The business-to-business (B2B) world is dominated by Customer Relationship Management (CRM) strategies and technologies. CRM platforms like Salesforce, Pipedrive, Oracle CX Sales, SugarCRM, Zoho and others strive to improve the customer experience using data and software. The goal, as the name indicates, is to build and manage meaningful relationships with customers. Nurturing leads through the purchase funnel and maintaining regular contact with buyers is essential in today’s competitive landscape.
But there is another dimension that is even more critical to managing customer relationships – the “people” factor. Ultimately, people buy from people. Personal relationships create connections between businesses that create enduring trust essential to success.
The Three Ps are Key to CRM
A study by KPMG Nunwood found that in the B2B realm, “commercial success for a firm lies in the strength of the relationships it creates with its customers.” The study also describes how relationships founded on “common values, culture and behaviors” tend to last longest and often end up being the most fruitful.
The simple fact is that the heart and soul of CRM is based on delivering positive experiences through Products, People and Principles.
- Products – Provide customers with the high-quality and practical products and services they expect. Without consistent product performance, it is difficult to build enduring customer relationships and secure referrals. Providing innovative technologies that make a difference in the lives of your customers – and their customers – can set your B2B brand apart. Try something new that makes a difference.
- People – Offering field support, tech support and access to subject matter experts helps build trust with your customers. Relationships will benefit when you deliver help and information in as timely and friendly a manner as possible and cultivate a team with integrity, intelligence and a spirit of service.
- Principles – Principles drive people. Your corporate culture should be solidly based on carefully chosen core principles that guide your path to excellence. Remember that it is possible to do what is best and also be the best at doing it.
How Products Impact CRM
Your products should deliver consistent performance and offer customers peace of mind by operating safely and responsibly.
To give customers peace of mind that your products are functioning consistently, it may be feasible to integrate solutions with the Internet of Things (IoT). This provides real-time access to operational data and can alert users to abnormal conditions to avoid costly problems in the future. An increasing number of solutions sold today are powered by the IoT. In fact, in 2020, the number of IoT device connections surpassed non-IoT connections like smartphones, laptops and tablets.
In addition to leveraging technology, products should also offer assurance regarding safety. Brands that showcase care through safety features and smart design can create long-lasting relationships. Safety for the planet is also crucial. Today, an increasing number of buyers are looking for sustainable products that support the environment without sacrificing performance. In fact, nearly 70% of consumers think it is important that a brand is sustainable or eco-friendly, according to a survey by IBM and the National Retail Federation.
People Power Makes a Difference
The importance of having the right people and making them available to customers cannot be overstated. While some may see staffing as “overhead,” great people are the difference. They should be viewed as an investment in better customer relationships. Prioritize hiring people with the right character and serving spirit who can provide valuable technical advice and service.
Your partners and professionals will also come to be recognized as thought leaders and subject matter authorities by your customers. Keeping them at the forefront of your business builds trust and enables people to overcome challenges and enhance their operations. In addition to wanting to share their knowledge, these experts and other team members, like salespeople and C-suite leaders, need to be great relationship builders. Do not be constrained by direct staff only – think about all the people who touch your business and make it successful.
Your Principles Matter
When your business has the right principles in place, it sets the standard for how you create products, hire people and approach customer relationships. Principles may include leadership, honesty, respect, focus, integrity or any number of others. The right principles should always lead to a choice to do the right thing, and while this may cost more upfront, it often doesn’t in the long run. When people know you care, they appreciate it and ultimately return to your business. Costs can often be a short-term win, but rarely are a long-term gain.
Consider three principles that can help improve customer relationships:
- Integrity – C.S. Lewis famously said, “integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is watching.” A lot of things happen at many different levels of your company that the customer may not know about, so defining and following your principles ensures the right thing is done for customers as well as employees and business partners, even when no is watching. Communicate these principles constantly and consistently.
- Leadership – Companies with good leadership are comprised of employees who understand the values and principles of the organization. Leadership also means the company itself sets an example inside and outside its regular course of business. Leadership is a verb, not a noun, and it must be demonstrated in all interactions.
- Focus – What you provide to customers, and the way your company provides it, should be a constant subject of your focus. In other words, it’s impossible to be everything to everybody – sticking to your bread and butter is key. You can seek to expand and pursue growth opportunities and avoid chasing butterflies or neglecting customers.
While CRM and marketing automation systems serve as essential software for facilitating relationship management, the heart and soul of CRM lies in its all-important hardware: Products, People and Principles. Successful customer relationships are built on products that serve customer needs beyond functionality, people who serve customers with expertise and wisdom and principles that drive a commitment to serving customers.
For more information about how PathoSans is doing the right thing, contact me at Bill.Kohley@spray.com.
Bill Kohley is president of PathoSans, a leading provider of on-site generation (OSG) devices that produce ready-to-use, highly effective cleaners and disinfectants known as electrochemically activated (ECA) solutions. Learn more at www.pathosans.com.