In this blog, I would like to continue the discussion of how technology can play a much greater role in actually facilitating the right conversations between buyers and sellers. Let’s start with identifying three attributes essential to any B2B technology solution and in future blogs I’ll explore each of these attributes in more detail. At the risk of being redundant, I am also confining my discussions to situations where a long term business relationship is desired.
Collaboration: The state of technology today is that most platforms are designed to serve the needs of one party or the other. Sellers and buyers both have ERP Systems but other than sometimes providing for the processing of purchase orders, invoicing and payments, there is very little sharing between the two parties. Yes I’m aware of systems that reach into proprietary data such as inventory for both parties, but again are these actually facilitating the initial sale? I would argue no, they simply facilitate reordering after a business agreement is reached.
From a selling standpoint, sellers typically rely on their CRM system with perhaps some additional linked apps. However, all of the data is generally entered by the sales rep or account team, which makes it second hand data at best, and little if any is actually shared with the customer. From the buying standpoint, buyers have various vendor management systems (though most are not nearly as advanced as the corresponding CRM systems) and, again, all of the data is typically provided by the buyers and buying organization and little if any is shared with the sellers.
I am proposing one or more platforms that are accessed by, and data is populated by, both the buyer and seller. This means the data is first hand and has a higher probability of being both correct and relevant. This will also facilitate the transparency that is essential to positioning and doing the right deals for both parties.
Transparency: I believe it is long past the time we shed the shackles of unwarranted secrecy and “holding your cards close to the vest” that has been part of our culture in B2B business deals. Many programs and processes still actively teach this approach. My experience on both sides of the deal tells me it is a waste of time and actually delays the closing of deals or results in deals of dubious quality being closed.
I believe one of the keys to building trust in any long term relationship is the sense that each party has towards the sincerity and transparency of the other. After all, during the sale, what is the buyer spending a lot of time and energy on? They’re trying to figure out where the seller is coming from! The seller is on the other side is trying to do the same thing. My experience is that a lot of energy and effort is being wasted when it could be put towards actually doing the right deal for each side.
In my experience, the biggest fear in being transparent is that the other side will use what they learn against you. As you’ve most likely heard me say ad nauseum, this is an unfounded fear. Power and leverage are derived from alternatives to doing a deal – not what is important to each side. By being transparent, you actually empower the other side to help you get the right value out of a deal.
Value: Collaboration and transparency are not in and of themselves sufficient to generate a great business deal and successful long term relationship. Both parties need to collaborate and share information on the right subject—and that topic is value.
Value is perhaps one of the most misunderstood concepts in business (just ask anyone whether a buyer or seller what is value in a B2B business relationship and see how varied the answers are). The term “value” has been so misused that it has come to mean virtually anything and thus in practical terms it means nothing.
Value is both the “currency” of sales as well as the ongoing business relationship. The reason a seller loses a deal is that the buyer did not see the value of their offer. The reason for customer churn is quite simply the buying organization did not see the value in maintaining the relationship. I could go on and on, but I think you get the point.
Therefore, if any platform or technology does not focus the discussion on value, in a transparent and collaborative way, then I would argue it is not truly facilitating the sale and the closing of the right deal. In future blogs I want to drill down deeper and explore these three attributes and how they might be implemented.
Until then, good selling!