Nowadays a huge part of business communication is done online. People exchange emails, take part in social media discussions, join Zoom meetings, and make calls on a daily basis. The B2B digital communication has evolved dramatically and it is now easier to do business online, and stay in touch with clients. And it helps to overcome obstacles such as distance, time-zones, and scheduling.
But the lack of personal interaction and face-to-face contact can sometimes make it difficult to read the room. Trying to have a full grasp on the other person’s attitude and intentions in an email or even in a video call can be confusing and can often lead to the wrong conclusions.
In personal communication, this may cause frustration and hurting people’s feelings, which is bad enough. But in business, miscommunication can lead to driving prospects away, losing existing clients, and, ultimately, to a drop in revenue.
This can be especially tough for companies who are new to doing business online and are struggling to find their place in the digital world. However, it can sometimes be equally challenging for businesses with an established online presence.
So how to navigate the communication channels like a pro and improve your connection with your clients? Here are some B2B digital communication tips to level up your game.
1. Know the Difference Between B2C and B2B Communication
Business to business (B2B) and business to client (B2C) relations have a lot in common. In both cases the reason for the interaction is the same – one side wants to sell products or services to the other. However, the fundamental differences between the two types of transactions are what defines the dynamics of the communication process.
In B2C, the customer lifecycles are usually shorter. Personal buying decisions take less consideration and often involve an element of impulsivity. Preliminary research on purchases is quicker and relies mostly on other users’ reviews, seller reputation, and price comparison.
Even if the person needs to discuss the purchase with someone else, the buying cycle usually remains relatively short. Once the transaction has been completed, the communication lessens unless there are extraordinary circumstances or the customer needs to make a claim.
B2C requires less communication with the customer and allows a more casual approach.
B2B relationships generally involve more regular interactions with clients. The transactions here involve large investments and the customer has to manage company finances which makes the stakes higher. This responsibility requires deeper preliminary research, a series of sales talks, and, in some cases, additional negotiations.
Moreover, even though the people who lead the communication on the client’s side are usually decision-makers, they still might have to discuss terms with other team members or with their superiors. This increases the number of communication sessions and can lead to misinterpreting facts.
In businesses where the clients have accounts, the communication is ongoing and requires forming a deeper connection with the customer. The account manager has to acquire an understanding of the company’s needs and the personal traits of the representative they are communicating with.
B2B connection usually also includes feedback sessions and quality evaluation after deals or in set periods of time. These are carried out by a different department and, adding up to all other channels the interactions spread across, make the communication process even more complicated.
What’s more, in B2B, one should never forget that every word spoken is on behalf of the company, and both sides should be especially careful when picking their words.
2. Find Your Business’ Voice
Your business’s voice and identity should be coherent across channels and easily recognizable. All your salespeople, marketers, and social media managers are representatives of your business and should follow the same protocol of communication.
Interacting with clients doesn’t only consist of sales, automated emails, and marketing campaigns. For example, even though blog posts and knowledge bases might not seem like communication, in fact, they are because they are means of sharing information with your customers and they represent your company.
Customers nowadays use multichannel communication with businesses and often switch through channels even during a single transaction. This means that a buyer might research your company on social media platforms and exchange information with other business partners there. Then they can check-out your blog, read your knowledge base, and only then contact a salesperson through email to eventually arrange a phone call or a video meeting.
All these channels should speak in one voice to provide a complete experience for the customer.
On the other hand, if your company produces different brands, it’s acceptable, even advisable that every brand has a recognizable voice.
3. Show Availability
One of the most important things about business communication is that you have to always be available and ready to hear both your prospects and clients out.
A lot of B2B buyers nowadays prefer eCommerce instead of personal interactions with salespeople but this doesn’t make communication obsolete. On the contrary, clients still require information, even more than before, but now they want it on demand.
In the past, the salesperson contacted the potential buyer with an offer and had a leading part in the communication. But today it is the other way around – the customer initiates the engagement and it happens on their own terms, while the salesperson has to follow their lead.
To respond to these changes, businesses have to adapt and be flexible. Chatbots are a great way to make yourself available 24/7 and can simplify communication by providing quick answers to frequently asked questions. However, try not to rely solely on them as a human touch in the digital age is a great asset to your business.
4. Use CRM Software
Clients need a personal approach so that they feel special and cared for. A customer relationship management system, or CRM, can help you achieve this with ease.
With CRM software, you can build a full database of all your clients, including detailed profiles and a log with all your business’s interactions across channels.
A modern cloud-based CRM system allows simultaneous access from multiple users and devices. Your team members have real-time information of exactly where your customers are on their journey. This allows them to address their needs with precision and a personalized touch.
Implementing CRM software in your business will help you manage your communication with customers better and will minimize information silos and knowledge leaks in-between departments.
5. Try to Maintain Your Humanity
Despite all your efforts, digital interactions can feel detached and sometimes even fail to communicate the intended message between the two parties involved.
Although in B2B, the communication is technically between two companies, the ones doing the talking are people. Even if they are dedicated professionals, it’s doubtful that they identify with the idea of being another cog in the corporate machine. That’s why it’s very important to maintain humanity in your business communication.
Even though most conversations are done online, people feel the need to know that others are just as human as they are. For example, it might feel unprofessional if you happen to be working from home and your pet shows up in a Zoom call with a client, but it’s not the end of the world. And who knows, it might even help you seal the deal.
Try to get to know the clients who you communicate with on a regular basis, and work to establish a deeper professional connection with them. This will make both sides feel more comfortable and help communication run more smoothly. Also, having some context in the conversation reduces the possibility of misinterpreting signals.
However, avoid being too friendly, especially if you are talking to an unfamiliar prospect or a first-time customer. It can come off as unprofessional.
6. Be Clear and Factual
In B2B, the client usually answers to another person or at least has to discuss financial decisions with other team members. To make sure you will be understood by all parties involved, keep your statements comprehensive and factual.
For example, if the email you sent or what you said in a conversation was not clear enough, this might lead to a case of “broken telephone” and your message may become misconstrued. And even if the mistake is caught in time and no financial losses are caused, such a thing can leave an unpleasant feeling all around. Moreover, it might infuse doubt into both sides and influence your communication and business relationships in the future.
Digital channels allow companies to work together regardless of their location, and open up endless opportunities to build new partnerships.
However, digital conversations can also be challenging and confusing at times. To avoid misunderstandings, businesses have to establish a clear set of rules when communicating that is valid for all departments and channels involved in the process. And while modern technology can help maintain consistency, the human factor remains as vital as ever.