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According to Carlos Hidalgo, the term "business to business" (B2B) might inherently obscure an important aspect of marketing to that category. "It's as if we in the B2B space have failed to understand that behind the 'B' in business to business are hosts of 'Ps' (people)," he writes at the MarketingProfs Daily Fix blog.
So how do you start treating a B like a P? Follow his advice, including the following four bits of wisdom.
Get to know your buyer before you start selling
Hidalgo first tried this approach with a key decision-maker at IBM. During a scheduled 30-minute phone call, they spent a full 25 minutes discussing a shared passion for golf. That led to an onsite visit that included a round of golf. And though Hidalgo couldn't offer the lowest price or the largest staff, the decision-maker soon became a customer—because he liked the company and the idea of working with Hidalgo.
"Instead of selling, I built a relationship," Hidalgo notes. "Marketers would do well to begin thinking this way."
Use social media to socialize
"Too many marketers are using this channel to provide one-way communication," says Hidalgo, "doing nothing but sending out facts, figures, and business information." So have some fun interacting with prospects and customers at informal venues like Facebook and Twitter—leave comments, answer questions, and start conversations.
Get out of the office and press the flesh
If you think face-to-face interaction is only for the sales department, think again. Make a personal connection with your company's buyers by attending sales calls, meetings, and conferences. It's a win-win proposition: You'll gain a deeper understanding of actual pain points, and you'll provide prospects and customers with a greater insight to your products or services.
Learn to keep your mouth closed
When you meet prospects, resist the urge to say everything you so desperately want to say. You'll have time for that later. Instead, ask questions and listen to answers. Listening is an excellent opportunity to gather intel for your marketing campaigns.
"You will also show them that you are genuinely interested in them and in meeting their needs," says Hidalgo. "So, be patient."