Using your Relationship Experience to Build Trust

A lot has been written about how the relationship experience creates competitive advantage in an increasingly commoditising environment. The role of technology, and especially artificial intelligence (AI), in developing the relationship experience is a hot topic, as tailoring and personalisation become the new focus for differentiation.

However, few reflect on the relationship experience as a trust builder – particularly in the business-to-business (B2B) sector.

Mark Hollyoake and Peter Lavers explore this further:

B2B Trust

Firstly, let’s understand what we mean by trust in a business context. Trust is an oft used word. A bit like “love”, we all use it but it means different things to different people (with disastrous results if there’s a mis-match of understanding!). Here’s our definition, thoroughly researched and developed as part of Mark’s Doctorate:

B2B Trust is
“The willingness
to be vulnerable to another party and the decision to engage in actions
based upon an understanding of their ability, credibility, and the expectations of
mutual value exchange over time”

How is this applied in relationship experience building?

As an account manager / client director make sure you are clear about your intentions and expectations regarding the experience you develop and communicate to your customer. Ensure that this is based on real insight and a good understanding of your client’s needs and current challenges.

It is really important as the primary representative of your company’s brand that you get this first part right! Why?

At this stage in the relationship / sales process (even one that’s established) the buyer is making themselves vulnerable based on what you have communicated. That risk/vulnerability will be mitigated through the linking to their reality and needs with what they think of YOU! – as the face and personification of the organisation/company they are dealing with.

As the lead person your attitude, behaviour, value and way of working say as much as the plans, processes and systems you use.

So, if you are really positive, professional, link the solution / product to the buyer’s needs and their company’s reality it goes a long way in reducing the ‘leap of faith’ the buyer needs to take in the decision making and relationship development.

So far, the sale remains intangible based on the intention and expectation you created as the salesman / account manager / client director. The rubber hits the road when the customer starts to gain first-hand experience of dealing with you through the product/solution.

In the case of an established relationship, this happens every time an order is placed or repeat purchase made.

Customers continually monitor, recalibrate and fine tune the relationship based on your ability to deliver on the experience, consistently and sustainably. How good are you at delivering on the relationship intentions / expectations / experience you established?

At organisational level this manifests itself through the intention coming to life and delivering mutual value for both sides. At operations/group/team level this comes through  how well both sides work together, joint working in making the relationship intention a reality. At inter-personal level it will be a blend of how well you get on, how the benefits start to flow through and your confidence in the organisational level intentions.

So What?

This develops the TRUST DNA™ virtuous circle and builds trust in the relationship. Over time this leads to an enhanced relationship experience, greater share of the business, uptake of innovation, reduced cost to serve and increased mutual value.

More importantly, it becomes your competitive advantage, as replication is extremely difficult for a competitor to achieve due to your relational bonds, experience and affective/cognitive relationship.

Mark Hollyoake

Mark is a co-founder and Director of Customer Attuned Ltd. He holds a Doctorate from the University ofSouthampton, his thesis focused on Trust as a dynamic within business to business customer relationships.

He is an expert in B2B Customer Experience and Customer Management. This includes CM strategy development; execution of improvement plans (incl. organisational modelling for customer management); programme design; and partnership & alliance development.

Mark's applied work across FMCG, industrials, medical devices, financial services, business services and construction has led to organisations making, significant improvements to their customer management. A large focus of this work has been moving organisations up the Trust Ladder to enable them to benefit from reduced cost to serve, while continuing to innovate and deliver mutual value.

Mark is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing and Member of the Institute of Sales and Marketing Management. He holds an MBA in strategy from Henley Business School.

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