Building strong B2B relationships takes more than a weekly phone call and quarterly gift bag. To establish and grow client relationships, sales people need to carefully evaluate compatibility, communicate decisively, and collaborate regularly. But how does that all work in practice?
In this article we’ll unpack 3 principles which underpin strong B2B relationships, based on the advice we received from sales expert Liz Heiman, founder at Regarding Sales. Read on to discover inspiration and actionable advice for improving client relationships.
What are the 3 sales expert principles underpinning strong B2B relationships?
1: Compatibility creates strong relationships
The essential ingredient to a strong B2B relationship? Compatibility. While slight incompatibility can make selling your product a minor inconvenience for a client, a majorly misaligned client relationship could net you $0 revenue.
Liz explains that unless your product fits the client’s sales catalog and end buyer needs, your client will struggle to sell your product.
“They have to sell products which fit with yours, if you’re asking them to go outside of their normal interactions it doesn’t work…make sure that it [your product] fits so well with buyers that they [partners] prioritize you over any other option.”
A compatible B2B relationship makes selling easy: if your product is easy to sell, there’s a higher chance your client will prioritize you over your competition.
But how to find a compatible client? In a single sales territory, there could be many suitable customers. However, taking time to evaluate each prospective client’s compatibility could make a huge difference. You can use the following criteria to judge a prospective client’s compatibility:
- You share a similar end-user profile
- They’re enthusiastic to partner with you
- They’re willing to regularly share updates with you
- They sell products which fit with yours
2: Improve relationships with proactive communication
There’s a large difference between calling a client every week to ask them about a deal’s status versus a guided conversation. Spamming clients and pestering them for updates only leads to distrust, frustration, and missed phone calls.
The solution: proactive communication. It’s a fundamental sales skill, essential for building rapport with clients and nurturing transparency in B2B relationships. From her experience, Liz explains that scheduling discussions for updates, lead progress, and delivery changes are shared is a great way to kill spam and work as a team.
These discussions can give a sales rep greater understanding of their client’s situation: when the right questions are asked. To get started, use the following questions:
- What are your sales goals for this quarter/month?
- How are you progressing towards those goals?
- What support can I give to help you get there faster?
- What tools can I provide to help you get there faster?
- How can we collaborate with our marketing to drive more sales?
Listen to Liz’s full approach to proactive communication with your B2B clients here:
3: Collaborate with clients yearly and quarterly
Strong B2B relationships need constant maintenance and course-corrections to stay productive. It’s for that reason why Liz recommends yearly and quarterly client collaboration using 2 set agendas. Designed to help sellers understand how to improve their client’s success, these yearly and quarterly discussions use a predefined structure to encourage efficient collaboration.
The yearly agenda is made to focus on wider partnership goals and needs. Discussion should focus on the following topics:
- What are your overall goals for the year?
- How much revenue are you aiming to earn, and how much with us?
- How can we support you in reaching those goals?
- What tools will you need from us to reach those goals?
- How can we support you with marketing this year?
- What has been happening in your market over the past year?
The answers gathered from these questions can help a rep understand the likely position the client will be in over the year, and how that position will affect the client’s spending.
The quarterly agenda focuses closely on month-by-month progress against yearly goals identified in the yearly agenda discussion and outstanding needs. Each quarterly discussion should include the following:
- An update on progress towards mutually agreed sales goals
- Updates on delivery times, status, or changes for the next month/quarter
- Updates on that quarter’s lead status
- Product or marketing support required for the next month/quarter
- Additional important information e.g. planned product changes
Framed by the wider structure set in the yearly agenda, quarterly discussions help each party quickly share information, review progress, and set the next quarter’s pace.
Summary: applying the principles to your situation
In action, Liz’s 3 principles can be used as guidelines to ensure new client relationships get a solid foundation. Likewise, if you or your sales reps are struggling with a stagnant relationship, consider using the principles as a diagnostic tool: are we properly aligned, do we have a communication framework in place? Furthermore, if you’re enjoying a strong, issue-free B2B relationship these principles can be used to inspire new ways of working constructively with clients.
If you’d like to get more sales insights and opinions from experts like Liz, why not keep an eye on our webinar page? Stay tuned for details on upcoming free live shows in August and September 2022.