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Building trust in a skeptical market: how to overcome doubt



Establishing trust in a B2B market is one of the biggest challenges faced by SMEs. Without being a global household name, how do you go about establishing your business as reliable, trustworthy, and capable of delivering high quality results?

Building trust in a B2B market is one of the biggest challenges SMEs face. Without being a global household name, how can you position your company as reliable and capable of delivering high-quality results?

Trust is the foundation for successful customer relationships, but earning that trust among increasingly cautious prospects can be a difficult task, especially in a world inundated with a multitude of sales messages and questionable practices.

Sales expert Richard Lane, co-founder and CCO of Durhamlane, a strategic global revenue acceleration agency, discusses effective strategies to overcome doubt and build strong relationships in B2B markets, drawing insights from his company’s work with Centrica (British Gas) during the recent energy crisis to ensure their sales lead pipeline remained stable in a declining market.

Understanding the market

In a skeptical market, potential customers approach B2B sales and marketing messages with a healthy dose of doubt. They’ve likely come across exaggerated claims, exaggerated statistics, or disappointing results from other SMEs in the industry. Why shouldn’t they be wary when entering into new businesses? If during the first conversation they question your practices or the validity of your claims, take a moment to realize that this is not an attack. It is the first moment when you can build trust with your potential customer. By addressing their concerns and providing high-quality evidence of the results promised, you begin to build a relationship where your customer expects and trusts you to deliver these types of results for him or her.

So keep your standards high and your results honest so you can establish a trusting relationship with a client. You’ll only disappoint them if you don’t.

Don’t shy away from a challenge

When a company, or even the wider industry, is experiencing difficulties, that company will often turn to sales and marketing companies for help. It’s something I’ve seen at Durhamlane over the years and it can be a tricky place to start. With the recent turbulence in the UK energy market, companies like Centrica are faced with the challenge of how to continue to grow their customer portfolio amid this market uncertainty. Centrica approached us at the start of the energy crisis looking for help to do just that.

Since the project went live in 2021, we have acquired 800 sales qualified leads, a significant number of which are converting into revenue.

Nothing says “confidence” like keeping your promises, especially when faced with adversity.

Struggling with doubt

Potential customers may have specific doubts and concerns when considering your product or service. These doubts can range from concerns about quality and reliability to concerns about hidden costs or poor ongoing support and communication. Addressing these doubts head-on will strengthen your relationship. Recognizing the work you have done to address and avoid these negative experiences with other customers sets a strong standard for trustworthiness. By anticipating and proactively addressing common objections, you can give your prospects confidence about your deliberate approach to common weaknesses.

Be honest and interested

Transparency is a crucial tool for building trust. People work with people, and your customers want to know they are working with a team that is trustworthy and honest. You may think, “That goes without saying, right?”, but you’ll be amazed at how little things like poor communication and over-promising and under-delivering can create an environment of distrust and cause relationships to falter. .

Being honest about pricing, policies and processes from the start will immediately help clear up doubts and demonstrate a commitment to honesty. When committing to a service, wouldn’t everyone like to see an honest representation of exactly what they’re getting and how much it will cost? Extend that privilege to your potential customers, and you’ll find that people appreciate it, and trust grows from there.

Maintaining consistent and transparent communication throughout the sales process also contributes to the development of your strong relationships. It’s not about just courting them to get them on board, but giving them high-quality treatment throughout the process and being transparent about it. This is how you maintain their trust in you, so start by being transparent in advance and maintain it.

Spend your time actively listening to your potential customers. Focus on the business fit to ensure you focus on helping them create success rather than chasing the sequence.

Demonstrate excellence

Remember that high-quality evidence I mentioned earlier? The best thing you can do to build your company’s reputation, and therefore trust in your business, is to build a pool of outside opinions. This can take the form of customer testimonials, case studies, reviews or similar high-quality evidence that provides social proof and increases credibility. If you provide a quality service, you have given positive experiences to existing customers – take advantage of that! By promoting them to potential customers, you demonstrate your expertise and reliability. A strong track record speaks for itself.

This tactic was also essential to our work developing a sales strategy for Centrica. Our goal was to help Centrica differentiate itself from its competitors through a different approach to the market. One of the main ways we connected with leads was by advising prospects on how to adapt to the UK government’s decarbonisation agenda. By positioning Centrica as knowledgeable and reliable, we were able to provide a well-rounded approach and generate high-quality results.

Keeping the standards high

Building trust is not a one-time effort; it is common sense that it is a matter of consistency and continued relationship building. But I can’t stress enough how important it is to focus on maintaining long-term relationships with your customers, and how often this is forgotten.

This means personalized communication, regular follow-ups and delivering on promises consistently and on time, whether monthly reports or larger proposals. You want to demonstrate a genuine interest in your customers’ success and provide ongoing support in all areas, building a relationship that lasts beyond the initial sale and ensures repeat business and loyalty.

We have upheld standards on behalf of Centrica in a similar manner, prioritizing understanding customer needs and positioning Centrica as a trusted advisor. As a result, our team has successfully built credibility and long-term relationships with potential clients and delivered results.

Make noise about yourself

Another thing that requires consistent work is setting up your business, which is a known reality for any business owner! While it may seem like the job is never done, it can be made easier. Make sure you have a plan in place to continually generate buzz about your company and how good your knowledge and processes are.

By becoming a thought leader in your industry and sharing valuable insights and expertise through quality blogs, whitepapers and educational content, you become credible and trustworthy. By emphasizing your understanding of customer needs, you demonstrate your experience and demonstrate to any potential customer that the quality of your product or service is critical to you.

In summary..

Building trust in a skeptical B2B market requires time, care and a lot of attention on your part. By keeping promises, maintaining transparent communications, demonstrating integrity and leveraging social proof, you can demonstrate your company’s value and build the kind of trust that leads to long-lasting customer relationships. Don’t ignore the existence of skepticism in your market or among your potential customers. Instead, embrace it – and use it to your own advantage.