Attracting and retaining customers begins and ends with relationship building. In the face of fierce competition, finding ways to solve your clients’ problems and help them increase their revenue can be a distinctive advantage in B2B relationship building, but there is no shortcut to establishing strong relationships with clients. It takes time, dedication and the ability to provide the insight, guidance and advice that is just right for each of your clients.
With more than 125 years of expertise, Euler Hermes’ global business intelligence is unrivalled. Tap into our insight and actionable information about B2B relationship management strategies appropriate for businesses of all sizes and in all sectors.
How to Build B2B Relationships
Building trust in the initial stages of a B2B relationship is imperative. Early on, you want to prove that you and your organization are reliable and a trustworthy resource for valuable insight and support. Here are four important ways to initiate a buyer-seller relationship in B2B:
Utilize “Top-to-Top” Relationships
While your organization likely has account management and sales teams in place, there is no substitution for the peer-to-peer relationships that exist between your executives and your prospects’ leaders. These peer-to-peer connections help to solidly establish frontline relationships, gain brand buy-in and remove barriers to decision-making.
With senior executive relationships in place, your organization then benefits from firsthand knowledge about the challenges and priorities your prospects and clients must manage. That information helps position you to understand where your clients are going and what you can do to help them get there.
Regularly Communicate Through Multiple Channels
Research shows that businesses that communicate with their customers often and via multiple channels – blogging, email, social media and more – see better business and more loyal customers. Regular communication via channels that your customers are most comfortable using can enhance engagement with your brand and more deeply build your relationships.
Ask yourself: How often are you touching base with your clients? How are you reaching them? Remember that the best communications are about solving your customers’ problems, not selling your products. Keep your content relevant to your customers and incorporate soft sells when appropriate. This kind of content not only provides value to your customers, it shows them that you care about their success and not just your bottom line.
Delivering exceptional service is bound to enhance any B2B relationship. But to exceed expectations, you must first establish what your service criteria is with your new client. You want your client to understand how they can expect to measure your performance, not determine for themselves what to expect from you. Once that understanding is in place, you will further establish your B2B relationship when you exceed expectations, showing that you prioritize value delivery over price.
While you shouldn’t oversell your business or lose money on every deal, customers will recognize and appreciate when you make an extra effort for them, which will in turn take the buyer-seller relationship to the next level. It can’t be every time and every month, or they will come to expect it, but demonstrating your value in one-off ways will keep you top of mind for when the next sales cycle or need arises. They will remember your efforts.
Focusing on The Right Customer Segments
Whether you are interested in developing new relationships or growing profitable customer segments, it’s important to focus on the right customer segment. No matter if you choose to focus on customers in a wide group or those within a similar industry, look for those that have challenges that your service or product solve. Then, narrow your search to the most promising target segments. To help you more easily refine your search, assess client risk with Euler Hermes’ free Sector Reports.
How to Manage B2B Relationships
Once a strong foundational relationship has been built with a client, it’s time to develop a working strategy to maintain and grow that relationship. That strategy can help you distinguish yourself from the competition and elevate your value with your clients. Several ways to manage your B2B relationships include:
A simple “thank you” goes a long way. While it’s important to go the extra mile to support your customers, it’s also beneficial to express your gratitude that they put their trust in your business. Go beyond the typical “We appreciate your business” message on your invoice emails. This can appear as an afterthought and even disingenuous.
Instead, engage on a personal level whenever possible. If a special life event happens (marriage, birth of a child, loss of a loved one) be sure to send a handwritten note in a greeting card. Remember the entire client team at holiday time with a special delivery of a tray of baked goods or basket of sweets. Send business referrals or networking introductions their way from time to time. And when you plan to attend an industry event, invite them along or make a special effort to host a breakfast or dinner and invite them as your guest.
By going out of your way to make a connection with your customers and authentically show appreciation, you can build strong B2B relationship. Showing your B2B clients your gratitude will make them feel valued and special and, like exceeding their expectations, they will remember this when it’s time to engage down the line.
Incorporate Customers in Social Media Strategy
Your social media strategy is a great way to help build B2B relationships. Start by making sure your social media content includes useful data and information that helps your clients and prospects make better decisions. Then:
- Show that you are interested in your B2B clients by sharing, liking or commenting on their posts. Ask them to collaborate with you on content you can both promote.
- Cross-promote helpful content from your clients and tag them appropriately so they see how much you value them.
- Finally, always be sure to respond quickly to their social media posts or queries about you.
Prioritize Value Over Price
B2B prospects and clients are more discerning than ever. Their decision-making process considers your pricing and your overall value. That value is often measured by how helpful your product or service is in helping them reach their goals. Rather than focusing your messaging on your product or service, focus on the outcomes your clients can expect when they use your product or service. In this way, you can effectively prioritize value over price.
Handling Client Non-Payment
Another positive aspect of building strong relationships with your B2B clients is that this rapport can help ensure timely invoice payment. But no matter the strength of the relationship, at times an invoice can be missed or paid late. It is those times that you need to use good judgment and expert communication skills in order to maintain relations and get paid. Read this article from Euler Hermes about how to collect on that invoice and maintain good relations.
Read this article to find out how to deal with a company that owes you money.