As with any mutually beneficial relationship, there is a relatively simple formula for establishing and maintaining healthy and successful business-to-business relationships, yet you’d be surprised just how many companies neglect these relationship-building fundamentals.
First and foremost respect stands as the central pillar of any healthy relationship, and the same holds true for business-to-business buyers and sellers. But what does that look like in a B2B environment? For years now I’ve encountered salespeople who depend a great deal on the “Wow” factor; that is, trying to sweep me off my feet with grand gestures and slick sales skills. The problem is that such an approach often offers more flash than substance, leaving me feeling like my time was wasted, my needs weren’t understood, and, ultimately, a sense of frustration that quickly leads to feelings of disrespect.
While respect in a B2B relationship has many of the same components that any normal relationship should contain—courtesy, thoughtfulness, empathy, understanding etc.—for many SMB executives such as myself, respect is intrinsically connected to time; that is, I know you respect me as a customer when you understand and respect the value of my time.
According to a 2012 Sage survey, 42 percent of executives in small and medium businesses work more hours per week than they did five years ago. 72 percent of them worked both longer days and often worked weekends, and 40 percent took less vacation time than five years previous. As depressing as that sounds, it speaks volumes to the necessity of effective time management, and that’s something you have to understand if you ever hope to establish successful B2B relationships.
Now there are a few key ways that we here at Digitcom work to not waste our clients’ time. First we don’t let our schedules interfere with the client’s time. When we schedule a service or consultation appointment, we give the client a short window and unless the world is collapsing around our ears, we meet that appointment. While a client may be able to forgive one legitimate instance of lateness, any more than that and they’ll usually take their business elsewhere.
Second, we don’t let our content waste our clients’ time. The fact of the matter is that business customers have precious little time to engage and understand what you’re selling, so make it simple, make it helpful, and, I can’t stress this enough, give the client enough time to fully consider your proposal (no sales pressure!). We work hard to do all the necessary leg work before any consultation in an attempt to make any meeting go as smoothly as possible. No pointless questions asked, no overwhelming information given, no time wasted. While I mentioned the ‘Wow’ factor before relating to flashy sales skills, you should see how many of your clients will be saying ‘Wow’ when you’ve mastered this.
Third, add value to communicate respect. Apart from the actual services or products your company sells, you have to find those value-added intangibles that set you apart from your competition. While we here at Digitcom have worked hard to establish a unique set of products and services that sets us apart in the business phone system market, the truth of the matter is that it’s not overly difficult for our competitors to copy what we’re doing (in fact, they’ve already done so), and so in order to remain competitive Digitcom, as a company, has to bring something unique to every B2B relationship, and for us that’s unparalleled customer service. We meet our appointments, we listen, we understand our clients’ needs, we promptly answer service calls, we employ experts in our field, and we do that because first and foremost we respect our clients’ time. That added value is, more than anything else, what sets Digitcom apart.
Simply put, your business clients should benefit from dealing with your company. Far too often companies fail to fully understand the complexities of B2B relationships, often cutting corners that they would never cut if they were a consumer-facing business. But it’s important to remember that just like any other relationship, B2B relationships rest on a foundation of respect, and more than ordinary relationships, for businesses that respect is intimately connected to understanding the value of time.