Trust - it’s a funny thing. It’s a gut feeling that influences so many of our decisions, from our personal lives to our business purchases.

As intangible as it may be, it is a vital part of the B2B buyer relationship. You might have the best products or services in the world but, without trust, you’re never going to be able to build meaningful customer relationships. And, while it may take time to build trust, it can be broken in just one moment.

In a world of fake news and data breaches, it is perhaps not surprising that trust isn’t as great as it used to be.

According to the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer Global Report, the Global Trust Index remains at a distruster level, with 20 out of 28 markets distrusting in institutions, up from 19 in 2017. The US saw the steepest decline ever measured in the last 12 months, falling nine points.

While the Trust Barometer dubbed 2017 the year of ‘Trust in Crisis’, it has described 2018 as ‘The Battle for Truth’. And it seems businesses may have a key role to play in transforming trust, as nearly two thirds (64%) of respondents believe CEOs should take the lead when it comes to creating change.

And CEOs are aware of the importance of trust and having a trusted reputation, with building trust cited as the top factor (69%). This was followed by having high quality products and services (68%), and ensuring business decisions reflect company values (64%).

But, if businesses are to lead the way in creating trust, they may need to take a look at their own practices.

The 2018 B2B Buying Disconnect report from TrustRadius revealed that the majority of decision makers find sales teams to be untrustworthy and unhelpful. While the majority (85%) of vendors believe they are open and honest about their product’s limitations, just 37% of buyers agree.

As a result, 42% of buyers find a vendor to be somewhat influential when it comes to choosing their product, while just 23% view them to be very influential. So, what are these highly influential companies doing differently to the rest?

The TrustRadius report suggests that these vendors are more trustworthy and open during the sales process. As well as being more forthcoming about product limitations (56%), they played a more active role. They were twice as likely to provide buyers with additional learning opportunities, connect them with customer references, help them understand ROI, or make a case internally, help them strategise the best approach, and provide them with customer evidence.

The report added: “It is clear that buyers continue to want a realistic view of how a product will work for them on a day-to-day basis, and that finding information from sources not controlled by the vendor is crucial to getting a complete picture.

“While buyers rely on the vendor’s website and representatives as key sources for some product information, they don’t always trust them to be transparent and comprehensive, which limits their influence over purchase decisions.”

So, how do you create trust?

According to KPMG’s B2B Customer Experience: Winning in the Moments that Matter report, businesses need to focus on the moments that matter, instead of preparing for every possible scenario. And these vital moments are interlinked with the life cycle on the relationship.

KPMG identifies the moments that matter as:

  • Client reviews, reputation, and past practice - The B2B world is driven by referral, so it is critical that companies work on building a positive reputation.
  • Knowing the customer - Businesses should look for opportunities to demonstrate their industry, client, and product understanding.
  • Onboarding: First meetings - First impressions count.
  • Onboarding: First user experience - A chance to set expectations.
  • Deliver on initial promises - No matter how small the promise, is the beginning of the trust building process.

But there are also “moments of failure”, and businesses also need to be prepared for these situations:

  • Reputational damage - Manage the impact on the client.
  • Failure to connect - A lack of interpersonal chemistry can cause issues.
  • Over promising and under delivering - From the outset, accurately set expectations.
  • Cross organisation team dynamics - Manage stakeholder relationships and ensure consistency.

Trust is not only essential to customer loyalty, it also plays a key role in the overall customer experience.