Customer relationships are a precious asset. While a single major incident can damage a client relationship beyond the point of repair, most client relationships actually become vulnerable or damaged over time through a series of seemingly small cracks that develop when providers ignore key buyer requirements.
Data from the 2015 AskForensics Sales Analysis reveals four key B2B buyer requirements companies cannot afford to ignore. This data is based on an evaluation of 114 accounts with an average account size of $17.6 million – totaling more than $2 billion in total contract value. Examine the four key buyer requirements below and see which might need a little more attention from your company.
1) Service Quality
When was the last time you did an audit on your company’s level of service quality? A review of your company’s level of service might not be a bad idea since service quality is listed as a top priority by 25 percent of buyers. Service quality boils down to how well your company is able to help a customer improve performance through strong operations and results. Key factors include an in-depth knowledge of the customer’s business, proactive recommendations, industry expertise, timely responses to requests, and measurable results. Succeeding in the area of service quality might also mean demonstrating flexibility in meeting a customer’s special requirements.
2) Program Management
Approximately 22 percent of B2B buyers cited program management as a top priority – up from 16 percent in 2013. Program management encompasses the overall oversight of services, most often provided by customer-facing teams such as account managers. However, buyers are looking for more than just management of services. Buyers now expect program management to also include providers proactively recommending innovative ideas. Often, this needs to involve senior executives from your company – not just team members at the account level. In other words, buyers don’t just want you to manage the services you provide; they also want you to offer suggestions regarding how they can improve their overall total performance and bottom line. Do this and you will build loyalty among your customers.
3) Financial Performance
Not surprisingly, financial performance is a top buyer requirement, cited by 16 percent of buyers. Financial performance can be defined as the overall financial model your company offers customers. Customers expect your financial model to provide them with competitive pricing, competitive operating costs, and improved profits for their bottom line. It’s interesting to note that, in 2013, financial performance primarily encompassed providers helping companies decrease their operating expenses. In 2014, however, financial performance was needed more for scaling the scope of services to meet buyers’ specific requirements. In both instances, though, financial performance is not about low price; it is about your company’s ability to help a customer improve their total effectiveness and financial results.
4) Account Support
When B2B buyers make large purchase decisions, a provider’s account support capabilities often become a major deciding factor – at least for 15 percent of buyers. Account support includes support from both a service provider’s sales team and account team. Both teams are expected to work together to fully identify and address the needs articulated by a buyer – as well as uncover hidden, subtle, or emerging needs a buyer might not be aware of yet. These teams then must be able to proactively offer recommendations that address the heart of the issues a buyer is facing. In 2014, buyers most valued account support that encompassed recommending best practices and offering partner-level support.
Even though every customer has individual needs, it is safe to say that these four buyer requirements are likely on their list of top priorities. These core requirements matter both during the sales process as well as throughout the life of the account. Ignore these four important areas at your own risk. Pay attention to these critical buyer requirements and you may find that your company wins more deals and retains a larger number of critical accounts.
Rick Reynolds is a co-founding partner and CEO of AskForensics, which helps Fortune-ranked companies win more deals and strengthen multimillion-dollar accounts. AskForensics is the publisher of the annual AskForensics Sales Analysis, which provides real-world statistical insight on why enterprise companies win or lose sales and accounts.
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