Today’s post is by Rick Reynolds, a co-founding partner and CEO of AskForensics, which uses a forensic science approach to uncover the truth about why Fortune-level companies win and lose prospects and customers. Follow @AskForensics on Twitter or visit www.AskForensics.com.
While the latest product line or newest technologies are compelling sales tools, when it comes to securing new and repeat business in the business-to-business (B2B) space, new data shows that B2B buyers make their decisions based on more human elements.
In fact, according to the 2016 AskForensics B2B Sales Analysis, 64 percent of buyers ranked account support as the top influencer when making a purchase. These results are based on data collected between 2013 and 2015 from 137 Fortune-level accounts, totaling more than $2.3 billion in total contract value.
As B2B purchases tend to be long-term and complex, the relationship is not only about an individual sale, but also about ongoing usage and consistent quality. Buyers want to deal with people who can guide them through the sales process and champion their needs with the vendor.
So what does stellar account support look like in today’s world? How can companies build a team that inspires the buyer to commit? What actions can they take and in what training should they invest to ensure their teams are prepared? Below are three ways your company can go above and beyond to impress B2B buyers with account support.
1) Train Your Executive Team
Support for customers is multifaceted and needs to come from two key angles: the customer-facing team (sales and account support) and the corporate team. The sales and account teams are the face of the company, so their preparation and involvement are obvious.
The corporate team, however, should also be thoroughly prepared and brought up to speed on the client’s requirements, your company’s commitments, and the personalities of all executives involved in the decision. It is important to make sure they are in sync with the sales team so their responses complement the sales teams’ overall positioning of your company. Alignment throughout the company is critical so the customer experiences consistently excellent service and prompt resolution – regardless of their point of contact.
2) Assign a Quarterback
B2B sales and customer support tend to be complex. It is easy for things to fall through the cracks – especially for long-term contracts spanning years.
One way to ensure your account support stays on track is to assign an account leader to serve as a quarterback who can guide all customer-facing and internal teams to use the same playbook and move toward the same goals. This internal quarterback can oversee all interactions that arise between clients’ team members and the corporate office, ensuring the client receives the information or resolution they requested. This member can also help connect the corporate and sales teams – guiding their overarching goals, aligning their efforts, and making sure proper communication takes place with the client.
3) See around Corners
Today’s B2B buyers expect excellent support, but that is the baseline. To wow customers you have to go beyond just providing excellent service.
The next level of account support is to proactively offer suggestions and best practices to customers. If your account teams have not proactively offered suggestions and best practices to customers since the initial proposal, make this an immediate priority. Failure to establish your company as a thought leader that can provide new and innovative solutions is the first tipping point toward moving from a strong account to a vulnerable one. Incorporate this practice as a consistent part of your account management processes to maintain strong accounts.
This effort to improve the buyer’s business positions your company as an innovative thought leader that cares about the client’s bottom line. It shows that you are action oriented and that you are moving their business forward, making you a valuable partner to their success. Rest assured that your competitors are on the sidelines waiting to share their innovative ideas with your client to win the business from you. Don’t let them take this initiative.
Competition in the B2B space is fierce and, while there are many factors at play, providing consistent, quality account support can be the factor that sets you apart. Invest the time and resources required to create an experience that lets your client know how important their business is to your company.