Building Trust Through Online Connections
There is possibly little disagreement between entrepreneurs and salespeople over the fact that trust is indispensable in business – well, not just in business, but in this blog post we are going to focus on that area only.
Whether it’s a lead or a promising prospect already, it will require a great degree of trust to convince them about the validity of your product or service. Trust takes effort to build but can be lost in the blink of an eye. No matter what level of the sales funnel they are currently at, leads and prospects have to see all the time that your organization is attentive, caring, patient, and honest in its mission to help them with their problems.
We have talked about most aspects of how we can achieve an honest thought leader status and instill confidence and trust in our future clients. Our blog posts deal heavily with that topic.
What remains untouched – until now – is the actual connecting with people in a business. And at this point, you might think we want to give tips on how and where to set up sympathetic brunches, business dinners, or other programs that foster trust-building in business. While such a topic could also merit the writing of a blogpost, instead we wish to make the case for using online connections in this process.
Not to replace offline connections, but to supplement them. Or more specifically, to prime offline connections through online, and ensure that once we get to meeting in person, both parties are interested and aware of what the other wants and can clearly communicate this without having to explain everything from the beginning.
The Foundations of Trust
The premise is simple enough. True trust can be won through maintaining and cultivating good relations. There is absolutely no doubt about this. Where opinions and views differ, however, is the channel or platform where this trust-building connection occurs.
A great deal of businesspeople believe that building relations can work only through offline means. Meeting for brunch or dinner, sitting down for a coffee, or maybe by going golfing together. Outside the personal, one-on-one meetings, getting in touch and changing business cards during industry-specific events like conferences and trade shows are also acceptable in their views. And while all these examples are great and can indeed help a lot in starting off or building good relations, by focusing on offline only methods we fall short of the great opportunities that lie in the online ones.
Or in other words, the times where offline worked completely on its own are gone now that we have entered this highly digital and highly connected era.
Why Employ Online Channels to Build Trust?
Perhaps the best way to emphasize the importance and usefulness of using online as a means of connecting and building relations (trust) is if we consider two separate scenarios. One is lacking online, the other one is not. Let’s start with the former!
Let’s assume you have heard of a company word-of-mouth. An acquaintance told you in a 5-minute chat about how great this organization was and how efficient their solution proved to be. You say ‘great!’ You and your company need just the same right now, so you ask for the provider’s phone number. Fast-forward to a brunch where you sit down with a representative of this provider. And this is the point where the veil is finally lifted and you discover whether this company can actually help with your problem or their solution couldn’t be any farther from the one you actually need.
You can change the roles, and we get the same results. You might think you found a good prospect who you can convert into a paying client, only to realize too late that they do not need your exact services – or worse: they are non-buyer leads.
Sure thing, even in this scenario, we’ve made several assumptions. Primarily, the one where omitted that the vast majority of you B2B folks do almost everything online, which includes researching clients, providers, products, services, and more before you would even consider picking up the phone or sending an email. The question is; when so many B2B entrepreneurs are already heavily engaged with the online realms, why not take one step further by starting relation building via online channels first?
Just to see how we can use online channels in this regard, let’s see the other scenario as well!
You have done your research, you have drawn in the lead – or have become one – and now it’s time to see what you can do with the opportunity. At first, you connect online with the provider or the client – depending on who you are in this situation – and start discussing business needs, expectations, desires, concepts, possible solutions, and so much more. You can learn a great deal about the other company and its problems (or services). And both of you can figure out in the span of a few 1-hour-long video calls whether you are interested in a partnership or not. Let’s hope you both want it, and now you are all ready to move ahead with the cooperation.
In this particular situation, you either have gained a promising prospect in arm’s reach of making that purchase, or a sympathetic provider who seems trustworthy and capable of solving the problems your organization is currently facing.
One last piece remains, and this is from the perspective of the B2B vendor only: how can we build connections and trust efficiently online?
The Method of Building Trust Online
The main principle of establishing and nurturing connections online to build the foundations is that it mustn’t feel forced or pressuring.
In other words, in our marketing and sales activities, we have to do exactly what we do normally otherwise. Be the trusted professional who listens, who is attentive, and who is willing to educate the client on their problem before any pitch to buy into the solution.
Both decision-makers and salespeople have to keep this in mind when interacting with a promising lead or prospect online. The fact that they are interested enough to get in touch is a superb sign, so we don’t have to rush anything.
Just continue to be there virtually anytime, answer their questions (chatbots are great for this purpose!), and help them in their online research in any way you can. It’s very important that we respond to any online message from their side in a timely manner (be it a text message, an email, or the request for a video call), or we may risk losing them forever.
The idea is to establish that foundation of trust through education, the sharing of valuable, useful content, and by being attentive to listen to their needs and problems, and then guiding them through that to a solution. And, as a matter of fact, that solution could very well be our product or service.
All in all, building connections and trust online is great for two main reasons:
- It helps both sides figure out if they are interested enough to go forward (or in our case: offline) with the negotiations. It saves a lot of time as online channels are a lot swifter.
- It is perfect for priming a client for the eventual meeting offline, giving us the means to prove that we are sympathetic professionals and that sitting down with us will be worth their time!
Our recommendation is simple enough: don’t be afraid to use online channels in advance to build connections and trust! They might seem impersonal at first, but that feeling quickly evaporates once you get engaged with the client. Of course, it could feel a little bit inconvenient for some at first to interact with clients through a screen, but at the end of it, the way we talk to them and how we help them isn’t that different from an offline negotiation over coffee or brunch.
We will mention the same things online and offline. We will draw their attention to the same sources of valuable information (e.g. ebooks, essays, case studies), whether we are communicating through an email or showing them our website on our phone or tablet during a trade show. The same methods and practices that we would apply offline must be observed online to achieve the desired results.
The benefits? It helps to qualify leads more efficiently. At the same time, neither party is going to waste time by going on a “blind date” meeting where they learn that the services required and the services rendered do not match at all. Online connections are there to root out such scenarios and ensure that the client will be primed for the offline continuation through our attentive online help as well as the provision of valuable content.
At Blackhole Media, we have seen this work time and time again – for our clients and ourselves alike. Even during the first wave of the pandemic, we could fall back to this approach and work on our prospects with considerable efficiency, turning them into clients at the end.