Increasing Your B2B Sales

By George Farris

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – How did those idiots land a such a huge contract from XYZ? you ask. “Those idiots” are your competitors, of course. Since you asked yourself the question, you might as well answer it. “I’ll bet they have an uncle who is a big shot at XYZ.”

But according to a study published in Harvard Business Review, B2B success is not determined by nepotism as much as it is by how well you satisfy psychological needs of the customer.

“We often think of customers as rational decision-makers who seek to maximize value, reduce costs and save time,” says the author of the study, Ron Friedman. “When it comes to choosing service providers, the desire for satisfying psychological needs can be just as significant as the desire to save time and money.”

The multination study indicates business-to-business prospects and customers respond better to sales approaches and communication that satisfy these needs.

Here are some examples:

Fifty-eight percent prefer choice to simple problem solving.

When asked if they prefer having a problem solved with a single solution, or being offered a few solutions and asked to choose, 58% of respondents preferred the opportunity to make a selection.

Nearly three-quarters of customers prefer human connections over speed, a.k.a., Mr. Chatbot.

The Harvard study research base was asked if they preferred getting answers to a problem from a chatbot and getting their problem solved within five minutes or speaking with a human and having their problem solved within 10 minutes. Nearly three-quarters of participants preferred the human connection even though it required up to twice the time.

Knowing the customer personally improves perception of service.

Seventy percent of vendors described as having provided “good serv-ice” were also described as people who know the respondents personally. Of vendors providing “poor service,” only 33% knew the respondents personally.

Customers value vendors who stay in contact in a helpful way.

Impressions of the vendor’s service are improved if the vendor stays in touch. Key examples include reaching out to see if the customer needs help with any projects, checking in to see how the customer is doing, and sending a monthly newsletter with useful information.

Don’t get “too” personal.

Customers think less of vendors who embed GIFs in emails or send them a friend request on Facebook.

More than three-fifths of customers preferred being taught how to solve a problem.

Customers prefer growth over a quick fix and they prefer a service provider who teaches them how to solve the problem independently, without needing to contact the vendor every time that problem pops up.

Take advantage of the results of this study:

A. Collaborate with customers. Even when you have an effective solution in mind, provide your customers with options so they’re reminded that they’re in control.

B. Connect intelligently. Don’t force the relationship. Focus on ways to make your customers better at their jobs, paving the way for the development of authentic relationships.

C. Empathize sparingly. Customers far prefer a service provider who responds knowledgeably over one who “feels their pain,” as Friedman puts it.

Sometimes, no matter how well you communicate, there is the chance the prospective customer will award a huge contract to a nephew or niece who also happens to be your competitor. Unless you are planning to marry into the XYZ family, you’d better focus on prospects unrelated to your competitors.

George Farris is CEO of Farris Marketing. Email