Think ancient matchmaker, rather than Tinder app while developing relationships with your wholesale B2B customers. If B2C relationships are all about making the sale...well, so are B2B relationships! But there are differences between the two. Here are 6 tips for things you can do differently when building long-term eCommerce relationships with your B2B, wholesale customers.
If you’ve just switched or grown your business from retail to wholesale - congratulations! But now it’s time to reevaluate how you interact with your customers and the strategies you use to market to them.
1. Evaluate your target audience and narrow down the market.
You can cast a wider net with B2C relationships, but with B2B it really helps to decide exactly who your target customers are. They will be very specific businesses, especially if you sell a niche-market product. Narrowing down your ideal customers will lead to a better fit on both sides of the relationship.
2. Go ahead, be a know-it-all.
When interacting with your B2B customers, give them more details and technical information than they ask for. While your B2C customers may only know the superficial details about your products, B2B customers know a lot - maybe even more than you do. They’ve been researching similar suppliers and products, and thinking critically about what they want to sell. As a result, they’re looking for expertise and a solid knowledge of the facts. B2B customers are more rational and tend to make fact-based, less emotional decisions.
This also changes your marketing communications. Ask to be featured in case studies by companies like us, so your potential B2B customers understand how your business works and your drive to constantly improve it. Also, case studies can prove to be awesome tools for marketing yourself without making any extra marketing investment.
While for B2C customers you keep things light, go ahead and get technical when wholesaling. Show off all your knowledge and brilliance to prove that you not only have the best product, but you know exactly what makes it the best.
3. Think long-term relationships and good references.
Get ready for a long commitment. In some cases, one or two wholesale customers can make up the bulk of your profits - and if you’re good, they’re going to stick around for a long time.
Because of this long-term relationship, references from other happy customers are going to be super-important to closing the deal in the first place. Develop a relationship that goes above and beyond a simple supplier/buyer link and watch your references do half of the selling themselves.
As you gather references, keep in mind that they shouldn’t be only about your product, but also about you - your business terms, style and other details. You’re not just selling your product, you’re selling your business for the long-term relationship.
Also, B2B customers will want to know how your operations are set up and what technology you use. If you use cloud-based technology like TradeGecko for inventory management or other software for accounting or fulfillment, make sure your customers know it and the value it adds to your business.
4. Be ready for longer sales cycles and multi-step decisions.
Take your time and take things slow. You’ll have longer sales cycles when selling wholesale. When you get to large-scale wholesale purchases, you may have to meet and develop relationships with half a dozen people before getting to a purchase.
The decision-making process is more evolved when businesses are buying from you to sell to their customers, rather than for personal consumption. Be ready to market to all these individuals who are involved in the process and be mindful that it will take a long time. The payoffs for a successful B2B wholesale relationship can be high, but as we all know - all good things take time.
5. Focus on multiple, repeat purchases.
While the repeat customer is important in both retail and wholesale, in B2B, the importance takes on a whole new level. Most B2B profit doesn’t come from one-time purchases from many customers, but from a smaller number of customers that sign long-term deals and come back again and again (and again).
6. Rethink your customer service for long-term contact.
Unlike B2C, when a customer might only get in touch with customer service once they’ve made a purchase or have a problem, in B2B, customer service can be among the first few points of contact. B2B customers will have many more questions for customer service before making the first purchase, and it’s worth adapting for wholesale.
So, let’s conclude with a metaphor
Applied to B2B relationships, in the tale of the tortoise and the hare, you’re the tortoise. Or if we’re getting technical, you’re actually the guy waving the flag at the finish line, who is really rooting for the tortoise to make his way to the finish line…(not that you don’t want the hare to also finish the race…)
Perhaps we’ve lost focus here. What is the point? It’s simple: go for long-term, slower-to-close, but higher-quality relationships when you’re working on optimizing how you interact with wholesale customers. If you’ve been focused on retail, this does require a shift in strategy. However, if you’re able to change your outlook, you’ll find you can build better, more profitable wholesale relationships.