Gallup research showed that almost 70% of business to business (B2B) customers were totally disengaged with their vendors.
The problem arises when the vendors forget that they are dealing with individuals; instead, they treat their customer as one impersonal enterprise unit. I have seen sales professionals pitch from their marketing approved slide deck to a company without first discovering the individual roles and preferences of the decision-making unit receiving the presentation. Then they wonder why their seemingly perfect product solution did not make the shortlist.
In the business to consumer (B2C) world, we know the customer has personal preferences and decides to advance with research or purchase. We are talking about the customer is a real individual person.
Granted in the B2B world, the decision is more complicated but much of the complexity is embedded in with individual preferences. There is never one decision that is begin evaluated but hundreds of very personal choices. Just think how many colours there are in a rainbow and then add to the mix the tones and finishes, this is the variable quality of a unit of people bent on solving one problem.
A B2B customer’s decision-making unit comprises of individual roles described as a buyer, an influencer, a decision-maker, a specifier, a user, a gatekeeper and an initiator. Within the customer company, some may hold more than one role, however, the individual has the responsibility to fulfil their specific preferences and criteria for advancing their decision to purchase.
How to Change you Approach and Engage B2B Customers
The discovery process may start with the buying company problem and criteria for fulfilling the customer’s customer need, but it does not end there. As much time, if not more, must be devoted to the individual roles and personalities. After all, it is not the customer’s customer who makes the decision to purchase or even the company. It is a unit of individuals within the customer company, that have particular preferences and a need to advance their decision to purchase the best solution.
Just like in a customer company, a vendor has many sales roles from sales development rep (SDR), business development rep (BDR), account executive (AE), sales rep, sales manager, and sales executives, and all have a different perspective of their customer role.
The common denominator where B2B or B2C is to solve the customer’s problem and to secure a sale. A buyer, whether B2B or B2C, wants to buy, and conversely, a seller or vendor wants to sell the product that solves the customer problem. It seems that we are in perfect symmetry!
If B2C is product-focused rather than customer-focused, they are fast becoming dinosaurs. Similarly, if B2B is focused on the monolithic enterprise customer, this means they do not understand the customer as individual personalities and likely focused on selling rather than concentrate on the buying process and psychology of the individual buyer.
B2B can learn a lot from B2C about personalising relationship, and it starts with.
Many companies in tech such as Google, Microsoft, Apple and Amazon, now operate in both the B2B and the B2C world. Although operating in both B2C to B2B is nothing new, if you think of the wholesaler Costco, many others traditional B2B sales models like Alibaba are offering direct to market and some like Amazon Business going the other way. The evidence is that where once there was clear ground between B2B and B2C, the differences are now less defined.
Treating the buyer as an individual with a unique personality and set of preferences, whether B2B or B2C is the responsibility of every seller and vendor.
Janice is a Visiting Fellow at Cranfield School of Management. She is passionate about helping companies adapt their sales approach to the economic, social and technological challenges. This has led her to create the popular the sales enablement system, Scale Your Sales. Janice is the international Strategic Account Sales Speaker, author and consultant, achieving many noted accolades including Sage Top100 Global Business Influencer 2017. Contact Janice today about Scaling your Sales
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