I’ve always talked to my customers about the limitations of Business-to-Business (B2B) sales and why it was time for Built World companies to consider a new way of selling to business customers.
It has continued to be an important message that resonates.
Unfortunately, the B2B model still dominates in the Built World. It’s the standard way of doing business.
It persists because it works. It helps you convert customers. It moves products.
It’s just not effective for long-term success.
Because of material shortages and price increases, your customers expect more from you than they did before – more than they get from B2B sales. If you’re struggling with sales now, or want to avoid struggling with them in the future, it’s time to adopt the B-Thru-B model instead.
I don’t want to sound too hard on B2B sales. If you do B2B, you can be very successful and even sustain that success over time.
The problem is that most companies don’t do it correctly. They abbreviate the rules of a successful B2B marketing campaign. They focus on the “to” part of “Business-to-Business” – once they get their product “to” the customer, they think their job is done.
Did the customer choose the wrong product for their project?
Did they order more than they need?
Is it helping them to be more successful?
Is it solving a problem for them?
If you’ve got a strictly B2B mindset, none of that matters. As long as the customer chose your product, it’s out of your hands. You made the sale and it’s not your problem anymore.
Yes, there are plenty of excellent B2B marketers who would never make that mistake. In my experience, they’re the exception. Most companies are so focused on their own success that they forget that the customer’s success is what determines long-term growth and profitability. So, yes, it’s all about semantics. But semantics can make a major difference.
The word “to” ends with the customer. In the real world, though, your product’s trajectory also includes the customer’s customer and the end user. The idea of B2B erases them from the picture.
That’s why “Thru” is a much better word.
B-Thru-B reminds you that you’re not just selling to your customer – you’re also selling through that customer. It doesn’t end when your product is in their hands, on their shelves, or listed on their website. The product might no longer be in your possession, but it still has to be sold.
The B-Thru-B model puts that fact in focus. It forces you to think about your customer’s customers and what you could do to sell to them. You stop thinking of your customer as someone who just buys your product and start brainstorming ways to help them sell it, too.
That’s a more comprehensive approach and it takes some big-picture thinking. To be successful in B2B sales, you have to know your customer. To be successful with B-Thru-B, you also have to understand their business – who buys from them, what those customers need and who will ultimately be using the product. And how all of those things are changing.
B-Thru-B encourages you to think of your customers as partners instead of just seeing them as companies that buy from you.
In fact, if you really took the B-Thru-B model to the extreme, you would think of them as waypoints for your products. You wouldn’t even mark a product as sold until your customer managed to sell it to the end user.
If you want to grow your sales more quickly and in a more sustainable way, you have to stop selling to your customers. You need to start selling through them as well.