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It’s all about relationships – 10 ways to improve yours in a B2B market

You hear it all the time – B2B is nothing like B2C marketing. Yes, there are certainly differences, especially in the process from first contact to the sale. And everyone in B2B marketing is well aware of this. But sales, whether B2B or B2C, always come down to one single factor – building relationships. Nothing happens unless there is a relationship between seller and buyer. And social media has presented great opportunities to build, nurture and maintain those relationships like never before. Here are 10 ways that you can build and improve relationships with potential and current customers.

Be a Bit of a Spy

Whether you are courting a client for the first time or attempting to maintain a good relationship with a current one, you should always know “what’s up” with that company. In earlier days, when all of marketing and sales occurred with physical contact, this was hard to do. You had to try to get a “feel” for your prospect through face-to-face meetings. The Internet and social media has changed all of that. You can now find potential and current clients all over the web, and you can locate all sorts of valuable information in the process. Think of yourself as a candidate for a position with the company. You would do a lot of research, so that you can understand the mission, goals, “culture,” etc., in preparation for an interview. You do the same. If, for example, you read a news article about a new innovation or a success of one of your current clients, email your contact at that business with a congratulatory message. This sends a clear message – you care about their business and its success. Keep your eyes open to any opportunity to do this, no matter where a company may be in your sales funnel.

Connect Your Customers/Potential Customers with Opportunities

Nothing will endear you more to a current customer/client or even to one you are currently courting, than to find potential opportunities for them to gain new customers as well. Keep your ear (and your eyes) alert. Are there people you know whose businesses are looking for any products or services that any of your current or potential clients offer? Contact your “contact person” and let them know. This conveys the message that you are invested in their success as well as your own. You become a peripheral “team member,” looking for ways to generate p\sales and profits for them. And you get the kind of loyalty that you want over the long haul.

Promote Your Customers/Potential Customers

Whether you have a current, steadfast customer or one that you have already managed to get into your sales funnel, you can use your own social media channels to promote their products and/or services. Perhaps you have connections on LinkedIn; maybe you use your Facebook account of your blog; it’s possible that you have Twitter or Instagram followers who might be in the market for what your customers have to offer. Promote them and then let them know that you did it. There is much to be gained by your efforts – gratitude being the biggest one. And in that gratitude, those customers may also promote you.

Respond – Immediately

It’s not just the phone call you may receive that you need to return as quickly as possible. It is also that email. More than one customer has been lost because a marketer/salesperson did not respond quickly enough. The old adage, “the early bird gets the worm” really applies in this case. Your competition is working hard to be responsive, but you must be more so. Anything else you may be working on can wait. When a customer or a potential customer emails or texts you, you drop everything else and respond, if only to say, “I’ll be back with you on this within the hour.” Even if you cannot get on it, get a team member to do it. What you have said is, “You are important to me; I have received your message and I am working on it.” That in itself says volumes. Even if you have to work off the clock sometimes, the greater goal is worth it.

Regular Contact

Your time is important too. And where you set your priorities relative to clients/potential clients is important too. Set up a schedule of contact based upon the value of your current customers and prospects. Your “A” list includes those who are already customers or those who are close and/or really valuable. You will contact them far more often (set a number of times per month) than you will a “C lister.” But be mindful that the “C lister” who is dragging his/her feet may become a “B” of an “A” at any moment. This is the difference between “turtles” and “rabbits.” Some businesses may be “turtles” for a long while, but then, all of a sudden, they make a decision to “move” on a purchase. If you have maintained contact throughout, you will be the first one that comes to mind once they have become a “rabbit.”

Show that You are Worthy of Trust

Being of worth means that you consistently demonstrate your willingness to do what it takes to make a customer/potential customer trust you. There is a lot of talk about trust in the B2C community but not enough in the B2B marketing process. You have to be seen as the person who follows through, who delivers what you promise when you promise and who will address any question, issue or concern quickly and thoroughly. Even if you are a bit pricier than your competitors, if a business knows that it can rely on you to “be there,” the additional cost will be of no concern.

Honesty is Still the Best Policy

Don’t ever try to “wing it” when customers or potential customers ask questions or raise concerns. You don’t look smart when you do this. Trust between customer and provider is gained when you are willing to admit that you don’t have an answer (but you will find out), rather than promising something that you then cannot deliver. If, for example, you are selling a new HR software system, and you are asked if it can do something, if you don’t know say so. You can find out quickly and get back to them. And if it won’t do what they are asking, tell the truth. This tells a prospect that you are honest, and that is evidence that you are ethical – a huge factor in B2B success. With each experience you have of needing to be honest, you develop greater self-confidence in your ability to win over customers even when you don’t have all of the answers.

Educate Your Customers

Of course, you are in the business of providing an education to your customers about the products/services you offer. But there are other ways to educate them too. Suppose you learn that a client/potential client does not have a pervasive Internet presence. Maybe they are a retailer that has a website but little else. With all of your web-based marketing skills, show them how they can grow their business through all other social media channels. Explain the benefits of a blog and a social media campaign and put them in touch with those who can help them do this. This tells your client that your interest in their success is just as important as making a sale. You have become a team member, and that is a great place to be.

Ask for Advice from Your Clients

Everyone likes to think that his/her opinions are important and valued. And this goes for your customers as well. Ask for feedback all of the time. How can you improve your products or services to better meet their needs? What do they see as their future needs that you should accommodate? What would they like to see you offer in the future? When you do this on a regular basis, you have that long-term relationship you want, and they feel valuable to you – it’s a good thing!

Always Look for Ways to Provide Value

Constantly monitor sites, blogs and social media outlets that relate to your customers’ products and/or services. This takes time, of course, but if you subscribe to the right blogs and emails and newsfeeds, then you don’t have to go searching for stuff that your customer may be interested in. The stuff comes automatically to your inbox and you can then sift through and forward to your customers items that will be of strong interest. Your message is clear – you care about their business and their success. And your competitors are probably not doing this – big win for you.

Relationships generate sales – there is just no other way to look at it. Nurture those relationships and your bottom line will thank you.