Gallup has just released the Guide to Customer Centricity: Analytics and Advice for B2B Leaders. The study reports that 71% of B2B clients are ready and willing to take their business elsewhere – not even one-third are fully engaged in their relationships with suppliers.
If you are operating in the B2B world – and you likely are, as either a supplier or client – do you find this statistic surprising?
This finding should be a wake-up call for B2B brands to figure out what is going on with their clients.
Do you know anyone in the business world who will say they are opposed to client-centricity? Putting clients at the center of a business remains an aspiration for many companies. Why is a strategy of such potential value so difficult to execute? What must happen to create mutually beneficial relationships between businesses and clients?
Companies have to get out of their own way and provide the value that clients expect. B2B or B2C, people handing over their money to you because they believe you are meeting their needs demand personalized engagement. They will choose the right moment to go elsewhere if you fail to deliver. Here are some areas that can make a difference:
- Sales force compensation systems rewarding new client deals, with little incentive past contract signing and getting the client set up, can be updated to reward surfacing and delivering on continuing needs.
- A linear approach to winning, welcoming and engaging clients can be reinvented to treat clients like people and break old habits of putting them through a gauntlet of internal systems and silos.
- An outside/in understanding of client needs and wants can replace product pushing. Even traditional client needs assessments may not capture evolving needs – these methods tend to play back answers biased by the products driving today’s P&L.
There is no magic to this. Client-centricity requires change and a new mindset. It’s hard work. Where can you begin? Follow these four action steps to identify the priorities for your business:
- Go out and talk to clients. The value of conversations where clients do most of the talking and you do most of the listening can be far higher than quantitative research.
- Segment your client base. This is not just about bucketing clients by size, sector, potential value to you or historical purchase relationship. It’s about the clients’ journeys, including their attitudes and behavior, how they go about achieving their vision of success, and where you fit in.
- Reimagine your clients’ experience of doing business with you. How does your brand enhance the clients’ journey — it’s not about making them fit in to your mechanisms for running your business. It’s about reflecting their preferences back to them in every interaction they have with you.
- Figure out what this means for your employee experience and expectations. Everything from sales incentives, to marketing communications, to servicing policies to channel capabilities – should contribute to the experience your brand will create so your clients see you as enabling their vision for their business. Hire people who are not only business-focused but people-focused.
The very term “B2B” fails to acknowledge the reality that every brand, irrespective of whether its audience includes individuals or enterprises, must prove itself to the people who will be its users, buyers or payers. Behind every B2B relationship are P2Ps – People-to-People.
This post also appears in Amy’s regular column on Huffington Post.