Getting started can be a huge challenge for any business, but for the business to business or B2B community, it can be even more difficult. This doesn’t mean that it will be less profitable than a B2C business, it can just be harder to get started. For the business to business community, getting that first handful of clients can mean the difference between feast or famine, or worse, the difference between opening the doors to the company and closing them.
On the other hand there are B2B sales methods and techniques that can make this transition period easier to hurdle, if not altogether painless, and while they will work differently for each business model, they are insightful enough to give a foundation for any company to be successful.
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How to Get New B2B Clients
1. Test your business model before chasing sales.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained, but sometimes it’s best to gain before you venture and gather clients before you even start your company. This is not easy at all, and it will likely require a combination of very skillful beseeching in conjunction with promises and collaborations. But if at all possible, try to see if your business model is strong enough to even get other businesses interested. Even if your first three jobs or sales are for free, this can still be a solid enough point to jump off from in going all in. Say for example that your soon-to-be company is a consulting firm. If you provide local businesses with your services for free initially, it can start you on the right path with great testimonials that can build your brand and authority in the industry enough to garner future clients. Additionally, if your services made a measurable difference in the companies that you worked pro bono for, they will surely offer your skills to other companies that they work with in order to streamline their own operations.
For example, say your consulting firm (just you in the beginning probably) found an operational or logistical issue at a dinnerware company where they source their product from different companies and then repackage them for sale to a broader market. Your insight into an issue allows them to fix it, which in turn increases sales or reduces costs. This will make you a hero to this dinnerware company, and whenever they encounter issues in the future, or whenever they experience issues with their suppliers going forward they will refer your services, and then you can charge full price.
2. Tap into your referral network to get B2B sales
Use your existing network of professionals to get started. In the beginning it may be more efficient for you to contact your old employer, or your current one, and offer your skills to them – likely free of charge at first – and then ask them to refer others for a discount on their own needs. If your B2B business is manufacturing specialty car parts for custom shops, you likely already know some custom shops that you can utilize as a resource. Offer them an initial discount on your product and they will likely jump at the chance to try something new that will be cheaper and thus give them more on the bottom line.
3. Evaluate your competition
Be the competition. If you know that your business will be better able to do the things that the major player in the industry can, then court the businesses that use this company, but aren’t happy with it. Lots of business can be generated from poaching clients and customers from other businesses that don’t feel appreciated. If your would-be company is an advertising agency for example, then you can usurp the clients of your competition by offering more than what they are getting already for less. An example of this would be if they are paying a primary market ad agency top dollar for minimal results, create a campaign for that client and all but give it to them. Let them know that this offering and much more will be theirs if they switch to your ad agency over their current one. Businesses poach one another’s customers all the time, so don’t feel bad about doing so, especially if what you can provide is better.
4. Build rapport and trust in the B2B industry
Build rapport and trust first. Much of business to business marketing is about the feeling that a company head gets about you. Even if you are trying to sell oranges to a juicer, if you come off like a used car salesman trying to push a lemon on them, they won’t make lemonade or OJ, they will make a note of how you are smarmy and untrustworthy, and they will never do business with you. It is absolutely critical to build rapport with the customers you intend to do business with, and trust isn’t something that can be formed overnight.
Rapport and trust can be built in a lot of different ways, from being the solution source to a problem that the company is having; to making yourself an authority in the industry through social media by sharing ideas and articles that pertain to the business you’re trying to break into. There is no tried and true way to build trust with someone, especially another company, but you’ll know it when you’re doing it right. And once you do, the sales will start pouring in.
5. Use B2B marketing and advertising to your benefit
Advertise. This is simple because it works. Quality advertising can put you in front of the eyes of the people you need to convert into clients. Advertising can take many forms, from free social media to old fashioned newspaper full page ads to an email blast that reaches thousands. It’s important to remember though that while advertising can make an impact, it will only do so if done properly. There’s no point in taking out a full page ad in the community newspaper if your market reads the business journal. Similarly, if you wanted to court a high profile client, you might be better off with highly targeted pay per click ads that target that specific individual at the company than the company as a whole with an email blast.
Business isn’t easy. It never has been, and starting one from the ground up can be even harder, but there are still ways to do it that won’t break the bank, or cause the company to fold before it comes to fruition. While the methods may be different for each business there are plenty of ways for every enterprise out there to succeed through the first stage of company creation, gain clients, and hit the ground running.
Thanks to Alexander Ruggie of 911 Restoration for contributing your expertise on B2B sales!