterparts to establish trust for B2B technology buyers.

Malcolm needs a new transcription service for his business. He has never used a transcription provider before, so he wants to learn as much as possible so he can make an informed decision. He conducts research, connects with a reference provided by a service provider and has a conversation with a sales rep. Despite engaging with various sources, Malcolm and others on his team worry they may be missing something or that the claims made may be inflated.

Buyers’ initial level of trust is based on their perception of a company’s brand or previous experience

All buyers want to make a wise choice, but years of attention-grabbing and aggressive claims by sales and marketing has caused distrust among buyers. Sales and marketing must rebuild that trust to cement and expand relationships with B2B buyers.

The challenges of B2B technology buying

Sales leaders agree selling is harder today than in years past, and buying from a buyer’s perspective is equally challenging. Technology buying is further complicated by team dynamics, bigger decision implications, tougher problems to solve and buyers controlling more of the buying process.

“Technology buyers today spend 65% of the time in their buying efforts reviewing information or interacting with people and organizations other than the suppliers,” says Hank Barnes, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. “This makes it impossible for suppliers to fully control the messages buyers receive.”

After their initial impression, buyer trust is most impacted by external influences that provide information or opinions

Buyers not only do their own research and seek advice from others, they deliberately look beyond sales’ referrals to find independent references via social channels and other influencers. When buyers do interact with suppliers, they expect them to provide additional detail and contextual insights and guidance they can’t find elsewhere.

Understand the impact of trust

Buyers’ initial level of trust is based on their perception of a company’s brand or previous experience. After their initial impression, buyer trust is most impacted by external influences that provide information or opinions that build or break that trust.

“As buyers get deeper into their buying cycle, they actively look for supplier materials to gain additional understanding,” says Barnes. “The quality and usefulness of this information has an impact on trust.”

Trust isn’t accomplished and maintained without effort. Once a buyer makes a purchase, external influences continue to impact their trust, but they will lessen in importance compared to their perception of the service experience during implementation and use. If trust increases due to a favorable impression, then the likelihood of renewal or expansion increases and the chances of switching suppliers decreases. A decrease in trust has the inverse effect.

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Partner to build trust

In an information-rich world, suppliers need to prove themselves to buyers. Buyers prefer to control the buying process, so they put limited trust in sales reps and their interactions.

Understanding the importance of the impact of trust on buyer relationships, sales leaders must work with marketing counterparts to:

  1. Evaluate content, marketing activities and sales tactics from the perspective of a distrustful buyer to make changes to build confidence and trust.
  2. Develop an influencer program or opportunities for advocates, both across your customer base and in the market at large.
  3. Balance the use of bold, attention-getting claims with authentic proof points to avoid increasing inherent skepticism in buyers that reduce trust.
  4. Adapt processes to increase the focus on interactions that address customer needs and clarify details versus simply pushing for a deal.

Sales leaders must understand how to develop trust to effectively address buyers’ perspectives and frame of mind as suppliers engage with organizational buying teams.

Gartner for Sales Leaders clients can read the report Trust Drives the B2B Technology Buying Cycle by Hank Barnes et al.