“Yes, I’m doing great with my B2B business but I’m still not meeting anticipated results.”
This is the most common situation business owners are coming across. Flawed execution and improper relationship management are just a couple of reasons that can be held responsible for the current state of your business.
A strong bond with customers and partners is critical for B2B businesses, and successful B2B e-commerce strategies need to reflect that.
B2B e-commerce models go beyond automated ordering systems, putting more emphasis on transactions and less on relationships.
Relationship-centered B2B e-commerce addresses more complex transactions, multi-party deals, and extended interactions with long-term business clients while reducing the effort spent on low-value tasks.
Here are some strategies to help B2B companies make e-commerce a cornerstone of an old-fashioned growth model.
1) Top-to-Top Connection
In the best partnerships of business, there is a “top-to-top” connection. Senior executives in the supplier organization have significant professional relationships with the executives at the client, customer, or partner organization.
When relationships are developed and managed this way, there is an organic trickle-down effect on both sides, allowing employees to get closer and establish their own professional relationships in both companies.
This results in a greater number of connections between the two organizations, which means that both sides have a better understanding of the goals and objectives of the other party. In the top cases, it’s like one, big, unofficial merger.
2) Improper Relationship Management
Sales professionals have been repeating this advice for years: “The sentiment shouldn’t end after the sale is made”. The reality, however, is entirely different.
The ways in which your company adds value to your customers and partners should go far beyond the price that was negotiated in your contract.
In fact, the cost of the customer’s relationship should play a major role in the process of pricing. Appeal to the heart, and they’ll appreciate your services.
3) Create a Customer Advisory Board
Many B2B organizations view their customers as paychecks. They keep them to an arm’s length and only worry about the relationship when an invoice is overdue or a contract needs to be renegotiated.
However, the best-performing companies we’ve seen take the contrarian approach. Instead of being distant from their customers, they offer them a seat at the table by inviting them to join a customer advisory board.
- What Is a Customer Advisory Board?
The concept is very simple: Collect a small group of individuals from customer organizations who provide a representative sample of your entire customer base.
You must seek to balance membership across customer segments (industries, regions, sizes) as well as endurance (for example, new customers and veterans).
In this arrangement, you may choose to host formal meetings or you can even join with board members regularly in one-to-one conversations.
Regardless of the format, your objective is to provide regular updates on product and marketing decisions while requesting candid feedback on your ideas.
For the individuals involved, this practice generates relationship capital in the form of trust, transparency, integrity and authenticity elements we discussed earlier.
When customers feel that their opinions are respected and heard, they also tend to reply in kind.
Don’t be shy to talk about the existence of an advisory board with other customers who aren’t members.
Sometimes just knowing that your company is taking steps to form such strong B2B e-commerce relationships can have a resemblance in effect on non-members.
4) Humane Approach over Machinery
Humans are social creatures. We tend to interact with people and not with nameless, faceless machines, especially when it comes to doing business.
If you have done your job well, you have surrounded yourself with people who are a pleasure to work with and who are talented. So why hold them back from interacting with your customers and partners?
Instead, motivate your customer-facing teams at all levels to take ownership of the relationships within their personal scope and connect with their counterparts on a personal level.
Everyone at your company should have professional speaking and writing skills, and a natural tone that is more reflective of a front desk attendant than an automated answering machine.
Also, take a look at some crucial customer interaction mediums – emails, reports, invoices, and other channels of communication – to identify areas where you can use a human touch.
- How can you do that?
Team photos- You can put team photos in your proposals or slide deck.
Conversation with a customer – You can make it a standard practice to speak to the customer directly before delivering a report or invoice on the phone via email.
Whatever you do, make sure that in the course of doing business with your customers and partners, they have every opportunity to hear voices, see faces, and make meaningful connections with members of your team.
After all, people are more likely to be loyal to other people regardless of company or brand name, and it’s much easier to develop an emotional bond to a fellow human than a PDF.
5) Meet Customer Goals
Customer-specific goals have been largely unexplored by so many business owners. This is also the area where most account management processes fall short.
Just like any individual, your customer or his organization has their own personal set of goals, aspirations, challenges, and needs.
Managing the relationship with you and your company is just one item on their bucket list, but it’s also an opportunity for you to make a strong impact on their lives.
Most organizations are good at identifying “business wins.” For example, they understand just how their product or service can help a company to increase their top-line revenue by 15% in Q4.
But the companies that truly excel in understanding the goals of its customers are proficient at identifying both professional and personal wins.
They are professional at identifying opportunities to foster powerful personal relationships that can bolster the connection between both companies.
- This can all be done through practices such as:
- Helping their account manager give results that earn them that promotion they’ve been thinking about and wanting
- Lobbying executives at the client organization to solicit supplementary funding or resources for a contact’s pet project
- Searching for ways to support individual stakeholders, either personally or professionally, during times of need
B2B buying and selling online is growing fast. As much as purchasers are buying online, businesses are buying more.
46% of B2B e-commerce executives surveyed recently by Forrester Research say they expect more than half of their customers to be buying online in 3 years and 67% expect their technology budgets to hike this year.
49% have said that within 18 months their e-commerce platforms to sell to other companies, government agencies and educational institutions, the major B2B buyers will get upgraded. Being more humane in the approach and thinking about the prosperity of your counterparts can be the right breakthrough you’ve been looking for in this massively lucrative business model.