Traditionally in B2B sales, each salesperson had a small customer base that buys from them regularly. Sales and technical representatives visit the customers often and were on first name basis with their customers. Traditionally, many B2B suppliers had customers that have been loyal and committed for many years.
While the importance of relationships in B2B marketing hasn’t changed, the nature of the business market has. Salespeople have more than a handful of customers to manage, their time is torn between being in the office to ensure a smooth sales process versus visiting customers and maintaining relationships. Their contacts within each client can also often change.
The challenge for the B2B marketer and sales team is to maintain personal relationships with customers.
All marketing activities should be directed to establishing, developing and maintaining successful relationships with customers. B2B Sales teams should provide value adds to their clients, not only should they provide solutions to business problems, but they should identity potential business challenges for their clients and recommend solutions.
The consequence of emphasising relationships for B2B marketing budgets are a relatively high expenditure on people (sales and technical support) and a more modest expenditure on other forms of promotion. Advertising budgets are more modest and overall marketing activities very targeted.
The B2B salesperson is also a different animal to the consumer salesperson, in that the focus is on listening and cultivating a limited number of relationships rather than the more quantity-driven and transactional approach seen in consumer markets. This places emphasis on face-to-face contact and, as already mentioned, this salesperson must have an in-depth technical understanding of whatever he or she is selling.