How do you get new clients? If you sell B2B, the short answer is probably “relationships.”
You might, for example, know someone socially. They learn about what you or your company does. It turns out they need what you offer, and it seems to meet or exceed the standards of quality required by them. They then choose to buy it from you rather than the next guy. Why? Because they know and like you. It’s almost as simple as that.
The larger the commitment of time and money, the less likely the decision will be left exclusively in the hands of those you have a relationship with. It’s often the case that the buyer has to report to others and justify their decision based on more than the fact that your product or service meets standards and that they know and like you.
This is where your brand kicks in.
The buyer might have to make the case internally for his or her choice.
How does he/she make the case? She references your brand, probably via your website and printed or presentation materials she was given. These third parties to the decisions are more likely to look at all these materials with a critical eye. Do they support and confirm the case being made by your friend the buyer? Does the website say the same things in the same convincing way that the sales person did?
If everything matches up and reinforces what they have been told, then all is good, and the process moves forward naturally. You make your sale, and the formal business relationship begins.
The third parties to the decisions are more likely to look at all these materials with a critical eye.
This is how it’s supposed to be. If you have a good sales system, and a well-executed brand, this is probably how it is happening now.
If, however, when these same people check through your materials and your website, they do NOT find corroboration of what they have been told, this sews the seeds of doubt: “Is what I have been told really the case?” The sales process could and probably often does end right here. It could also move forward, but it now has to deal with additional questions plied to your contact, which, if he has not been primed sufficiently on your brand or the details of your products and services, he may fail to answer sufficiently.
Or it could lead to additional online research to see what others have said about you and your company. If this also does not match what they have been told, then the sale is now faced with a number of objections that will have to be overcome. The sale has become that much harder or—more likely—has just been killed with little or no opportunity for revival.
In the B2B environment, where each and every deal represents a significant amount of money, and where contracts can go on for years, these consequences can be very costly indeed.
All of this takes place outside of your direct awareness or control. These are the invisible consequences of not having a well-articulated or implemented brand. In the B2B environment, where each and every deal represents a significant amount of money, and where contracts can go on for years, these consequences can be very costly indeed.
These invisible consequences have significant repercussions for your business, but because they are rather difficult to track or to prove, some companies—particularly those in the B2B space—can discount the value of the connection between branding and the bottom line. This is a very costly oversight.
The assumption that it’s really all just about relationships does not represent a full process. Relationships are indeed at the heart of B2B sales but circulating through that heart must also be the blood of a strong and well-articulated brand. Leave the sale without this brand support, and it may not be enough to keep it alive.
Brand truly. Implement well. It will pay dividends many times greater than the cost.