It’s human nature to want to be trusted and to trust in return. This explains why “trust” is such a ubiquitous component of corporate messaging across industries and cultures. Business leaders understand that cultivating trust among buyers is necessary for winning business, sustaining long-term relationships, and building a strong brand.

Understanding who buyers trust, and why, presents complicated questions — and some surprising answers. In Forrester’s 2023 B2B Brand And Communications Survey, we asked respondents which sources of information they think buyers trust the most. The survey results suggest that buyers tend to trust those they feel close to — physically, psychologically, and in their circumstances. These include:

  • Professional colleagues and peers. Over 90% of survey respondents say that buyers completely or somewhat trust peers in their industry. A further 85% say they trust the customers of vendors in their industry.
  • Independent voices. Sources of information that are seen as objective tend to command more trust. Over 80% say that buyers trust industry analysts and about two-thirds think buyers trust business consultants.

Salespeople from vendors are the least trusted group we tracked (29%), followed by social media influencers and national media.

These findings suggest that the way buyers interpret and act on information is heavily colored by the source of the information. In short, business content will likely be judged differently if it’s received from a salesperson or a business colleague.

This has significant consequences for marketing and sales teams. If building buyer trust is the goal, it’s wise to build strong relationships with the influential voices that buyers turn to for information rather than just seeking to connect with buyers directly. This research data also highlights a key reason for why it’s so hard to unseat an incumbent supplier — buyers tend to trust the vendors they currently work with much more than new ones.

Many factors drive source credibility, including perceptions of the source’s timeliness, authority, and objectivity. Cultivating these attributes is one way to become a credible industry source and aligns with the ways businesses can effectively build thought leadership programs.

At Forrester’s B2B Summit North America, we’ll be discussing how buyers’ perceptions of trust are a critical driver in decision-making and how factors like source credibility can be used to best effect. Join me at this year’s Summit, June 5–7 in Austin, Texas, to better understand how your business can build and sustain trust with buyers. Learn more and register.