Rob Roy Consulting Releases 2021 B2B Tech Purchase Study

Annual survey reveals ways for tech vendors to overcome barriers to earning trust

Rob Roy Consulting, Inc., a Silicon Valley-based marketing consulting firm, released Dynamics of Trust, its third annual study into what drives B2B technology purchases in the U.S.

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“Every year, we invest in this research to help our clients break through the white noise and establish themselves as trusted advisors to their customers and prospects”

In September 2021, Rob Roy commissioned Austin-based Cambia Information Group to survey 625 B2B technology purchase decision-makers in the United States to learn what influences their purchase decisions. Respondents were questioned about what types of vendors they buy from, their level of trust in those vendors, and the channels and strategies that drive leads and close deals. Many of these questions were also asked in the 2019 and 2020 versions of this study, providing a pre- and post-pandemic view into what is and isn’t driving B2B tech sales.

“This year’s study shows that B2B technology vendors continue to face an uphill battle when it comes to earning trust among buyers,” said Rob Roy Consulting Founder and CEO Joshua Reynolds. “In fact, 73% of all B2B tech buyers start with the assumption that their vendor isn’t being completely honest. This is an extraordinarily skeptical market that’s in dire need of workable innovations, and they want to be educated and guided, not just sold to.”

Trust has been a major theme of this study both before and after the pandemic study. Rob Roy’s 2019 study found that 86% of tech buyers started with the assumption that vendors were not being completely honest with them. In 2020 that number dropped to 57%, but even then, the burden of proof has remained on vendors to prove they are trustworthy—a trend that’s deepening in 2021.

The study then explored what it takes for B2B tech vendors to earn buyers’ trust, from a marketing and communications perspective. The study found:

  • Almost two-thirds of buyers found that candid discussions around mistakes, lessons learned and how to avoid vendor hype were effective ways of building trust.
  • Non-technology factors greatly impact purchase decisions, as well:
    • 80% of respondents said a company’s actions on racial equality, diversity and inclusion and social justice have at least some impact on their purchase decision, with 13% saying it’s a make-or-break issue.
    • 88% of respondents said a company’s commitments to environmentally sustainable practices have at least some impact on their purchase decision, with 10% saying it’s a make-or-break issue.
    • 91% of respondents said a company’s vision, mission and purpose have at least some impact on their purchase decision, with 17% saying it’s a make-or-break issue.
  • Traditional channels of influence such as peer conversations, tech publications, industry analysts and conferences and events remain the top five ways to get into RFPs.
  • Word-of-mouth from peers is still the #1 source of influence when it comes to closing a deal, followed closely by coverage in technology publications, industry analyst reports and consults, and live conferences and events.
  • Word-of-mouth from peers is so influential, 70% said it can even persuade them to shift their business priorities and budgetary allocations.
  • And while channels such as search and social media scored highly for maintaining top-of-mind awareness, they scored much lower when it comes to impacting sales.

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The study also includes insights into techniques for generating positive word-of-mouth and which marketing and communications channels are most effective for generating awareness and relevance.

“Every year, we invest in this research to help our clients break through the white noise and establish themselves as trusted advisors to their customers and prospects,” said Reynolds. “Earning trust requires honesty, and that means business leaders need to tell a story they believe in—and tell it through the channels that build trust.”