How B2B Buyers and Sellers can Build Better Relationships
What makes a business successful? It’s easy to say revenue, profit, or total market domination, and while those definitely help a business, those are more likely results of success rather than causes. No, what makes a business successful are the relationships, both professional and interpersonal, it can cultivate with others in the same space. The Buyer Seller relationship may be short and sweet in the B2C world, but in the B2B world, it’s a long-term relationship that requires consistency, communication, and maintenance. In HawkSearch’s most recent webinar, B2B Distribution experts Kyle Mitzner and Jacobi Zakrzewski highlight the unseen challenges to buying and selling in the B2B space and how to better communicate by working to understand the other’s perspective.
Here’s a review of the insight they were able to share.
What an Online Buyer Needs
As entire B2B industries start to fully integrate online, there are bound to be some growing pains in the buying process. Buyers who have worked over the phone, or face-to-face in-store, are now online looking to save time and money if possible. To protect their own experiences, generally, every buyer will look for the same key factors when determining whether to buy a new product. The main key factor will always be simplicity.
As stated earlier, the B2B buyer-seller relationship is long-term, so there are a lot of repeat orders. If a B2B buyer is offering a service to their clients or running a project, they are often ordering parts. This is especially true for the electrical wholesale industry, which is incredibly SKU-based. Being able to quickly and easily find the right part and order it, again and again, is mission-critical to any buyer operation. The more efficient a seller can make that process, the more likely they will become a go-to for multiple buyers.
Other key factors buyers look for include availability. Different buyers completing different jobs will have different shipping demands. Flexibility on the seller’s part is essential when dealing with the availability needs of various types of buyers. Lastly, buyers need details in the form of product data. With so many industries having so many SKUs, buyers need to quickly understand product specifications and characteristics to know whether that product is what they need. Without that product data, buyers run the risk of purchasing the wrong part, which means they also lose time as well as money.
By providing these key factors, sellers can benefit immensely. Buyers are more likely to appreciate the quality of service and flexibility, and as long as it’s fair, might factor in a slightly higher price if it means they can save time and money in the long run.
How Buyers and Sellers Work with Poor Data
In the B2B marketspace, buyers and sellers don’t necessarily have the best product data to work with all the time. Both buyers and sellers are a part of the B2B supply chain, with sellers repackaging products from OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) and other third parties. While sellers typically work hard to ensure all data is correct, that doesn’t mean that it’s particularly strong data either. However, it’s better than starting with a blank spreadsheet. Sellers will sometimes have to fix or create data where the original manufacturer inadvertently left holes.
One of the best ways for sellers to ensure quality data is to use their buyers as a built-in quality assurance vehicle. In this instance, the buyers can provide incredibly valuable insight into the products they purchase; if a seller were to create a means of communicating that feedback, they could guarantee a mutually better experience. It can be as easy as creating a button on the seller’s site that allows someone to offer feedback.
All that feedback, regardless of how it’s communicated, is data in and of itself and needs to be properly funneled somewhere. Keeping organized insight data can help sellers understand where problems directly are.
Additionally, the higher the SKUs, the more people needed to directly manage product data specifically. Sellers can then use that insight data to create a cycle that can benefit all parties, by circling back to the manufacturer with all that they’ve learned. If the manufacturer can implement the feedback as it beings the manufacturing process, then both buyers and sellers can focus on offering new feedback, rather than focusing on the same issues again and again. Sellers are a part of the product supply chain, but as the webinar states, here they are also part of the informational supply chain.
Third-party tools, like HawkSearch, can help organize these feedback data and offer a platform that helps sellers quickly visualize where improvements need to be made. Additionally, buyers, who spend a considerable amount of time on the seller and manufacturer’s websites, need a way to quickly do the necessary product research in an efficient manner. Buyers, especially larger ones, will tend to have their own internal SKUs, if they search for those SKUs, they need to be guaranteed that they can find what they are looking for.
Buyers and Sellers can deepen their relationships by working together to better the data they have on hand, rather than continue to work with data that doesn’t quite meet the bar.
The Typical Online Buying Process
The specific service a B2B buyer offers to their clients and customers will influence their buying process. Another influencing factor is research. Buyers need to find specific parts, but once they do, they also need to understand how those parts help them accomplish their tasks and goals. If it’s a repeat buy, then that process can be streamlined, but if it’s a new purchase, then it can take some time. Time that neither the buyer nor seller particularly has. Sellers that understand this make it easy to find product data and use cases for those products to help buyers learn and move faster.
Another important factor that influences the buying process is entitlements. Buyers, for their part, need to understand what entitlements are afforded to them if any, and how that affects the availability of certain products and services. Contract agreements need to be followed to the letter by both parties, and login information needs to be utilized to see if product entitlement and availability are negatively impact in any way, shape, or form.
It boils down to product management and streamlining the process. Buyers and sellers that optimize this buying process can be seen as equal partners and have an easier time building trust that can lead to success within their industry.
Challenges Facing B2B Distributors
Some of the biggest challenges B2B distributors will face pertain to the people side of doing business rather than the technical side. Everything the technical aspects need are consistency and strong product-lifecycle management. Without proper lifecycle management, distributors run the risk of internal teams stepping on one another’s toes.
If internal teams are having trouble then external customers run the risk of having the same trouble too. Distributors with products that offer unique and customizable features need to create an information drip, where users can slowly start to understand product functionality and the value behind it. If buyers are immediately expected to use the most powerful feature a product has to offer, without any guidance, then things like important, mundane functionality can get lost in translation. Keep things simple, and start by teaching customers to crawl before running. Keeping that product data on an easy to access sell sheet or in some other form, makes both the B2B buyer and seller’s job easier.
Blind Spots in the Buying Selling Relationship
Buyers and sellers don’t have a lot of time. There is an expectation that to be successful, the buying-selling process needs to happen quickly. To buyers, time is money. If a buyer can’t find what they need from a seller or manufacturer quickly and efficiently, then the chances of that buyer returning to that seller are considerably low. An example of a blind spot would be site search; poor site search may leave a buyer scrambling or more confused than when they started researching products. Low grade site search can hinder the buying experience and make it difficult to establish trust between buyer and seller.
A second blind spot is a need for data, as previously mentioned. Sellers need to provide the right data, and buyers need reliable data fast. Without it, it becomes harder for one to trust the other.
Takeaways: How to Simplify the Process
Buyers and sellers can simply the buying-selling process by creating a checklist of what they need and then communicating what those needs are. For example, buyers need product data. Sellers can help a customer understand product functionality by creating a communicative feed of information that highlights the value of each feature and functionality internally to the seller’s organization but also externally to potential buyers.
Additionally, sellers have a natural focus group constructed from their buyers. Creating an effective method of offering feedback will take the guesswork out of the relationship and strengthen communication considerably. By understanding the customer’s experience, sellers and manufacturers can reverse engineer it and improve it that much easier.
There is no one way to build trust, but perhaps one of the most effective ways is to communicate and streamline any process to make it easier and less time consuming. Buyers need to work fast, and if a seller helps them complete their goals quickly and successfully, then a relationship based on respect and brand loyalty can be born.