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Seeing Beyond CRM: Why B2B Companies Need to Bolster Relationship Management

Apr 7, 2016 / By Madelyn Young

Executives in virtually every industry fully understand that it’s more expensive – and more time consuming – to acquire a new client than to maintain an existing account. Yet just because they have that knowledge doesn’t mean they’re using it.

According long-term research from Gallup, released earlier this year, B2B companies are failing their clients with low levels of customer engagement. The study found that 71 percent of B2B customers are ready and willing to move their business because of the way that the companies manage – or mismanage – their client relationships. (On the other side, only 29 percent of B2B customers were “fully engaged” – i.e. emotionally and psychologically attached to the companies they do business with.)

With nearly three quarters of their clients prepared to jump ship, it’s clear that servicing accounts has fallen fairly low on B2B executives’ priority list. The big question: Why?

Hypothetically, it should be easier than ever to keep B2B clients engaged. Technology has made reaching out to buyers and customers as easy as sending an email (literally). Given the ease with which companies can communicate and interact with their clients, it’s logical to think that clients should be more attached to the businesses they work with – not less.

But technology may be a contributing factor in B2B client’s negative feelings. Relationship management, as a concept, has been folded into an inescapable acronym – CRM – typically positioned in front of the word “portal,” “platform,” “system,” or “solution.” In 2016, “customer relationship management” can be almost entirely digital and automated, aside from incoming calls and client requests.

And while it’s harder to generalize, “account management” is not much better. Overall, the decline in face-to-face meetings means that many B2B business engagements go from New Lead to Closed Sale without so much as a handshake. As a result, the idea of ending those engagements may feel more akin to unsubscribing to an email list than breaking a contractual agreement.

B2B companies need to invest in stronger relationship management tactics to keep 100 percent of their clients engaged and happy (rather than only their most valuable third). It’s about becoming more than just an email address in a customers’ inboxes – it’s about becoming a true partner in their success. Here are just a few of the must-dos.

Know Your Customer: Understand your clients’ industries and challenges… and not just at the beginning of the engagement. Become close enough to their situations that they turn to you when they need help conquering new obstacles.

Make it Genuine: We’re all prone to schmoozing and small talk, but meaningful discussions lead to more meaningful relationships. Show a genuine interest in what your clients do and how and why they do it – if you want them to keep you around, they need to know you’re truly on their team.

Never Rest on Your Laurels:
Especially for enterprise companies and others with long sales cycles, closing a sale and completing onboarding can feel like crossing the finish line. Avoid the temptation to sit back and enjoy the benefits! Continue making calls and scheduling meetings to keep the conversation going long-term.

Madelyn

Young

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