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How to Talk to Your B2B Customer

Posted on 10.04.2014

:: By Larry Alton ::


Addressing a B2B customer takes an entirely different strategy than B2C. Just like a teacher would speak differently to a colleague than a student, the same is true in B2B vs. B2C. Here are a few action-based tips when addressing this type of customer. This advice is especially crucial when training a new employee - whether he or she is a marketer, a Web designer, a copywriter or a customer service rep - who may come from a B2C background:

1. Focus on their end results

There are many ways a marketer can address how a product or service may benefit a B2C customer. The focus might be on making them feel good, the instant gratification factor or an educational approach might be taken. A B2B customer wants to know that a product/service will fill a disparity. They likely already know the benefits since they’re in the industry or have likely done their research.

2. Highlight respect for time

Time is what sweat equity costs. As a fellow business, it’s crucial to showcase that a marketer respects their B2B customer’s time. This means keeping things short and sweet. While there’s little a marketer can do (or would want to do) about the actual price (except in some instances) of a product or service, the only other way to present respect is by highly valuing a customer’s time.

3. Choose jargon carefully

There can be a fine line between sounding condescending and educating with a purpose. A B2B marketer obviously doesn’t want to “talk down” to their clients. However, depending on the industry, a little education may be in order. For instance, selling bulk printer paper to businesses will still require some education even if the client has been buying printer paper for years—products evolve, technology changes and the green movement is impacting every part of business.

A savvy marketer figures out how much each client knows, then adjusts jargon appropriately.

4. Communicate on a platform of their choosing

If a customer prefers phone calls, meetings, texting, live chat, video conferencing or any other particular form of communication (within reason), make it a possibility. In a world of mobile readiness, it’s the responsibility of the provider to offer options. If one B2B business doesn’t, another will.

5. Utilize inbound marketing

This is a means of respecting the customers time, being transparent and staying competitive. While outbound marketing was the only available approach for several years, inbound marketing can be a better option for both B2B parties. This can be achieved via search engine optimization (SEO) efforts, social media management, link building, blogging and maintaining high-quality content. When a business can lure a customer to them with a passive approach, it’s both cost- and time-effective.

6. Ditch the hard sell

In the world of B2B, there’s only room for soft sells—ditch the hard sell approach. Since the customer is “in the industry,” they know every trick and can sniff out an aggressive approach from miles away. A marketer can’t use common B2C tactics on a fellow marketer, so simply being transparent and information-based is key.

7. Use calls-to-action wisely

There’s a difference between hard sells and calls-to-action. The latter provide an instantaneous way for the customer to actively do something, whether it’s taking advantage of a 15 percent of sale or immediately connecting via a phone call. Giving a customer an option to “do something” makes them feel powerful and in control (even if they write CTAs for a living).

Most importantly, remember that the customer (probably) isn’t shopping for something leisurely or “just for fun.” They’re fulfilling a need and this task is one of many. It’s easy to be empathetic in this situation, so utilize that skill.


Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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