Your customers want credit for doing their jobs the easiest way possible. Is your e-commerce presence helping them achieve that goal…or not?
In the first segment of this article series, you learned how making your customers’ jobs easier can help position your distributorship as the “go to” source for electrical products and services—effectively mimicking the way Amazon serves up a frictionless experience for its business-to-consumer (B2C) customers online.
But your customers also want to get credit for doing their jobs the easiest way possible, and for adding efficiencies and bottom-line benefits for their own companies. This is another area where electrical distributors can step in and help, according to Justin King, co-founder of the DigitalBranch, and senior partner at B2X Partners.
King, who regularly interviews end users who work directly with distributors, says that when asked, “Why do you buy from distributor ABC?” the most common answers are, “Because they are experts” and “Because they provide high levels of customer service.” Heard less often are answers like “Because they offer low prices” and “Because they communicate well and go the extra mile for us.” And while the latter two benefits are important, neither one is as critical as providing high levels of experience and service—at least in your customer’s eyes.
“Buyers want to know that you’re going to help them do their jobs, and that they can rely on you to make them look good in front of their bosses,” King says. To make that happen, distributors have to provide support through the shopping process, ensure that the right item is being purchased for the right application, provide a competitive price point on that item, and then deliver it (or, have it ready at the counter) as quickly as possible.
Going a step further, distributors have to be able to replicate that process in the online and mobile environments, where accurate product images, descriptions, and attributes (i.e., the “data”) must be accurate, relevant, and easily accessible. And while the online selling environment may be more “hands-off” than, say, the face-to-face sales channel, there are still opportunities for innovative distributors to help their customers get credit for a job well done.
Winning When It Matters Most
The B2B relationship is a complex creature that’s made up of various different steps or “moments” that all lead up to the sale (and then, repeat sales after that). In its recent B2B Customer Experience: Winning in the Moments that Matter report, KPMG says the most important moments are “those that give the client cause to reflect on the nature of the relationship and consider whether the brand promise has been kept.”
And when distributors keep those promises, they make their own customers look good. To make that happen, companies have to be able to put themselves in their customers’ shoes and show them you can see the world from their perspective (also known as “empathy”). “Understand their priorities and challenges, the obstacles that will get in the way, and their fears and worries,” KPMG advises.
“All the while being able to judge the emotional temperature and having the emotional intelligence to react accordingly,” it continues, noting that empathy applies to the client and, more importantly, to the customer level. Because of this, companies must understand how the decisions being considered influence both. This aligns directly with King’s assertion that the best B2B relationships in today’s selling environment are those where the end result is a customer who gets credit for a job well done.
Bundling Products with Expertise
Independent distributors have always been pretty good at providing value-added services and expertise in the offline world but run into some real challenges delivering these “bundled” services online. One way electrical distributors can overcome this issue is by focusing on giving customers what they need to make the best possible decisions for their companies (and, for their own clients).
Using a 20 AMP, single-pole circuit breaker as a hypothetical example, King says the online sales strategy for that product should go beyond just putting the item online with a short description and then waiting for the orders to come in. Instead, they can develop content (white papers, product sheets, FAQs, etc.) that helps customers better understand whether that product meets their needs (or not).
“Bundle the product with your expertise in a way that helps your customers solve their problems,” says King. For example, you can investigate the top three reasons why 20 AMP single-pole circuit breakers fail, or why technicians get shocked or electrocuted when installing these products. “Create a short PDF or white paper that discusses the issues and then shoot a short video clip that gives customers specific installation instructions that no one else offers,” says King.
You can use the same approach with high-value items, says King, or pretty much any products that require additional support during the selection and installation process. “Bundle the heck out of your expertise,” he says, “and then offer that content up as a bonus to your customers.” For example, a $2,000 product may warrant 5-10 different pieces of content in the form of videos, white papers, and FAQs.
King says building up these types of content libraries and then offering them up to customers goes a long way in helping those buyers do their jobs more efficiently—namely because the process doesn’t require additional phone calls, emails, or contacts to find out “how to use this” or “how to install that.” It also helps distributors stand out in the cluttered B2B online selling arena, where buyers don’t generally have deep product knowledge or expertise at their fingertips.
“It helps you differentiate online, where when someone clicks on your product detail page (versus, say, an Amazon Business page), he or she will see more than just a product photo and a price,” says King. “They’ll also see the 10 other pieces of expertise that you’re bundling with that product. That will go a long way in assisting them in doing their jobs more efficiently and help create repeat business.”Tagged with B2B, best practices, customer service