B2B relationships differ greatly from average B2C transactions. Impulse buys and emotional decision making play less of a role when choosing a vendor. Things like trust, professionalism and organizational efficiency are key to establishing a successful relationship between businesses.
Take a company looking for new business software. This company isn't going to just find a software that looks nice and shell out $10,000. Rather, the individuals responsible will look closely at the different options available, the features that each program has, the cost and whether it really fits well with the organization's needs. If they believe that the software matches what they had in mind and that the other business is a trustworthy, capable partner then they'll buy the product. However, that's the easy part. The difficulty lies in two businesses learning about each other and optimizing their relationship when their employees are so busy.
Here are five ways to make any B2B partnership successful:
1. Know each other's organization. The first and most important step is to learn about each other, customer and vendor. Customers must learn about the culture of the vendor's company, the processes they adhere to and the customer service that they provide. This ensures that they are fully aware of how their provider operates and creates trust. In turn, vendors have to understand the needs of the customer, the stakeholders involved within the organization and how the users will interact with the product or service day in and day out. These bits of knowledge will help both organizations know exactly who they are dealing with and more capable of tailoring the project towards those needs.
2. Establish expectations. After learning more about each other, the next action is to establish expectations. Discussing the timeline of the project, investment of resources and anticipated outcome help create a guideline and basis for evaluating it at the end. If the two sides were to skip this step then they could have radically different perspectives and feelings toward the result and that would leave no one happy. Establishing expectations early on helps by figuring out what both sides need to accomplish and whether anyone is being unrealistic. That way everyone is on the same page and that clarity allows the partnership to grow without some of the setbacks that plague other projects.
3. Open lines of communication. In order to manage the project well and make sure everything is running smoothly there need to be open lines of communication. This goes beyond basic contact information for the main parties involved. Getting other employees involved in the process can help include more people and they can serve as backups in case the main employees are sick, on vacation or leave the company. If there are any issues then open communication can help inform higher ups who have a stake in the project and avoid awkward confrontations. Most importantly, frequent communication makes sure everyone is up to date on how the details of the project are going and that the process is on track. Software programs such as Basecamp, Asana and Trello keep both parties accountable for tasks they need to complete so that the deadline can be met.
4. Evaluate and improve. During any project there will be roadblocks and challenges. That's why you need to evaluate what's working and what's not. This will help not only for the current project but any ones in the future between the two companies. The key here is to have an honest conversation about the process and come up with improvements, not assign blame. Both sides make mistakes and you have to work together in order to come up with a solution. Questions like what didn't we communicate, what priorities did we have wrong and what resources do we need can improve things going forward. Everybody wants to excel but it often takes some blunt words and difficulty to get there.
5. Give a helping hand. You might think that the project is over after the product or service is delivered. Think again. Many partners stop at this point but this is where the real value can be given. If the project was a huge success like we anticipated then both companies can give each other a helping hand through testimonials, case studies and referrals. This not only creates good will but can really boost your bottom line. Other gestures such as handwritten thank you cards and gifts can be a memorable way to end the project and solidify the relationship. Good experiences and kindness make their way around and you never know how they will make it back to you.
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