by Robert C. Johnson, co-founder and CEO of TeamSupport.com
The B2B (business-to-business) industry can be challenging. It is unlike the B2C (business-to-consumer) industry many of us interact with on a daily basis – be it through grocery shopping or buying a gift for a friend – and there are several unique distinctions between the two industries.
So what should entrepreneurs entering the B2B industry know? Here are three tips:
1. B2B customers are more valuable and more difficult to replace than B2C.
If one of the largest phone companies in the United States loses a B2C customer, regardless of who it is, they don’t even blink an eye. If a large B2B company loses just one key customer, they could be forced to lay off employees or even close the company entirely. Given the heightened value of B2B customers, customer support is not only paramount but also a way in B2B to distinguish yourself from larger competitors. Offering great support with a nimble team can be the difference between a customer leaving or renewing their contract. One of the ways to offer better support is to use B2B customer support software, such as TeamSupport, so you can easily organize customers by company and auto-assign tickets to the correct employees who have already cultivated relationships with customers.
2. The B2B industry does not move as quickly as B2C.
When you see the latest Apple reveal for the new phones and computers, it prompts lines outside of their stores with customers clamoring for their new products. In this line, you won’t find any IT managers looking to upgrade on the first day. While B2C is always on the cusp of the latest tech trends and ideas, B2B is typically slower to adopt new technology and procedures. A new B2C customer may enter a store to purchase the latest iPhone and they will leave with a fully configured phone in 30 minutes. A new B2B customer has several considerations a B2C customer doesn’t have to face – what kind of phones do employees want? Will those phones work well with their company systems, such as email and internal sites? How long will the phones last before they need to be upgraded? Will employees need to be trained on how to use the phones? Making decisions in B2B can be complex and entrepreneurs should evaluate many factors before pulling the trigger on a whim.
3. Hire employees with experience in the B2B industry.
When you are looking to build out your company, make sure to focus on adding employees that have experience working with other companies. These employees will understand the nuances of business interactions and will be more likely to succeed than an employee who may have some skills but only has B2C experience. For example, if an employee is cold calling to sell a product in the B2C industry they will dial off a list and the vast majority of the people they call will be decision makers who can purchase the product immediately. In B2B finding the decision maker can be much more difficult; an employee may make a phone call and be bounced around to several different people within a company just to speak with the person who has the authority to purchase the product they are attempting to sell. Seek out employees who understand the complexity of B2B while at the same time have the patience to deal with multiple contacts at the same company to get business done.
To wrap up, the differences between the B2B and B2C industries is significant and founding a company in the B2B industry is not something that should be done hastily. You’ll likely be in competition against massive companies and you’ll need to rely on soft skills, such as customer service, to elevate your operations to a level of success. Understand what kind of company you’re looking to create and more importantly also evaluate how your customer may be impacted by the slow changing nature of the B2B industry. Being successful in B2B can be challenging, but it can also be very rewarding and profitable if you stick with your path and offer something your competitors, as large as they may be, do not.
Robert C. Johnson is the co-founder and CEO of TeamSupport.com, a cloud-based, B2B software application built to help customer-facing support teams serve clients better through stronger collaboration, superior teamwork, and faster issue resolution. A seasoned executive and entrepreneur who has founded and invested in numerous software and high-tech companies, Robert’s industry experience as a business leader and a customer inspired him to create TeamSupport to give Support Desk teams the tools and best practices to enhance customer loyalty and positively impact product sales.