Trust Formation at the Growth Stage of a Business-to-Business Relationship

David John Dowell, Mark Daniel Morrison, Troy Heffernan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Citations (SciVal)


Purpose - Trust is known to have three dimensions, ability, integrity and benevolence. Yet what develops these three dimensions of trust is relatively unknown. The primary concept of this paper is improvement of understanding regarding the development of these three elements of trust. This is done at the development phase of the relationship lifecycle to provide a framework for the investigation.

Design/methodology/approach - A qualitative approach was used; through in-depth interviews the case study method was used to gain insights. Using a dyad of retailers and wholesale salespersons 18 in-depth interviews the data was collected. A purposive case selection method was used to ensure variance of cases and provide rich data. Analysis was conducted using content analysis and thematic analysis.

Findings - The first finding is that trust is important in the development phase of the relationship lifecycle. For ability trust performance, expertise and communication were the crucial factors in development. With respect to integrity trust honesty, integral actions and candid response were found to influence development. For benevolence trust actions and attitudes were found to be the key factors for development.

Research limitations/implications - These findings add to the body of work on trust development in the relationship marketing field. Trust has been found to be a key component of relationship marketing success, this research extends this through the understanding of the elements of trust and what drives these elements development. Practical implications

Practical implications - The findings provide rich material to educate business people on the topic of trust development. Sales relationships can be enhanced through the development of trust, and the way to develop the three elements of trust is uncovered through this research.

Originality/value - It is generally conceded that trust is a multidimensional construct; however there is little research on how to develop each of the three elements of trust. Moreover, at a crucial time in the relationship, where partnerships can flourish or fade trust is vital, therefore the development of ability, integrity and benevolence trust is essential. This is not an issue that apprehended in the literature as yet; this paper helps to provide understanding on this issue.
Original languageEnglish
JournalQualitative Market Research: An International Journal
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 01 Jul 2013


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