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“Skepticism” is the “New Normal;” Survey Finds B2B Tech Has Trust Issues

This might sound crazy, but being candid and honest is a surefire way for B2B tech solution providers to differentiate themselves from ~75% of the market

Most buyers of B2B technology don’t believe vendors are completely honest. That’s according to a survey of 625 U.S.-based B2B technology decision-makers.

The survey was commissioned by Rob Roy Consulting and conducted by the market research firm Cambia Information Group. All respondents reportedly worked for businesses with at least 100 employees and a $50,000 annual IT budget.

Do B2B buyers think tech vendors are honest?

Nearly three-quarters (73%) said they believe “most vendors fall short” of the honesty mark. More specifically, when the survey asked, “To what extent do you feel technology vendors are being honest with you?” here’s how the answers stacked up:

  • 27% said most vendors are honest most of the time;
  • 47% said most vendors strive to be honest but fall short;
  • 17% said some vendors strive to be honest but fall short;
  • 8% said vendors stretch the truth most of the time; and
  • 1% said vendors don’t know what the truth is.

According to the report, “B2B vendors face a new normal: an undercurrent of skepticism built up over years of hype.”

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What sources of information do B2B buyers trust?

If vendors are not trustworthy sources of information, what sources of information influence the buying cycle?

According to the survey, the sources respondents say they find “valuable” or “extremely valuable” for “determining which vendors you will include in a request for proposal (RFP) or invite to compete for your business” included the following:

  • 72% said conversations with peers;
  • 72% said technology publications;
  • 69% said industry analyst reports;
  • 66% said live conversations with industry analysts;
  • 66% said conferences (including virtual);
  • 65% said a consulting recommendation;
  • 60% said the company’s website;
  • 58% said financial analyst reports;
  • 57% said business publications;
  • 55% said search engine (results); and
  • 39% said social media.

From a public relations perspective, it’s good to see those hard-earned placements in the tech trades still matter. Yet the biggest takeaway here isn’t that any single medium is better than another, it’s that these all have merit – and work together.

One of the ironies I see in the survey results is that while buyers rely on word-of-mouth (WOM) – and websites and social media rank at the bottom – solid and honest content on owned and paid channels are a proven way to drive WOM.

It’s worth pointing out the survey asked a similar question about selection – that is deals closed – and the results were essentially a mirror image.

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How can B2B solutions providers build trust?

Some solutions providers will see this as a real opportunity – and make no mistake – I think it is an opportunity. So, where should they focus efforts to build trust?

This question on this survey – “How likely are each of the following to convince you a vendor is being honest with you?” – provides direction:

  • 66% said the vendor’s overall reputation;
  • 65% said a detailed description of how the technology works;
  • 63% said candor around mistakes (both vendor and customer);
  • 62% said customer success stories;
  • 61% said service level agreements (SLA);
  • 60% said conversations with customer reverences;
  • 60% said consultations with analysts or consultants; and
  • 55% said candid discussions around what a product can and cannot do.

This list is instructive because building trust isn’t a marketing tactic. For example, companies can’t go out and buy a pound of good reputation. Reputation is a long game. It’s hard to build and easy to lose. But it all starts with candor. Candor is a competitive advantage because – according to the survey – most vendors simply aren’t candid.

Being candid isn’t as easy as it sounds in a polished corporate environment. It’s a daily battle in many. However, if you are candid, you’ve differentiated yourself from three-quarters of the market.

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The complete report based on the survey results was published in late 2021 and can be found here: Dynamics of Trust: B2B Technology Purchase Decision Study.

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Images: Unsplash and Rob Roy Consulting; used with written permission

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