Do today’s B2B customers seem more difficult to please than ever before? If you're nodding "yes", you’re not alone. B2B buyers have been conditioned by the ease-of-use plethora of options, and general speed of transactions offered by B2C channels. As you well know, the B2C shopping experience doesn’t translate well into B2B.
Going to Amazon.com, clicking a few items into your cart, and then using one-click checkout is about as fast as you can get when it comes to completing a transaction. But picking up a few books, toner cartridge, and pens is far different from buying a fleet of cars, bulk paper, or new computers for a department.
B2B customers aren’t so simple. They want special configurations, tiered discounts, and a dedicated salesperson. Some of these customers don’t relent until all of their demands have been met. So what is a B2B merchant to do? One of the findings in TrustRadius’ study, “The 2018 B2B Buying Disconnect,” was “Buyers are more influenced by vendors who are transparent and trustworthy.”
The report went on to say, “23% of buyers said the vendors they bought from were very influential, and those very influential vendors engaged with their buyers differently than the rest, suggesting that there are specific types of interaction that tend to lead to a bigger influence over buyers. Highly influential vendors were more open, honest, and responsive. Notably, vendors that want to be more influential with their buyers should focus on cultivating authentic interactions during the buying process.”
Besides being authentic, there are a few other things B2B merchants can do to win over stubborn B2B customers.
Negotiating is a big part of any B2B transaction. But some customers are consistent and relentless in their effort to keep pushing the price lower. Rather than trying to stand your ground by arguing that the price can’t be lowered, move the conversation to value. Go over all the great benefits the customer will receive. Talk about post support and why your product is better than the competition.
“If a prospect tells you your product is too expensive, you haven’t done a good job communicating the product’s value to them,” said Steli Efti, CEO of Close.io, in a tweet.
Configurations are no stranger to B2B purchases. But some customers can go overboard and begin requesting impossible configurations. Before the customer gets too far gone with a hypothetical product that will never exist, demonstrate that your product addresses 95% or even 90% of what the customer is asking for and at a much lower cost.
If you’ve been in the industry for a while, the configurations you offer probably meet nearly ever need a customer can want. That remaining 10% or 5% of wants are impractical and cost prohibitive. If you are aware that your competitors will be unable to fulfill the customer’s wishes as well, let the customer know. This will help to reinforce the fact that their ask is unrealistic.
Continue bringing the conversation back to your product being able to meet virtually all of what the customer is asking for by using the configurations available. At some point, the customers becomes practical and realize what they’re asking for isn’t possible.
Or, you’ve identified a customer that you may never be able to please. In that case, you might be better off politely letting the customer go. You’ve given the customer plenty of information to let it know what it is seeking likely doesn’t exist. After the customer spends lots of time doing a search on its own, you might find it comes back to you fully accepting that your solution is ideal.
A 2016 study by Gallup found that 71 percent of B2B customers are either indifferent or actively disengaged. “Companies Are Struggling to Grow — so they’re giving up and acquiring their competitors,” said Jim Clifton, Chairman and CEO of Gallup.
The report found that B2B customers with high engagement achieve:
- 50% Higher Revenue/Sales
- 34% Higher Profitability
- 55% Higher Share Of Wallet
The upshot for B2B companies is that better customer service leads to more engaged customers, which leads to more growth. Have you thought that maybe customers are so difficult because they resent your company’s lack of customer service?
Obviously, this doesn’t apply to all companies. There are many B2Bs that have great customer service. There are also plenty that do not. The company phone number is hard to find on the website. Customers must hold a long time before speaking to anyone. Emails go unanswered. When working a support case through multiple calls, it always seems like the customer has to start from the beginning and explain the problem all over again.
Some companies simply fall flat when it comes to customer service. They are so focused on growth that customer service hasn’t become an integral part of the company. However, as the above stats show, good customer service is a revenue driver.
If you aren’t sure how to improve your customer service, start with the customer. Send out a survey asking customers what’s missing. Talk to them on the phone about any issues they’ve experienced. If you are genuine about wanting to improve customer service, customers will help you. But you have to take the first step to engage with customers and they have to see that you really are trying to improve.