“How did those idiots land a such a huge contract from XYZ?” you ask yourself. “Those idiots” are your competitors, of course. Since you asked yourself the question, you might as well answer it. “I’ll bet they have an uncle who is a big shot at XYZ.”
But according to a study published in Harvard Business Review, B2B success is not determined by nepotism as much as it is by how well you satisfy certain psychological needs of the customer.
If you are looking to increase your business-to-business sales in 2023, you might want to use some of the insights developed from this research.
“We often think of customers as rational decision-makers who seek to maximize value, reduce costs, and save time.” says study author Ron Friedman, PhD “When it comes to choosing service providers, the desire for satisfying psychological needs can be just as significant as the desire to save time and money.”
The multi-nation study indicates b2b prospects and customers respond better to sales approaches and communication that satisfy these needs. Here are some examples:
58% prefer choice over simple problem-solving.
When asked if they prefer having a problem solved with a single solution, or being offered a few solutions and asked to choose, 58% of respondents preferred the opportunity to make a selection — even if that took more time.
74% of customers prefer human connections over speed “aka Mr. Chatbot.”
The research base was asked if they prefer getting answers to a problem from a chatbot and getting their problem solved in a total time of 5 minutes or speaking with a human and having their problem solved in a total time of 10 minutes. Nearly three-quarters of participants preferred the human connection even though it required twice the time.
Knowing the customer personally improves perception of service.
70% of vendors described as having provided “good” service, were also described as people who know the respondents personality. Of vendors providing “poor service” only 33% knew the respondents personally.
Customers value vendors who stay in contact in a helpful way.
Impressions of the vendor’s service is improved if the vendor stays in touch in various ways. Key examples include reaching out to see if the client needs help with any projects, checking in to see how the client is doing, and sending a monthly newsletter with useful information.
Don’t get “too” personal.
Customers think less of vendors who embed GIFs in emails or send them a friend request on Facebook.
61% of customers preferred being taught how to solve a problem.
Customers prefer growth over a quick fix and they prefer a service provider who teaches them how to solve the problem independently, without needing to contact the vendor every time that problem pops up.
“Viewing customer service through the prism of psychological needs opens up a wealth of opportunities for elevating service by empowering customers to experience autonomy, relatedness, and mastery.” says Friedman.
Take advantage of the results of this study.
A. Collaborate with customers. Even when you have an effective solution in mind, provide your clients with options so they’re reminded that they’re in control.
B. Connect intelligently. Don’t force the relationship. Focus on ways of making your clients better at their job, paving the way for the development of an authentic relationship.
C. Empathize sparingly. Customers far prefer a service provider who responds knowledgeably over one who “feels their pain.”
Sometimes however, no matter how well you communicate, there is always a chance the prospective customer will award a huge contract to a nephew or niece who also happens to be your competitor. Unless you are planning to marry into the XYZ family, you’d better focus on prospects who are not related to your competitors.