Being a B2B company usually means having closer and longer-term relationships with your customers than B2C companies do. You will know how important it is to develop good relationships with your suppliers. Switching from one to another isn’t something you can do on an impulse; you require consistency from their products and reliability in their service.
Your customers feel the same way about you. As a result, building interpersonal as well as business relationships is the sensible thing to do. It’s also a way of showing your appreciation for your customers. Use these ideas to get to know them better.
1. Invite Them to Your Year-End Function
Dust off your business party tent. Call in the caterers! It’s time to celebrate the end of the year with your staff. But why stop there? Top customers and suppliers should also be invited as guests of honor. After all, without them, you wouldn’t have made it through the year.
Develop your seating plan to show that they’re VIP guests, and be sure to mention them in your opening address. Ask your line managers to help keep them feeling welcomed and included, and be sure to spend some time chatting and enjoying the festivities with them.
2. Visit Them Periodically
On a more serious note, you want to ensure that your B2B customers are still satisfied with your business, and you’d like to grow your sales to them too. If you’re in manufacturing or are supplying manufacturers, you might want to see if they can help you with projections regarding demand since that will help you to plan according to their needs.
Or, perhaps you want to introduce them to new product lines that might interest them and marketing support that will help them to sell more of your products. These collaborations don’t happen without forethought, and in-person meetings are always the best way to share thoughts, gain opinions and plan joint projects.
3. Call Frequently
While you don’t want to spam them with phone calls, your B2B clients will appreciate a chat with you from time to time. For example, if you’ve just delivered a large consignment of goods, it’s courteous to phone the purchasing manager and hear if they’re satisfied with the goods and the service they received. While you could get your sales rep to do this, making the call yourself shows that they’re getting VIP treatment.
Haven’t you received an order recently from a client who used to be a regular? Calling to find out why shows concern and remind them of your relationship. It’s also a way of finding out whether your clients are changing their strategies, have moved to other suppliers, and, if so, why they’re doing it. It’s never nice to lose a client, but knowing why could show you a way to regain their business.
4. Ask Their Opinions
Although you could use any of the opportunities we’ve already discussed to ask for opinions, there may be special times when testing the waters with clients can help you to make decisions. At the same time, your customers will be pleased that you considered their opinions worth getting and may offer additional insights for your consideration. Always remember to follow up with a mail thanking them for their input and saying how you will implement it in your planning.
5. Drop Off Corporate Gifts in Person
It’s generally accepted practice that corporate gifts are not particularly expensive since extravagant ones may raise eyebrows about your ethics and those of the person who accepted them. But everyone loves those little tokens that pass between business associates during the festive season. Playing Santa in person is sure to boost your popularity. See whether you can double-up the charm offensive by inviting the purchasing manager or CEO to lunch.
6. Invite Them for a Tour of Your Facilities
Proud of what you do? When customers visit you or are in your area for trade expos and the like, invite them to tour your business to see how you get things done. Apart from getting to know you better, they’ll meet personnel that isn’t always customer-faced, building relationships they’ll find useful if they ever have concerns in specific areas. They’ll also see what goes into the products they buy from you – an eye-opener that could help them to better understand the way you do business.
Doing Business With People vs. Just Doing Business
Business relationships will always have an element of pragmatism. No B2B customer is going to continue to support a supplier if they think they’ve found a better option elsewhere. However, having personal relationships with your customers means they’re likely to negotiate with you and less likely to simply pull the plug and walk away. Your openness also makes it easier for them to discuss strategic initiatives with you or partner with you. Build those relationships. As a B2B business owner, you’re in an unparalleled position to get to know your clients.