Understanding the Relationship: Customers Versus Clients

meeting boardroom clients customers relationship

I had a meeting with the new general manager of one of my dealers. Rather, I should say he’s new to that company, but I’ve known him for years: an industry veteran with lots of skill and experience. In his new role, he’s been tasked by the owner to grow the business. That means earning more revenue and bringing in more clients. So in addition to talking about logistics and forecasting, we discussed strategies to do that. It was an easy meeting, in part because we’ve known each other for years but also because we think alike: This guy gets it.

To reiterate what I’ve written about before, when it comes to selling products and services, you can sell on price or on trust.

In a highly commoditized B2B space, selling on price alone is fraught with risk. No matter what your price, someone else can (and probably will) come in lower.

Can you win business with rock-bottom prices? Of course, you can. But if all your customers are only your customers because you’re the lowest price, there are two problems with your strategy. The first is that your customers don’t care about you; they care about your price. They will drop you in a second when someone else can do the same for less. The second is that if your prices are that low, you end up with unprofitable customers. You want to make money from them, you don’t want them to cost you money.

This is as good a time as any to remind you that if something makes you money, it’s a business. If it costs you money, it’s a hobby. Either is fine; you just have to be very honest with yourself about why you’re doing what you’re doing. So if you don’t want to run a hobby, focus on building trust. Get to know your prospects and understand the difference between customers and clients. I admit it’s arbitrary, but the way I define it, customers may buy from you again, but clients will definitely buy from you again.

Remember: it’s not just the sale in front of you right now; it’s every sale that’s to come after that.

When meeting prospective clients and talking with them about their needs, don’t look at them as one possible transaction. Get to know them and figure out how to earn this transaction and future ones.

How do you do that? Find out everything about them. They came to see you for a reason; figure out why. That sounds like a “Duh!” observation, but it’s easily missed. And just as important as the needs they’re presenting now, ask questions to look under the hood and find out what other unspoken needs they have that you can help with.

Find out what challenges they’re facing and match them with solutions. They may have to prioritize what you help them with and when, but now they’re building out your funnel for future business after the current business is concluded.

When it comes to the problems and challenges that your clients bring to you, I think it’s important for B2B salespeople to consider this: if your clients are successful, then you’ll be successful. It’s obvious for vendor reps like me who work with resellers: my results are the aggregate of the results of all my reseller clients. If their revenue is up, then my revenue is up. But that’s true even if your B2B customers are end-user clients: If they’re successful, they keep coming back, and you keep being successful. You’re taking care of them, and they’re taking care of you.