Building trust in a sceptical 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?

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?

Trust is the currency that drives successful customer relationships but gaining that trust with increasingly cautious prospects can be a daunting task, particularly in a world inundated with a myriad of sales messages and questionable practices.

Sales expert Richard Lane, the 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 firm’s work with Centrica (British Gas) during the recent energy crisis to ensure their sales lead pipeline remained steady in a declining market.

Understanding the market

In a sceptical market, potential customers approach B2B sales and marketing messages with a healthy dose of doubt. It’s likely they have come across exaggerated claims, overblown statistics or disappointing results from other SMEs in the industry. Why shouldn’t they be wary of engaging with new businesses? If they’re questioning your practices or the validity of your claims upon first meeting, take a moment to recognise this isn’t an attack. It’s the first moment you can start to build trust with your potential client. By recognising their concerns and providing high quality evidence as to your promised outcomes, you begin to build a relationship where your client expects and trusts you to deliver this kind of result for them, too.

So, keep your standards high, and your outputs honest, to kick off a relationship of trust with a client. You’ll only disappoint them if you don’t.

Don’t back off from a challenge

When difficulty hits a business, or even the wider industry, that business will often turn to sales and marketing companies for help. It’s something I’ve seen over the years at durhamlane and it can be a tricky place to start from. With the recent turbulence in the UK energy market, companies like Centrica face the challenge of how to continue expanding their customer portfolio amidst 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’re closing in on 800 sales qualified leads, with significant numbers of these converting into revenue.

There’s nothing that says ‘trust’ like delivering on your promises, especially in the face of adversity.

Grappling with doubt

Potential clients may have specific doubts and objections when considering your product or service. These doubts can range from concerns about quality and reliability, to worries about hidden costs or poor on-going support and communication. Addressing these doubts head-on will serve to strengthen your relationship. Recognising the work you’ve done to address and avoid these negative experiences with other clients, sets a strong standard of reliability. If you anticipate and proactively address common objections, you can fill your potential clients with confidence about your conscious approach to common weak points.

Be honest and interested

Transparency is a crucial tool for building trust. People work with people, and your clients want to know they’re working with a team that is trustworthy and honest. You might be thinking, “Surely that goes without saying?”, but you’d be surprised how small things like poor comms and over-promising and underdelivering can create an environment of mistrust and cause relationships to falter.

If you’re truthful from the start about pricing, policies, and processes, you immediately help alleviate doubt and demonstrate a commitment to fairness. When committing to a service, wouldn’t everyone love to see an honest display of exactly what they are getting and how much it will cost? Extend that privilege to your potential customers, and you’ll find 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 a case of wooing them just to get them on board, but a case of giving them high-quality treatment throughout, and being transparent about that. That’s how you keep their trust in you, so start with being transparent upfront, and maintain it.

Spend your time listening actively to your prospective customers. Focus on business fit to ensure you are focused on helping them create success rather than chasing the order.

Demonstrating excellence

Remember that high-quality evidence I mentioned earlier? The best thing you can do to build the reputation of your business, and thus the trust in your enterprise, is to develop a bank of outside opinions. This can take the form of customer testimonials, case studies, reviews, or similar qualitative evidence that provides social proof and establishes credibility. If you are delivering a quality service, you will have served positive experiences to existing clients— make use of them! By promoting them to potential clients, you demonstrate your expertise and reliability. A strong track record speaks for itself.

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

Holding standards high

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

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

We kept standards high on behalf of Centrica in a similar way, prioritising understanding customer needs, and positioning Centrica as a trusted advisor. This saw our team successfully build credibility and long-term relationships with prospects and deliver the results.

Make noise about yourself

Something else that needs consistent work is establishing your business, which is a well-known reality for any business owner! While it may feel like the work is never done, it can be made easier. Have a plan in place to continually generate noise about your business and just how good your knowledge and processes are.

Becoming a thought leader in your industry, sharing valuable insights and expertise through quality blogs, whitepapers, and educational content, will establish you as credible and trustworthy. Putting that emphasis on your understanding of customers’ needs demonstrates just how experienced you are, displaying to any prospective client that the quality of your product or service is critically important to you.

In summary..

Building trust in a sceptical B2B market requires time, care, and a great deal of consideration on your end. By delivering on promises, maintaining transparent communication, demonstrating integrity and leveraging social proof, you can demonstrate the value of your business and establish the kind of trust that leads to long-lasting customer relationships. Don’t ignore the existence of scepticism in your market, or amongst your prospective clients. Instead, embrace it – and turn it to your own advantage.

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Building trust in a sceptical market: how to overcome doubt