Much of today’s discussion on B2B customer experience focuses on interactions. What is the buyer doing? What content are they interacting with and where? How can sales engage with the buyer earlier? While understanding the specific actions and motivations of buyers is important to delivering a valued lifetime customer experience, it is not everything.
An area that most sellers overlook is how buyers go about establishing trust. The belief is that trust between a buyer and seller is based on chemistry, responsiveness, and the relevance and accuracy of content. That explains why Marketing spends an inordinate amount of resources on content, web design, social media, and technology to track buyer actions. It also explains why Sales focuses an equally inordinate amount of time on establishing digital and physical relationships with buyer.
B2B buyers, however, build trust differently
While chemistry, relevance and accuracy are important, buyers see these as baseline behaviors. Alone, these trust builders will not differentiate you, they’re only table stakes. The list of attributes below factor heavily into how buyers determine if sellers are trust-worthy:
- Behave consistently and be truthful, all the time.
- Respond to buyers within 8 hours, with factual answers.
- Forget marketing fluff; give buyers valuable information and make it easy to find.
- Don’t call buyers; they’ll call you and let you know when it’s OK to call them.
- Don’t engage in hard sell tactics; synchronize your sales cycle to their budget cycle.
- Keep the same sellers personnel assigned to buyer accounts.
- Be transparent about pricing and competitive comparisons; hiding these will not force buyers to call you.
- Offer free trials that are instantly available and convert into production systems.
- Don’t margin-optimize each transaction, focus on total revenue potential over time.
- Build a relationship based on deeply researching the buyer’s business to understand what they need.
- Consistently deliver on your roadmaps with products that perform ‘as advertised’.
- Respect that buyers the put their career on the line for you; help them be a hero.
Trust is not built in one meeting but over time. Likewise a trusted relationship between a buyer and seller is not reserved to just sales. All interactions – marketing, sales, service, legal, finance, engineering etc. – play an active role in establishing and keeping trust or eroding it.
The statistic is that over 80 percent of buyers will no longer do business with a seller after a bad experience. The reality is that it is never one event that destroys trust in a seller rather it’s the last bad experience in a string of disappointments that destroys any remnant of seller credibility.
The irony is that sellers inadvertently damage trust with their buyers. Bad behaviors systemic to seller cultures are often not questioned during a customer experience initiative. In our research with B2B Fortune 500 and SMB companies purchasing complex solutions, we discovered a number of seller crazy makers that have profoundly negative effects on buyer trust.
- Marketing has no knowledge of detailed buyers’ journey steps.
- “I don’t know”, “I’ll get back to you”, providing inaccurate or incomplete information, and constantly referring buyers to the website.
- Sales assuming an uninformed buyer when buyers know more than SDR and sales teams.
- Finance, Legal, and Engineering out of the loop on buyer interaction histories and engage in heavy-handed tactics to resolve open items.
- Annual or quarterly ritual of reassigning sales or support personnel to different buyer accounts.
- Support, product management teams, and executives that never visit the buyer onsite.
- Product features that do not work or dramatic, unexpected shifts in the product roadmap.
- Phone numbers that are never answered by an actual human being.
- Revolving door of sales, support, and/or management teams.
- Asking buyers for feedback, repeatedly, and not acting on it or closing the loop.
- Customer success teams that are commissioned on up-sell and repeat sales versus buyer KPIs.
- Lack of transparency on company and product performance, and buyers hearing about bad news first on the internet.
For those sellers that believe their B2B buyer is “locked in” and can’t or won’t be defecting anytime soon, beware. Buyers have wised up and have a different opinion on this. We’re increasingly seeing buyers of all size companies implement hedging strategies early in the lifecycle of their vendor relationships to mitigate any unexpected risks associated with sellers not performing down the road. Many of the actions buyers take go beyond iron-clad legalese in purchase agreements or sharing disappointing experiences with their social graph. Buyers will go so far as to “play poker” in their interactions with sales and secretly purchase competitive products to have an immediate fallback position.
So how do you undercover your buyers’ trust builders and busters? Engage in deep qualitative research to discover the behaviors, beliefs and actions buyers take. Include trust-building as a step in customer experience re-definition, culture transformation and employee training. The benefit is greater revenue growth and customer loyalty with predictability.
This article was written by Christine Crandell from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.