Building Trust Bridges the Wide "Trust Gap" With Buyers

building trust

Building trust has always been an important aspect of selling, but it’s more vital now than ever. The trust gap between B2B sellers and buyers is larger than it has ever been. As Forrester’s Ian Bruce writes, “The B2B trust gap — the gulf between what B2B companies think of themselves and what audiences actually believe — has never been larger, yet we know that B2B buyers crave trust.” Forrester’s 2021 Brand and Communications Survey revealed this gap. 

And SalesFuel’s own Voice of the Buyer study backed it up, revealing B2B buyers only consider about half of salespeople to be “trusted advisors.” Reps apparently aren’t taking an honest looking at how they are perceived by buyers.

Apparently, work needs to be done. Jean Oelwang , president and founding CEO of Virgin Unite and a B Team Leader, shared seven ways to build trust in your partnerships in a TED article, three of which I highlight here.

  1. Assume good intentions
  2. Create a safe, honest space for trust to grow
  3. Make hard conversations the norm

Building trust starts with the seller

To close this wide trust gap with buyers, salespeople need to recognize this gap and then take action. Thankfully, Oelwang’s suggestions aren’t difficult to implement; you just need to be proactive in working on them.

Her first tip for building trust is to assume good intentions. Humans are quick to jump to conclusions, even if they only have a little bit of information. This mistake can be costly, especially to relationships. “Trust grows when you are confident the other person has your back, as well as the collective benefit of the relationship in mind,” she writes. “Consistently defaulting to trust takes a leap of faith, which in turn encourages more trust.”

Like Oelwang writes, it takes effort to default to trust, but if you consistently work at it, soon it will become second nature. You’ll find that your levels of frustration, fear and doubt are replaced by patience, understanding and trust—and those feelings will inevitably pass on to your prospects. Rather than assuming the worst, you and the prospect will react from a place of empathy instead of anger.

Create a safe, honest space for trust to grow

From your very first interaction, prospects need to feel that they are safe. Passive-​aggression, snark, impatience, and indifference will only create an uncomfortable environment in which the prospect is afraid to speak up and be honest. Trust can’t grow in those conditions.

It’s important that reps immediately establish a rapport with the prospect. By doing so, prospects will feel comfortable knowing they can speak up, disagree, or object without repercussion. For ways to project this trust, both verbally and physically, check out these tips. By making this a priority for each and every prospect, you’ll be building trust and earning their respect.

Make hard conversations the norm

People often believe that avoiding difficult or uncomfortable discussions make partnerships better, but that can’t be further from the truth. “The idea is to communicate openly, always, so that people are free to express themselves even when what they have to say is hard to hear,” Oelwang explains. “The worst thing you can do is disengage, ignoring stressors on yourself and others until the tremors grow into an earthquake that could destroy the relationship.” 

By not shying away from tough topics with prospects but rather approaching them gently, you are building trust with them. Once you’ve established a safe place, as mentioned above, you and the prospect should both feel okay to broach topics like price, objections, etc.

Just be cautious about your tone and wording so that the prospect can also feel comfortable with the topic. As SalesFuel points out, “When interacting with others, it’s important to be aware of how you’re coming across. It’s also important to be aware of the inherent differences in how people communicate and receive communication.”

Building trust needs to be at the top of every seller’s to-​do list to close the large trust gap. The adjustments that Oelwang suggests can kick-​start this process and help reps establish and nurture trust. And for even more tips on this topic, you can check out SalesFuel’s past blog posts.

Photo by Sora Shimazaki

Jessica Helinski

Jessica Helinski

Jessica is a senior research analyst for SalesFuel focusing on selling to SMB decision-​makers. She also reports on sales and presentation tips for SalesFuel Today. Jessica is a graduate of Ohio University.