While we often think of a business as an object, entity or commodity that can be owned, that’s not actually what a business is. The building that houses a business can be owned; as can the machines or materials needed to accomplish the purpose of the business or even proprietary materials like a recipe or formula.
None of these, however, fully encapsulate what a business really is. At heart, a business is a group of people working together to accomplish a common goal or task. From global conglomerates like Apple and Nike, to the food truck in front of your building, businesses are far more than just a compilation of property and tools.
This means that businesses that sell products to other businesses aren’t selling their product to a building or piece of hardware. You are selling your product to a person. The personal touch in B2B sales is just as important as in B2C sales, but is often sadly lacking.
Here are 5 reasons the personal touch is important in B2B sales and how to accomplish it.
1. Sales should ultimately be about meeting a need, not just selling a product
It is logical to think of a B2B customer as a business, but businesses don’t buy products, people do.
Whether you are selling office equipment, restaurant supplies or even services, ultimately, you are still selling all of those things to a person, not a business. At some point, all purchasing decisions are made by a person, not a building or a computer. That person also has to take the needs of employees, stockholders, shareholders and other people into account.
In addition, they will also have a personal value system that they bring to the table that will also affect their decision making process. The more you understand about their personal values, the better you can present options that will be attractive to them personally and specifically.
Therefore, B2B success is every bit as dependent on understanding the needs of your consumer as B2C is. The more you can partner with them in seeking to provide the best value for all parties involved, including themselves, the more success you will have.
2. All sales – just like all business – are dependent on relationships
Much has been made recently in the marketing world about the importance of building relationships – and with good reason. Good relationships are every bit as important in the business worldas they are in our personal lives, but they also require just as much effort.
The truth is, everything in life requires hard work and effort, but success that lasts is most often dependent on where you put those efforts. While you should certainly learn everything you can about your product, what may be even more important is getting to know the needs of your customers and clients.
The top salespeople are hustlers for sure, they just aren’t out to hustle their clients. They are out to work hard to make their customers happy.
3. People want to know that they are more than just a sale
One of the pitfalls of viewing B2B consumers as businesses is that it can make the people making purchasing decisions feel like they don’t matter. Yes, you can offer them discounts, incentives and other motivators that benefit the business, but that’s doesn’t actually make them feel valued.
On the other hand, when you remember their birthdays, anniversaries or other important dates, you are treating your buyers as if they are actually people – which they are.
The best part is that you can give your customers and clients personalized attention without even having to remember everything yourself. You can schedule birthday or anniversary greetings to go out at the appropriate times, send a gift when important promotions happen or even automate friendly reminders when it is time to renew contracts or coverage. That way they can call you and you don’t even have to remember every single detail.
4. To meet the needs of your clients, you have to know what those are
Every person makes decisions based on entirely different criteria. Some people want no-hassle package options while others don’t want to pay for things they don’t use.
Some people are willing to pay more for convenience while others want to pay less and do a bit more themselves. Some people are concerned about aesthetics, while others just want something to function well regardless of what it looks like. We all have to cut corners eventually, but we make those cuts based on our priorities.
People will invariably make value judgements in their business the same way they make them in life. They may want the finest linen napkins and calfskin leather chairs in their dining room, but buy second hand and mismatched kitchen equipment.
One of the best sales tactics is simply to get to know your customer’s values so you can help them find the right options for them. This is true no matter what you are selling and who you are selling it to. You can’t personalize service options for a person you don’t even know.
5. Sales should be as much about creating community as selling a product
All too often, salespeople believe their job is to sell a product. It is not. Your job is to connect businesses to solutions. Sometimes this means finding the right product for them, but it can and should mean so much more. The truth is, you know people your customers do not know. This means that you will often be in a position to help them in ways that have nothing to do with selling a product.
If you have a customer looking for a home and connect them with an honest, fair and reputable real estate agent, it may not increase your sales, but it may gain you a great deal of loyalty. Businesses invest a great deal in customer loyalty programs and with good reason. The time may come when a competitor can offer them a lower price, but they just might stay with you out of loyalty – particularly if you offer to meet the competitor’s price. Without that loyalty, however, you might not even get that chance.
Customers are People, too
Perhaps one of the most important paradigm shifts for B2B sales reps is the idea that your client is a business. It is not. Businesses do not buy things, people do. Your customers are people, just like every other business on the planet.
The volume of what you are selling may be greater, but at the end of the day, there is really no difference between selling 20,000 units to IKEA and the dude helping a teenager pick out his first iPad that’s not a hand-me-down from his parents.
Eric Gordon is an independent business development and marketing specialist for SMEs. Heloves sharing his insights and experience to assist business owners in growing theirrevenues. You can find Eric on Twitter @ericdavidgordon