In the complex world of B2B interactions, the strength and depth of your client relationships can significantly influence your success. These relationships exist on a spectrum, influenced by various factors, that are constantly evolving in the mind of your buyer, from their initial perceptions through each ongoing interactions.
To cultivate lasting and fruitful partnerships, it's essential to delve deep into understanding each individual buyer and influencer
Truly knowing and appreciating their perception of you and your services will allow you to adapt your interactions and be the differentiator between retaining a long-term client and losing them to competitors. More than just revenue, establishing yourself as their Trusted Advisor can lead to meaningful engagements and insights, shaping the future of your business endeavors for years to come.
Transitioning from a Transactional to a Trust-based Relationship
We get it, you can get into a routine: market – propose – sell… get up and do it again tomorrow. Before you know it, you’ve become a pretty good Transactional Vendor. After a sale, you shift focus back to new prospects, passing the client onto a customer service team. That’s what you’re paid to do, isn’t it?
While this is common, it doesn't mean that nurturing the relationship should take a backseat. In fact, to ensure long-term success your focus should shift from merely selling to providing transformative customer experiences. Effective customer experience isn't just about the sale; it's about ensuring that clients remain engaged and valued, especially after the initial transaction.
The Power of Being a Trusted Advisor
Being a Trusted Advisor goes beyond just a title. It's a commitment to provide consistent value, expertise, and reliability to your clients. Such a relationship offers numerous benefits:
Deepened Client Loyalty
As a trusted advisor, you become an integral part of your client's decision-making process. This deepens their loyalty to you since they rely on your expertise and insights to navigate challenges and opportunities. In their book "The Challenger Sale", authors Matthew Dixon, Brent Adamson, and their colleagues at CEB Inc. detail how tailored insights and expertise, typical traits of trusted advisors, can deeply resonate with clients, leading to increased loyalty. In fact, “The Challenger” profile made up 39% of high performers.
Increased Business Opportunities
Clients are more likely to share more information with those they trust, leading to insights into their future needs and challenges. This can position you to offer timely solutions, leading to more business opportunities.
Our research in the technology sector found nearly a 3 ½ times increase in share of spending between buyers who see you as a perfectly fine, but Transactional Vendor, and those who perceive you as their Trusted Advisor. These cross-selling / up-selling opportunities can dramatically change your growth trajectory.
Enhanced Referral Rates
Trusting clients are more likely to refer their Trusted Advisors to friends, colleagues, and peers, leading to organic business growth without the substantial costs of acquisition. A report by Vanguard highlights the importance of relationship management in attracting and retaining clients in a shifting advisory space where 94% of investors were likely to make a referral when they "highly trusted" their advisor.
Higher Client Retention
Trusted Advisors are less susceptible to losing clients to competitors since the relationship is built on trust and value, not just transactional exchanges. We’ve all seen the stats – acquiring a new customer is anywhere from five to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one – and it sense: you don’t have to spend time and resources going out and finding a new client, you simply have to keep the one you have from thinking there a better option out there.
The Harvard Business Review article titled "The Value of Keeping the Right Customers" underscores that trusted and value-driven relationships can significantly improve customer retention rates.
Premium Pricing Acceptance
Clients are often willing to pay a premium for services from providers they trust implicitly. This is because they know and appreciate the value delivered by the trusted advisor as higher than just the tangible service or product. The book "Pricing Creativity: A Guide to Profit Beyond the Billable Hour" by Blair Enns details how trust can allow businesses to move away from commodity pricing and instead command prices based on value perception.
Our own research shows a 14% price (and hence revenue and profitability) swing: Buyers who consider you to be their Trusted Advisor pay on average a 3% price premium because they know and appreciate your value. Buyers who see you as a commodity, a Transactional Vendor, demand on average an 11% price discount.
These benefits underscore the importance of earning and maintaining your status as a Trusted Advisor in any client-centric industry. The combination of deepened relationships, increased business opportunities, and enhanced financial outcomes makes the pursuit of trusted advisor status a strategic imperative.
Craft a Trusted Advisor Customer Experience by Serving, Not Selling
Becoming a Trusted Advisor requires a blend of strategy, empathy, and daily execution to meet and exceed the constantly evolving client’s experience. By committing to serving, not selling you can foster stronger, more rewarding relationships that drive retention and growth.
Deep Dive into Client Needs
Understand Them and Their Business
Familiarize yourself with each buyer’s industry, its challenges, competitors, and objectives. Equally important to understand the demands of their role and their personal aspirations. Deliver against their business and personal need
Invest in Training
Ensure you and your team have the training and resources to understand and address client needs effectively. Equip yourself with skills like empathy and active listening to understand and cater to each client’s concerns.
Personalize the Experience
Map Each Client’s Journey
Start by gaining a comprehensive understanding of various touchpoints in each client’s journey. Recognize the areas that require attention and optimize each to best exceed client expectations. Remember, in the realm of B2B interactions, becoming a Trusted Advisor isn't just about your products and expertise, but also about your ability to nurture relationships and consistently communicate value.
Offer solutions tailored to the specific needs of each client. Host workshops or brainstorming sessions that include both your team and the client's team to foster collaboration and feedback.
Recognize important events in your client's business calendar and reach out personally. Celebrate with them and be available to support them when needed.
Prioritize Clear Communication
Regularly check in with clients to ensure they're deriving value from your product or service. Ensure all team members communicate a consistent message about your products, services, and brand. Provide clients with dedicated portals where they can access resources, raise tickets, or view their history.
Establish Feedback Channels
Create multiple open channels for clients to provide feedback and voice concerns. Send out annual “Relationship Assessments” and “Moment of Truth” surveys to gauge client sentiment and areas of improvement. Then of course, ensure that feedback is not just collected but acted upon. Make necessary adjustments and communicate changes to the client.
Commit to Continuous Improvement
Keep abreast of industry best practices and be ready to evolve your strategies. Periodically review your CX strategies and adjust based on results and feedback.
Transforming B2B Customer Experience
In the evolving landscape of B2B customer experience, relationships reign supreme. You either become the buyer’s Trusted Advisor or watch your position devolve into ‘same-as’, commodity-based Transactional Vendor (and deal with the resulting price based-competition). It's no longer enough to reliably provide a quality service service; you must strive to become an indispensable partner, ensuring you cater to their clients' evolving needs while consistently delivering unmatched value.
Ask yourself: "Am I ready to elevate my role and become the Trusted Advisor my clients seek?"
If the answer is yes, then the journey towards forging robust, lasting client relationships awaits.
Want to understand what kind of relationship you have with your clients? Sign up for the number 1 customer experience management software for B2B, Encompass-CX. Sign up for the demo here.