Coach for Success

Unique Challenges of Business-to-Business Service Providers: Part 2

Often business is relationship critical – How to build trust before gaining the contract.

The second challenge of business-to-business service providers we shall look at is - the challenge that gaining business is often relationship critical. How can the necessary relationship and, most importantly, trust be built up, before gaining the contract?

In part one we discussed not having a unique product. As well as creating the “differentiation challenge”, this results in the added problem of not being able to truly demonstrate your offering. There is no product to display, no existing customer equipment to take the prospect to see. The business is usually won or lost on the strength of the relationship and at this initial stage the critical element to the relationship is that of trust. Trust here is more than being honest and having integrity, these are taken as absolutes. What the prospect is asking themselves, when choosing between different service providers, is which one do I trust the most to look after my best interests? This essentially breaks down into – do you have the skills and ability to deliver and will you actually do everything you say you’ll do?

Does the prospect believe you have the skills and experience to deliver? This is much more than having a glossy brochure, a fancy website or an impressive looking CV. It’s about demonstrating to the prospect that both you and your firm can and will deliver on the promised results. Here you need to think how best to get this message over – using data, actual examples, success stories, client testimonials, etc.

Do you do the things you say you will - are you dependable? The prospect clearly can’t know for sure that you will deliver on your promises or bring the project in on time, until he has given you the business and you’ve done the work. But you can do other things to show reliability upfront, by getting to that meeting on time, submitting that proposal by the date you promised, making that follow up call you said you would.

Finally, there must be rapport – can the prospect relate to and get on with us? This is very quickly established (or not) and as most people make up their minds within a few minutes, there is perhaps not a great deal that can be done. That said, people generally like dealing with people like themselves, so where you are genuinely like them, emphasise it and where not, move on to other areas. Be mindful of body language and their phraseology and mirror back to them their issues and concerns using their language (some people are more visual – “I see”, others more auditory – “I hear” and other more kinaesthetic – “I feel”). A word of warning here, don’t use a “technique” on a prospect, but rather develop a general skill in this area and blend it with your own personality. Finally, if you feel little rapport has been established, consider having one of your colleagues contact the prospect next time.

Some of the above may happen by accident, but a strategy to develop and establish trust quickly will give you consistently better conversion rates. What will you do this month to accelerate trust building with your prospects (and clients)?

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