In a recent McKinsey survey of 1,000 B2B decision-makers, lack of speed in interactions with their suppliers was the number-one “pain point.” Speed was mentioned twice as often as price. Perhaps the phrase “time is money”, should really be changed to “time is more valuable than money”.
At Tacton, we regularly highlight how our digital commerce solutions let our customers deliver “fast, error-free quotes” at a fraction of the time of traditional means. We do this because we understand that speed matters, especially during complex B2B sales cycles.
When does Speed Matter?
To clarify, we are not arguing for a “speed at all costs” approach. In the world of B2B commerce, solely focusing on speed, without taking the time to invest in relationships, quickly misses the point.
When selling complex-configurable products, establishing strong customer relationships requires time, consistency and hard work. There are, however, many interactions with the customer where speed and being able to respond quickly to your customers can build stronger relationships and cultivate trust.
One of the first and most important interactions where speed can leave a profound impression is in the quoting stage. If “first impressions” are correlated to the success of long-term relationships, then suppliers should ensure that the quoting stage goes as smoothly as possible.
A practical example
Take for example a construction company that is currently planning to build a skyscraper in Sydney. The procurement division of the company requests a quote to a well-known Japanese elevator company. The deal is certainly complex, given the fact that the elevator company must comply with specific technical, legal and safety requirements. There are also many pricing issues that the company should account for (currency exchange rates, date of payment/delivery, etc.).
In this example, the elevator company knows that they are going to be competing with other companies and therefore making a good impression from the start will give them an advantage. Being first signals to the decision-makers that you are efficient and experienced (and that it will continue throughout the entire project if chosen).
It is also safe to say that in complex sales deals, there is rarely just one quote presented. Normally the buyer can change their requirements or change some details of the original proposal, requiring the seller to provide modified quotes. The ability to repeat the same level of service (provide fast error-free quotes) will build even more trust.
Quoting at Speed – a catalyst for stronger customer relationships
As we just discussed, being fast at quoting signals to the buyer that you are efficient and reliable. This improved efficiency results in better allocation of your resources. In other words, simplifying the quoting process (through the help of smart software tools) allows you to spend more time on relationship-building initiatives.
As we hinted earlier, building strong relationships with the customer is imperative for B2B commerce. To achieve this, organizations should ensure that interactions with the customer are authentic and they help drive the sale closer to the signing table.
If an organization is using up its people and resources to configure a quote, it will need to invest even more resources to attend to the customer’s need. This is the tradeoff that many B2B organizations are doing, scrambling to complete quote that meets all the client’s requirements, at the expense of poor customer experience, and loss of trust.
In this sense, being able to quote at speed will give your salespeople more bandwidth to build stronger relationships. It can also give the peace of mind that if the customer changes its requirements, they will be able to respond quickly and effortlessly.
In today’s fast-paced world, B2B buyers are rightfully demanding when it comes to response speed from suppliers. In the world of complex B2B sales, where long sales cycles are the norm, suppliers can use speed to differentiate themselves from the competition.
Speed, however, should not come at the cost of relationships. Instead, organizations can use speed to signal to their customer’s reliability and efficiency. Simultaneously, speed can help the organization to allocate more resources to relationship building interactions and ensuring the customer’s needs are addressed properly.
One example where speed can make a profound impact is in the quoting phase. This early phase of the buying process is where many suppliers get to make a first impression. It also offers a chance for the organization to start on the right foot and create a lasting relationship.
Do you want to learn more about how Tacton helps sellers of complex products build stronger relationships? Click here.