When it comes to B2B customer relationship management, think old-school matchmaking rather than Tinder. B2C relationships are all about making the sale, and so are B2B relationships – but there are differences between the two. Here are 6 tips for improved customer relations 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! Now it’s time to reevaluate how you interact with your customers and the strategies you use to market to them.
While you can typically cast a wider net with B2C relationships, with B2B it really helps to pinpoint exactly who your target customers are. It’s likely they will be very specific businesses, especially if you sell a niche product. Understanding your customers’ unique needs will enable you to provide better service at every touchpoint.
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 usually know a lot –maybe even more than you do. Chances are they’ve been researching similar suppliers and products, and thinking critically about what they want to sell. On the whole, B2B customers are more rational and tend to make fact-based decisions – after all, they have a vested interest in choosing the right long-term supplier.
What does this mean for you? It’s important to establish your business as a reputable source of industry expertise. For example, being featured in case studies helps potential B2B customers understand how your business works and your drive to constantly improve it.
Don’t be afraid to 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.
Buyers will want to see that you’re the real deal, so references from other happy customers are worth their weight in gold. Develop a relationship that goes above and beyond a simple supplier-buyer link, and your efforts to improve customer relationships will pay dividends in the form of new business.
As you gather references, keep in mind that they shouldn’t only be about your product, but also about you – your business terms, approachability, knowledge, and so on. You’re not just selling your product; you’re selling your business for the long-term relationship.
B2B customers will also want peace of mind that you have efficient operations in place. If you use cloud-based technology like QuickBooks Commerce for inventory management or other software for accounting or fulfillment, make sure your customers know about it and the value it adds to your business.
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 build a solid relationship, they’re going to stick around for a long time.
But 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 often more complex 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 could take weeks or months. The payoffs for a successful B2B wholesale relationship can be high, and as we all know – good things come to those who wait.
While repeat customers are important in retail, it’s especially critical for wholesale businesses. 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).
With that in mind, establishing an ongoing rapport with buyers and prompting them when it’s time to reorder is key to keeping the purchase orders flowing. Utilizing a dedicated wholesale inventory management system can automatically give you the insights you need to know when reaching out to customers – which means you can nurture customer relationships with very little manual effort.
Unlike B2C, where a customer might only seek out customer service once they’ve made a purchase or have a problem, in B2B, customer service could be needed at any point of the sales funnel.
Typically, B2B customers will have questions before making their first order, and your customer service approach should reflect that. Make sure that, in addition to self-service B2B eCommerce capabilities, you also give customers the option to talk to an actual human when they need to.
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 person waving the flag at the finish line, who is really encouraging the tortoise to make their way to the finish line…
The point is it’s important to aim for long-term, slower-to-close but higher-quality relationships when it comes to B2B customer relationship management. If you’ve been focused on retail, this does require a shift in strategy – but with a change in outlook you’ll find you can build better, more profitable supplier-customer relationships.
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