Relationships Must Come First in B2B Sales

Any couple that has successfully made a long-distance romance work will likely attribute such success to one thing: communication!

A B2B sale is like a long-distance relationship in many ways. In the B2B world, distance is often a factor as clients are spread across the country and even the world. To complicate things even more, weeks, months or even years can go by between visits or sales transactions. As with personal connections, B2B relationships will eventually fizzle if communication isn’t maintained.

Carlos Hidalgo, marketing and sales leader who writes MarketingProfs Daily Fix blog, emphasizes the importance of treating customers like real people — because they are!

Hidalgo says, “It’s as if we in the B2B space have failed to understand that behind the ‘B’ in business to business are hosts of ‘Ps’ (people).”

So if you aren’t already, it’s time to properly court the people who are your customers and show them you want your relationship with them to last!

Content is king
The most powerful and cost-effective way to build and maintain a relationship with your customers is through content marketing. However, be careful not to pack your content with self promotion. No one enjoys being sold to constantly.

“You can send only so many promotional ‘buy’ messages before you alienate [email] list members to the point of unsubscribing,” says MarketingProfs author Karen Talavera. “Increasing variety is a fantastic way to increase frequency without being redundant and without causing alienation.”

Embrace this variety and take the opportunity to educate, engage with and even thank your customers or prospects. There are several types of communication that build rapport with customers and prospects:

  • Advice/information: Give your prospects and customers valuable tips or advice on a topic relating to your industry. Learn your customers’ pain points and offer solutions. Present interesting facts or data that relate to the industry in which your customers specialize. By showing customers that you can bring value and relevance to their lives, you will more quickly earn credibility and respect — two key ingredients to a healthy relationship.
  • Thought leadership: Never forget that you are competing with others for your customers’ business. Use educational content to demonstrate a keen understanding of your business and industry. This can separate you from your competitors and help establish you as your industry’s thought leader in the minds of customers and prospects.
  • Thanks: Take the time just to tell customers how much their business means to you. A little unsolicited appreciation via a thoughtful letter or a no-strings-attached offer can help strengthen the relationship you have with customers and prospects.
  • Entertainment: Sometimes a light or funny diversion from daily business is all it takes for a customer or prospect to positively connect with you. A tasteful joke, an inspiring story or a motivational quote that stops and makes someone smile can be a welcome break in the everyday routine.

Expand your connections
Not only should you strive to offer variety in content but also in formats for delivering it. Develop a content marketing strategy that includes a healthy media mix. Doing so will enhance customer engagement while reinforcing your brand across multiple channels. Consider using these tools:

  • Email newsletters: eNewsletters are a fantastic medium for delivering a lot of content in a seamless, visually pleasing package. In fact, all four of the content ideas mentioned above can be woven into a single eNewsletter. Email newsletters can also be the foundation for driving connections to content in other media.
  • Social media: Popular social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter let you engage and interact with customers in real time. This offers an incredible opportunity for you and your customers to really get to know each other.
  • eFliers: Email fliers are most often used to deliver a specific offer or promotion and are highly effective at driving responses to a precise call to action.
  • Webinars: A webinar featuring an expert presentation on a relevant topic that interests your customer base is a great way to establish your company as a thought leader and show you care about their professional development.
  • Videos: Take the “show versus tell” approach by using video to demonstrate products, explain services or just add a more personal, human element to your content.

No matter what you send or how you send it, reaching out and building relationships will have a lasting effect on your bottom line. Quality communication builds relationships that last. And when you’ve connected with a customer who needs your product or service, that relationship translates to revenue.

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