Building Customer Trust in a Digital B2B World

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In the business to business (B2B) sector, the internet has expanded options for procurement and strategic cooperation in a major way. This is especially true for small businesses in the field, which now must compete for business with firms all over the globe and not just around the corner. While that competition has been healthy, for the most part, there is one effect that it’s having on the market that has been anything but beneficial. It’s eroding the trust that B2B relationships rely on to thrive.

Part of the reason for that is the fact that business sales and purchasing representatives often don’t meet face to face, and the internet is a poor substitute for a traditional handshake. It is also shifting the balance of power to buyers, who often conduct product research online rather than seek the expertise of a trusted partner’s representative. For businesses on the sales side of these relationships, it’s creating a significant hurdle to success, but not an impossible one. Here are three things that B2B firms can do to build trust with a whole new generation of internet-connected customers.

Proactively Volunteer Expertise

Although today’s B2B customers have an almost limitless number of informative resources available to them online, the reality is that they don’t all prefer using them. In fact, research suggests that buyers are being inundated with product options beyond their own ability to evaluate them, and that means that they often struggle to make purchasing decisions. To turn that situation in their favor, B2B sellers should seek to provide potential customers with solutions, rather than a myriad of product options. According to the Harvard Business Review, taking such a proactive sales approach increased purchase ease for the customer by up to 86%, and drastically increases the odds that the seller would secure a high-quality sale. That means B2B vendors that use their expertise to do the legwork for customers before they even know they have a need are the ones that will win contracts and repeat business.

Offer Guarantees

In the past, one of the reasons that B2B deals could get away with little more than a handshake agreement to guarantee performance was the fact that small, local businesses relied on one another for survival. That means all parties had an incentive to live up to the terms of every agreement and to do their utmost to satisfy their obligations. Today, with suppliers located all over the globe, much of that symbiotic relationship has been eliminated. To give today’s B2B customers a reason to feel reassured, it’s important to offer performance guarantees on every agreement, so they’ll have recourse if there’s ever a problem. Surety bonds are a great way to secure larger contracts as well since they offer financial protection for the buyer against any losses due to poor contract performance. What are surety bonds, you ask? Basically, they’re a kind of insurance policy tied to a contract that guarantees a payout by a third party in the event the contract is breached. With something like that in place, a B2B customer will know you mean business.

Add a Human Touch

Although online sales are gaining traction in the B2B space, there’s still a case to be made for direct, personal contact with existing and potential customers. Many businesses now rely on CRM systems to provide them with a roadmap to customer contact and marketing tasks, but that shouldn’t be the final word in business development. After all, leaving customer tasks on autopilot won’t result in the kind of experiences that most B2B purchasers will want, and will instead come off as regimented, prepackaged, and impersonal. That’s why it’s vital to break the mold and add some human touches back to customer relationships. Things like handwritten congratulatory notes for successful collaborations and phone calls to catch up on daily goings-on can go a long way towards building a trusting business relationship, even with buyers whom you’ll never meet in person.

Creating Solid Bonds

At the end of the day, the best way to build trust with B2B customers is to be good at what you do. If you are reliable, helpful, and competitive, that will help build a solid reputation in the market. Still, in a market without borders, the tactics listed here can mean the difference between growth and stagnation in a saturated environment. Building solid, trust-based relationships in the B2B space isn’t as easy as it once was, but the benefits of going the extra mile to create them are undeniable – and pay off for all involved.

Philip Piletic
Techloot
I have several years of experience in marketing and startups, and regularly contribute to a number of online platforms related to technology, marketing and small business. I closely follow how Big Data, Internet of Things, Cloud and other rising technologies grew to shape our everyday lives. Currently working as managing editor for a UK tech site.

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