Creating Trust-Building Content, Part 3

Research from Forrester last year reveals that B2B buyers are frustrated by what they perceive from vendors as an utter lack of understanding regarding their business context.[i] Instead, buyers lament that vendor communications are too narrowly focused on their own solution, without first gaining an understanding and appreciation of buyer needs and challenges.

Clearly, in order to begin building that vital element of trust, what is needed is a deeper understanding of the complete buyer context from the buyer’s perspective. Such an approach allows marketers to build trust through understanding and insight, by crafting content that reflect these through their relevance and credibility.

In the first blog post in our 3-part series on The Buyer-Centric Formula for Creating Trust-Building Content, we identified 3 keys to success in developing a sense of trust with your reader:

  1. Context matters, so know your buyer’s context.
  2. Use active, ongoing research to identify relevant drivers and challenges.
  3. Own the role of trusted advisor.

In part 2 we addressed the need to frame your message so that it resonates on a deep and personal level by:

  1. Explicitly defining your audience and understanding how they think
  2. Connecting emotionally
  3. Crafting content from the audience’s perspective

Now, this final installment of our 3-part series on the buyer-centric formula for creating trust-building content, focuses on gaining your buyer’s perspective through the art of conscious listening:

Conscious listening for real understanding.
Nothing is more effective for gaining a prospect’s specific, individual context than going directly to the source: the customer. Interviews, surveys, and accompanying your sales rep on a call are all highly effective ways of learning about the target audiences. So, too, are conversations within your organization with all client-facing team members (e.g., sales, customer service).

Yet to get more out of these conversations and interviews, sound consultant Julian Treasure advises us that while “listening is our access to understanding, conscious listening creates understanding.” [ii] To illustrate how poorly we tend to listen, he cites study findings that indicate the average person only hears about 25% of what is said to them. In order to listen more productively when engaged in a conversation or interview, Treasure cautions us to move out of “broadcast mode” (where we speak more than listen). Rather, he suggests we become more aware of our own subconscious mental models through which we filter all information—our culture, language, values, beliefs, attitudes, expectations, and intentions—in an effort to truly hear what the speaker is saying from their perspective. Treasure also suggests utilizing the acronym RASA:

  • Receive – Limit your speaking to no more than 25% of the conversation and check inherently judgmental mental models at the door.
  • Appreciate – Show your speaker that you appreciate, respect, and are actively listening to what they are saying by making listening sounds such as “mhmm” and displaying encouraging body language, such as nodding and making eye contact.
  • Summarize – After the speaker finishes, summarize your understanding of what they’ve said to ensure you are both on the same page.
  • Ask – Clarify any ambiguities and show interest in your speaker by asking thoughtful questions.

Contrary to conventional approaches that lead the sales conversation from the solution end, buyer studies clearly inform us that what buyers want is to be better understood, not pitched to. Consequently, sales should lead with questions and dig deep to first flesh out their buyer’s specific context. Inherent to our human nature is a need to be heard, to feel as though someone understands our perspective. Business buyers are no different, and asking intelligent questions regarding their specific context—questions informed by a well understood larger context—engenders confidence and trust in prospective buyers.

To learn how prospect surveys are exceedingly effective and efficient at gaining the buyer context, read here.