Engaging customers is the biggest challenge of a rising and a scaling startup. This is true for every business such as B2C and B2B, yet more difficult to achieve for b2b customers.
B2B Customer Acquisition
B2B customers are a lot more demanding, they are in a sophisticated organization themselves and they deal with complex decision-making processes or purchasing cycles themselves. When working in b2b cases, you do not have one interlocutor, especially for bigger companies. There are many of them. Each meeting that you are having may include different sets of participants and this makes your follow-ups even harder.
Prospecting and cold calling suffer the same way. You do not know if you are dealing with the right profiles that can take you somewhere with your business. You do not know if your messages are relevant. From prospecting to further stages of meeting with customers and follow-up, getting to know your customer profile is often overlooked in a sales cycle. Not much attention is paid to that and as you know. marketing comes with many different faces.
Unfortunately, it is not only the salespeople in your organization to take the blame on when it comes to customer acquisition. This is where the full organization shall be involved. And why is that? Because this is about the answer to a serious question, the one that is related to your company vision :
Product-centric or Customer-centric?
A product-centric company is driven by the product by putting the market priorities in the second place. The technical features of the product come first, technical complexity, feasibility, and this vision are usually driven by the technical team of the company.
A customer-centric company is driven by the customers by putting customer profiles and market needs as the first priority and evolves the company’s product/services solutions according to this.
There is much time, attention and energy spent on the product at the early development stages. I mentioned in earlier articles that even at these stages, it is critical to making sure that you are not doing a pure product development activity but a product management activity taking into consideration market needs and business model.
This is also the core concept of the Lean Startup movement which was triggered by Customer Development Methodology as evoked by Steve Blank, the founding father. And beware to limit you spam comments to a minimum.
Even if you have a great product, make sure you connect with a solid customer development methodology. Being customer-centric will be more crucial at the scaling stage where you are trying to reach to your mass customers. How do you know if you are customer-centric enough?
You will discover that if you suffer from the typical symptoms:
- Conversion rate of your prospecting is low
- Face-to-face meetings go un-followed or with slow response time
- Several meetings happen with no solid outcome
- You keep meeting different people
- Sales cycle seem endless with no closings
All right, everybody knows that the conversion rates are not great especially when you are doing first level prospecting or cold calls. But then, you do not need 50% conversion rate, which is not realistic either. You just need quality ones.
For that, the question is, do the sales calls or sales meetings create a spark in customer’s mind? How efficient are they? Are sales folks just bluntly following a script or can they create a connection with the customer and raise curiosity about your offerings?
A classical mistake of handling prospecting is talking too much about how great your product is, how sophisticated algorithms you have integrated into your product, how cool these technical features are etc…
You may be talking too much about yourself / your product / your services and not be listening enough the customer and their needs. They do not need to hear this, they are driven by their own problems and how you can solve « their » problems.
One-sided talk without engaging customers whether you are doing cold calls or you are in front of a customer doing a presentation cannot yield productive results and your reputation may be in jeopardy.
Conclusion : 3 Assets
Customer engagement is the heart and soul of your customer-centric vision. Customers will engage if they think that you understand their problems if you have a value to offer to them and if your product is packaged properly so that they can integrate into their business.
You shall address the three principal topics for full customer engagement:
Get to know your customers. This is not a waste of your time, on the contrary, this is an invaluable investment. Understand their profile, their business, their fears, their organizational structure and the right set of interlocutors.
Have a clear value proposition. Resonate with their needs. Link their problems with your solutions. Know that use cases are very powerful means to do so and don’t be afraid to maybe go a little against usual practices to stand out in the massive crowd of online happenings.
Have a non-confusing and an easy to deploy product packaging. Ensure integration with their business is not painful and will not require huge efforts. Create a product packaging model that can go with the use cases.