As a B2B sales business, your relationship with your customers is everything. Your ability to find, nurture and maintain positive customer relationships will influence your success more than anything else.
However, it takes a lot of time and practice to come up with a B2B customer relationship strategy that works for everyone. Something that one client loves, another client might hate.
Every business is different, but with a refined approach and specific techniques, you’ll find you can build a good customer relationship with anyone.
Commit to going above and beyond client expectations in order to promote customer loyalty. It’s not enough just to do the job your customers pay you for; make it easy, prevent issues proactively, be enthusiastic and make your customer feel valued wherever you can.
Importance of successful B2B relationships
B2B sales is about providing solutions that clients want, in ways they want. Having a good relationship with clients is much more important than in B2C sales for three reasons:
- Relationships are longer lasting
- Clients are often in a specific niche
- Clients require constant communication
Ultimately, without a good relationship, your clients will go elsewhere. It’s that simple. Clients generally want an ongoing partnership, and having a successful relationship is the cornerstone of your long term business together.
Having a B2B CRM (customer relationship management) tool is a must in order to successfully manage multiple relationships and keep each client satisfied.
The business value of taking B2B customer experience seriously
Taking a proactive approach to B2B relationships can supercharge your own business in two key ways:
- Retaining more customers. Getting clients takes money, time and effort, and maximising customer retention allows for a better return on that initial investment. It’s reported that most businesses lose 45-50% of their customers every five years, which can have a serious impact on revenue.
At the same time, a small increase in customer retention can boost revenue by up to 95%.
Retention comes from more than just satisfaction though. A customer can be satisfied with your service, but still attracted to use a competitor with a cheaper or superior offering. The standard you want to aim for is loyalty, where clients will stick with you no matter what.
Satisfaction + loyalty = customer retention.
Read more: CRM advice for B2B businesses
- Getting referral business. Referrals are the best sign of a good customer relationship, and an extremely cheap way of picking up new business. Every customer has their own network of potential clients that you can tap into – all you need to do is provide an exemplary service.
Referrals don’t cost you anything because they’re a result of you just doing a good job on a contract you already have. At the same time, they’re highly effective – clients are much more likely to act on a positive referral from someone they trust than just about any marketing campaign.
Tips to improve customer experience of B2B relationships
So what can you do to actually improve the customer experience for your clients? Plainly, doing the job you sign up to do is the first place to start. But it’s about more than just that…
Understanding and delivering on customer needs
B2B business is about helping partners to overcome issues. One of the most fundamental characteristics of a strong customer relationship is having a firm grasp on what their needs are.
- What problems do they need solving?
- Where are their current solutions lacking?
- Are there other aspects of their business that you can help with at the same time?
- What value does your service add to their business?
Once you know what their needs are, the next step is delivering on them. The idea might sound simple, but it’s usually a little more complex to actually do it.
You can do more than just focus on one need too. The more ways you can help customers to meet their needs, the more valuable you’ll be to them.
Being enthusiastic about satisfying customers and making them feel valued
It’s not just about the job you do, it’s how you do it. If you’re genuinely passionate about helping your clients to succeed, that will come through in a way that will make them loyal to you.
Consider the difference between getting customer service that does only the basics, and getting service that goes the extra mile and makes you feel special.
For example, a hotel guest is essentially paying for a room for the night. If that’s all they got, and it was satisfactory, they’ll probably be happy with that. But if the hotel had flowers, nice linen and the classic mint on the pillow, the customer feels valued. They’ll be much more likely to return again. This is a B2C example, but the same rules apply in B2B customer relationship management.
Making life easier for the customer
When engaging a B2B partner, businesses just want it to be easy. They want you to take care of what you say you will, and for them to have as little to do with it as possible.
By taking steps to automate parts of your work together and minimising the touch points for your clients, you save them time and allow them to focus on other parts of their business.
Timely response, delivery and resolution
Businesses are used to being able to find out answers in real time, or to solve their problems at the click of a button. Partners that can offer immediate resolutions – or at least be available to help on demand – are extremely valuable.
Conversely, if you don’t answer the phone, take time to reply to messages and have a delayed delivery process, clients will be unsatisfied even if the solution does what they need it to.
Resolving issues before the customer experiences issues
It’s one thing to deliver a solution when asked to, but if you can identify and prevent an issue in the first place, you’ll be even more valuable.
For example, Bell Canada recognised a number of customers were requesting usage instructions for a particular feature on a product. They took steps to prevent the issue occurring in the first place by having reps walk customers through a usage guide over the phone, resulting in fewer customer service calls and a 6% reduction in churn rate.
Continually seeking to improve the B2B customer experience
Any process and relationship can always be made better, and B2B relationship management is about striving for better. This may mean having to say hard truths to your customers with an eye to improving your systems and processes.
Look for ways you can improve the way you work together and don’t be afraid to try new solutions.
Identifying B2B market opportunities for business growth
Now that you know how to build good customer relationships, you can look to find ways to grow your own business within the B2B space.
There’s an old analogy that if you put your hand in a cookie jar and try to grab them all, you won’t be able to get your hand out again. You’ll end up with no cookies. However, if you pick which cookie you want to have and only try to get one, you can have it.
This is how consumer segmentation works – identify potential clients based on a series of characteristics that make them better suited for your solution. Think about businesses that might have the kind of problem that you’re helping to solve and target them.
If you try to target too many businesses, your messaging and solution will be so broad that it won’t resonate as well.
Purchase situation analysis
Purchase situations are about asking yourself four questions:
- When do people buy our product or service?
- Is it when they need it?
- Where do people make the purchase?
- How do they pay?
By answering these questions, you get to know your customers’ needs and can position yourself accordingly.
Direct competition analysis
Many of your target clients will survey the market to understand what’s best for them, which means you should do the same.
Learn about your competitors’ products, their value proposition and where your products are different. You’ll be able to answer client questions and showcase what makes you different (and superior).
Or, if you find their products have features that yours don’t, you can improve your offering to make sure clients are getting the best value.
Analysis of complementary products and services
Trends in complementary markets can impact your own products, so understand what’s going on in sectors that overlap with your own.
For example, if you have a software company, you’ll want to monitor the tech space to see what developments might impact you. This helps to inform investment decisions.
Foreign markets analysis
If you’re operating in a saturated local market, try looking overseas for opportunities. Technology makes working across borders much more feasible than in the past, and the way sectors develop at different rates in different countries means there may be more growth opportunities offshore than locally.
Technological and scientific developments can change the business environment rapidly, and new possibilities open up all the time.
For example, the growth of the internet, online shopping and smartphone apps have made Airbnb and Uber possible.
Business environments are also impacted by regulatory change, geopolitics and changes in financial markets. Your business may be able to improve your product offering to match any such development.
Take home message
Nurturing profitable customer relationships needs to be a constant priority for B2B businesses, because it can all be lost very quickly.
It only takes one slip up for a long term relationship to end, so it’s vital you take every opportunity to satisfy and delight your clients.
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