7 Tips To Ensure Customer Satisfaction in a B2B Selling Relationship
Selling to a business is generally much more difficult than selling to a consumer. A business is composed of a number of different people who exert influence on the company’s buying decision, while a consumer is a person who conclusively makes the purchasing decision. In B2B environments, complex products and services, customer education, account development strategies, long purchasing cycles, transfer technology, and strategic business support are added challenges that must be addressed to ensure customer satisfaction.
Customer satisfaction is a means toward customer retention. It results from the customer’s positive experiences with the product or service purchased and from the quality of encounters that the customer gets from the supplier. In essence, it evokes the precondition of close business relationship where the customer demonstrates trust, commitment, and loyalty in favor of the B2B supplier. And inasmuch as customer satisfaction remains an elusive milestone in many industry environments, there is great wisdom in being guided by the following 7-point program that ensures customer satisfaction in B2B selling relationships:
1. Build expert knowledge in your field and let people know about it.
As a B2B supplier worth partnering with, it is imperative that you know your product or service by heart — a master of the business and a guru in the industry you operate. Superior moment-of-truth capacity (i.e. any event where a customer comes into contact with any aspect of a business and gets an opportunity to form an impression) and excellence in all customer encounters are B2B sales essentials for lifetime customer relationship. You have to purposefully spread the word and let people know about your endowments. It excites and delights customers to be affiliated with winners, achievers, and high performers, especially in B2B environments where brand reputation makes a big difference.
2. Focus on what customers need and want, and not on what you can achieve.
Developing customer focus is organizationally important because it venerates and champions customer service excellence. Customer focus relates to how an organization understands and meets the real needs of its customers during the moment of truth. Discerning what drives a customer to buy a particular product is vital to any B2B business-building relationship. Note that the clincher to no-nonsense customer satisfaction is not what you can achieve with the customer, but what you can do to squarely meet customer needs, wants, and values.
According to Anne Bachrach, there are three ways by which human behavior can be influenced toward a particular product or service, and these relate to meeting 1) customer needs (i.e. minimum / qualifying requirement that customers look for and the least powerful way of influencing behavior), 2) customer wants (i.e. a controlling dimension in a purchase transaction, a hidden emotional factor grounded on perception and much stronger than a particular need in terms of shaping customer behavior), and 3) customer core values (i.e. intangible feelings that cast the strongest emotional pull with any prospect or customer, illuminate people’s emotional motives, and produce a powerful connection that can lead to long-term business relationships with the customer).
3. Know your most important customers, and give them the best.
It is not sufficient to generally know who your B2B customers are and what their needs are as a community of businesses. You have to determine who among your existing customers give you the biggest revenue contribution and the highest level of account profitability. High revenue contributors sustain your business activity but high profit generators give you the controlling rationale for the business.
As a strategic move, prioritize high profit generators while manage high revenue accounts to desired levels of profitability. Start tracking the long-term values of your customers, identify the best, and pour in your best resources to support them. There is no substitute for this differentiated customer service approach in B2B environments.
4. Always strive for differentiation, and go for quality and superior value.
Experience tells us that a “commonplace” or an “ordinary” does not create wonders in human behavior; and this simply means that if you cannot differentiate your product or service, chances are you will get drowned in an ocean of identical and competing offers. It is important that your product has a compelling value not offered by any other B2B competitor — a differentiator only you can provide, an offer quite difficult to duplicate, and a benefit amplifying customer strength. In many customer management circles, the step is better known as getting the customer “rationally satisfied” and “emotionally engaged” with the product.
Quality and superior value includes demonstrating winning service paradigms such as: 1) happy-to-help attitude of the executives, 2) zero defect programs, 3) door-to-door delivery, 4) 24x7 customer support, 5) transparent documentation, 6) special customer greetings, 7) customer day event and, 8) first-contact problem resolution.
5. Know the decision-makers and build lasting relationship with them.
Apart from a working familiarity on the customer’s purchasing policies and buying cycles, a good B2B sales practitioner possesses indestructible customer knowledge that transcends to knowing completely the customer’s organizational structure and who the key players are, including the decision-makers. From this level of knowledge, it is essential that a close productive business relationship develops by spending more time with the customer, to the extent that sustained presence in the customer and continuing interaction about its interest becomes a mutually exciting regular happening for both B2B parties. In many instances, these healthy business relationships are leveraged into long-term personal friendship that intensifies B2B relationship among different entities.
6. Champion the customer’s business and be a part of its success,
As a B2B supplier, it is your earnest wish that your customer be an advocate of your product, a loyal partner that evangelizes your brand. In the reverse situation, you can imagine how your customer will react favorably if, as a matter of practice, without being told and with all conviction, you take the initiative of evangelizing your customer’s product across your network and among your other key customers. Visualize how your effort to be a part of your customer’s success will strengthen your bond with that customer. If you can demonstrate that you have a genuine interest in the business of your customer, that customer will also have a genuine interest in your product and business, a reciprocity that builds rapport, trust, commitment, and loyalty between buyer and seller.
7. Develop metrics of customer care and customer satisfaction.
Never forget to measure the effectiveness of your initiatives for customer satisfaction. Set specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bounded (SMART) objectives in the execution of your customer care program, ensuring that is always aligned with your customer satisfaction goals. Conducting periodic customer satisfaction surveys is one good way of knowing how you fare with your existing customers, and with your market prospects.
Even if times are hard, you need to intensify your marketing and selling activities — increasing prospecting, renewing ties, keeping media strategy in action, developing new markets, and expanding the sales pipeline — to neutralize recessional pressure. And since these activities contend with managing time, financial resources, people, and even competing opportunities, you have to install end-to-end standards and metrics that should tell you, at any given time, whether you are on or off the track, and if you are achieving customer satisfaction milestones. Otherwise, you might end up increasing your customer churn.
In simple closing, disprove the common B2B warning that “you are as good as your last sale.” How? Just follow the 7-Point Program, and continued repeat business due to high customer retention is much closer than you think.