What do B2B buyers want from vendors? Great question. I can tell you from personal experience that what we do not want is accepting a LinkedIn connection request and immediately getting a sales pitch. That? Bad form. In today’s digital first, customer-centric business landscape, B2B vendors would do well to step back from the standard business-as-usual, ‘we’ve always done it this way’ tactics and ask themselves what B2B buyers want from vendors, and model their sales pitches accordingly.
A new report from Value Selling Associates, Sales from the Buyer’s Perspective, offers new insights with a view toward helping B2B vendors do a better job of connecting with prospects and customers and serving them. It’s one of the first reports I’ve seen that clearly outlines what B2B consumers want from their vendors—including not just products, but communication, transparency, and industry savvy. If you work on or manage a B2B sales team and have always wondered what your buyers really want, this is worth exploring. You may be surprised by some of the results.
Lesson One: B2B Buyers Want One-Stop Shopping. You know how it’s often easier to run to Target to pick up a few random things than it is to go to four different specialty markets to find them? Or how convenient it is to head to Amazon and buy everything you need with a quick search and subsequent click of a “buy now” button? Well, here’s the thing about that—consumers are consumers are consumers—and whether they are shopping for consumer goods at Target or Amazon, or looking for the products, services, or solutions they need for their B2B businesses, they often think alike. Just as most of us love the convenience of one-stop-shopping as consumers, B2B buyers also like the simplicity of comprehensive service. The VSA research showed that rather than focusing on niche providers, B2B buyers reported the services they are interested in are those that are compatible with other products/services already in use or under consideration, that are user-friendly, and which solve multiple problems. Rather than one sales rep here and another over there, and yet a third over somewhere else, B2B buyers report a preference for vendors who can do it all. And it only makes sense. Managing one trusted vendor partner is significantly easier than juggling a myriad of different relationships with different vendors. It saves time and energy and makes their lives easier all around. In addition, there are quite likely some cost efficiencies involved in working with one vendor rather than multiple. This desire for one-stop shopping? According to the survey respondents, it applies to B2B buyers across the board—large and small companies alike.
Lesson Two: They Want You on Their Journey. B2B buyers report they want their vendors to go along with them for the sales ride. They want a partner in their buying journey, not a one and done sales rep. They want to know that they can total rely on a sales rep, contacting them at any time along the way for an update. They want to be able to rely on a B2B vendor partner to offer ideas for improvement or help fine-tune their strategy. They are also of course interested in a vendor’s help along the way solving any problems encountered and, in general, making their lives and their customer buying journeys easier and more enjoyable. So, what B2B buyers want from vendors — yes, it’s a little bit like you’re their personal assistant. But that’s what great salespeople do—they build relationships. If a B2B vendor is lucky (and good), those relationships will last a long time and result in much business for you and your company over the lifespan of those relationships. Technology can help automate some of that communication process, so make sure you integrate that into the equation where possible.
Lesson Three: What B2B Buyers Want — They’re in It for the Long Haul. Just as companies try to prevent high employee turnover, what B2B buyers want is likewise to prevent high vendor turnover. After all, it’s time-consuming to continually be sourcing solution providers, sending calls for bids, vetting them prospective vendor partners, selecting one (or several), educating them about the company and its needs—you get it—it’s a lot of work! Then once a B2B buyer finds a vendor, there are approval processes and learning curves as the relationship develops. As human nature goes, we all pretty much want the same thing when it comes to work—finding the smoothest, easiest-to-manage, most cost-effective way to do our business, generally with vendor partners we trust. That means what B2B buyers want is for you to act like a long-haul partner—offering help, discounts, incentives, and ideas for improvement, just as you would to an old friend. They want to keep you around—just give them a reason to.
Lesson Four: B2B Buyers Want You to Communicate. You know how annoying it is when you make a large, important purchase from a company and then never hear from them again? The same holds true with your B2B buyers. They are spending significant time and money giving your company business. They want to hear from you, even if it’s just a friendly hello or status update. Oh, and the report found they prefer email the best. (Yes, you’re largely off the hook when it comes to making in-person visits.) Side note: Communication is also key within your company, so make it part of your culture for maximum benefit.
Lesson Five: B2B Buyers Want Transparency. Just like used car salesmen, vendor salespeople have some negative perceptions to overcome. According to the Value Selling Associates’ research study, nearly 60 percent of B2B buyers felt that their salesperson had provided false information in order to make a sale. That’s terrible news! Even worse, more than 60 percent felt their vendor had put extra pressure on them to buy. This shows that vendors need to amp up their commitment to transparency. How? Provide itemized pricing, make it clear when you’re outsourcing their work to a third-party (especially if you’re making an additional profit off the exchange), and communicate both when the job or service is going well—and when it’s not. B2B buyers value honesty. And it’s more likely you’ll keep those buyers for the long-haul by being honest and transparent. It’s the foundation upon which great, long-lasting relationships are built.
Lesson Six: They Want You to Know What You’re Doing. It’s highly likely that not all B2B buyers have time to stay on top of advancements and innovations in the industry. They rely on their B2B vendor partners to be fully immersed in the industry, to be up-to-date on all the latest technology offerings, solutions, and innovation that will help solve their problems and help them reach their goals. That said, the VSA report found that just one-third of B2B buyers felt their vendors were well-informed. For vendors, it’s a clear indicator that they need to get in the game—commit to continuous education—and stay on top of trends in real time.
None of this is extremely earth-shattering. Most of us know communication and transparency are important in the digital marketplace. We know that staying on top of new developments is essential for business success. What the Value Selling Associates’ report shows isn’t so much insight as it is confirming what most of us already know. Customer experience matters. There’s a lot of room for growth when it comes to B2B buyer/vendor relations. Focusing on what B2B buyers want from vendors is critically important for sales team success. And if you’re a vendor with a profitable B2B company, imagine how much more profitable your company could be if you fine-tuned your tactics based on the results of this research study.
The original version of this article was first published on V3Broadsuite.