(Reading time 3-4 minutes. Bet, it will make you think)
Don’t get swayed by the acronym. There is much more than what meets the eye.
If you sit back and ponder over the key points in this message, I am sure, as a seller you will resonate with the idea. It might touch you somewhere deep and possibly make you even uncomfortable with what you do today.
Before you go any further, I strongly recommend you to read my previous note “B2B is Dead. B4B is Born“. This will set the right context and frame.
For those who are in a hurry, here is a brief.
For all of us who are used to the term Business to Business (B2B), B4B stands for “Business For Business”. This new term replaces the preposition ‘to’ with a ‘for’. Stress is on the word ‘For’.
As sellers, so far we have all been ingrained in B2B selling approach that comprises of sellers/marketeers chasing prospects and clients using a well defined selling framework to push our products and services.
In B2B selling world, your company has developed products and services and is now looking for customers who might want to consume it. So they hire sales folks, let them know how their products add value and let them loose in the market place.
This is the way we have sold to businesses over the past few decades.
Let’s first look at how the B2B Selling world operates before we can compare and contrast it with the B4B world.
B2B Sales World
In the B2B selling framework we first marry our business strategy to desired revenue generation model. This then leads to a detailed Go to Market plan that defines various market segments and value proposition leading to differentiated Inbound, Outbound and Customer experience and retention strategies.
Each of these strategies are further detailed out to an execution plan – integrated marketing plan, channel management, territory and coverage models, sales enablement, campaigns backed by a bunch of metrics measuring revenue generation.
We form sales organisation comprising of middle office, sales operations, and hire a league of sellers.
Then to achieve our desired revenue targets, we end up using various selling approaches and models – SPIN, Challenger, Strategic Selling, Miller Heiman, Agile Selling – to engage and sell to our customers.
Right now, billions of dollars are being spent to train and enable Channel Sales, SDRs, Field Sales teams to sell effectively to prospects and clients.
So far nothing wrong with this approach. Expect for one fundamental assumption.
First, we choose to create products and services and then we market to, pitch to, sell to customers.
In doing so, momentum most often is from left to right. Like this arrow ——–>. Where you are the seller and your client, the buyer.
Right from the CSO to VP Sales, the instruction is quite clear – meet your numbers or you are fired. Our beliefs, attitude, behaviour, activities and compensation models are all tuned to ‘sell to’ customers.
Seller ——–Left to right———> Customer
This was working well. Until now.
Though, over the years, we have sold billions of dollars worth of products and services, customers have borne the brunt of our brutal selling process. Bus loads of people representing their products and service lines calling and running over customers day after day.
‘Customer has always been the guy at the end of the value chain.’
Unfortunately, this approach has led to the following predicament:
The celebrated Sales Rep is becoming more of an annoyance than an asset. Customers are often way ahead of the salespeople who are “helping” them.
Only 45% of the Sales Executives meet their quota. What about the rest? Aren’t they good?
Customers are much more well informed and connected. They are coming to the table with a deep understanding of their problem and a well-scoped RFP for a solution.
A lot of Sales folks are still product pushers. They are not able to close the ‘value gap‘ and help customers buy.
Most reps rely on the customer to coach them through a sale. Not the other way around.
Moreover, sellers have created so much friction in the process that the doors of having meaningful engagement with the client is shutting down quite fast.
This B2B selling model is simply not working anymore. Would you agree?
If you agree, is there a way out of this conundrum?
Perhaps B4B selling is the way to go. Let’s see how B4B selling might look like.
Let’s see how B4B Selling world can look like?
It should fundamentally start with this assumption:
” Make something your customer cares for and wants to talk about – Seth Godin”
Make customer the starting point in your business model. Companies should let the market decide what they make, not the other way around.
This way you will be fully in line with the market place and your customer. If you have done this right, you are telling your customer you really care.
Contrast this with number of Software OEMs applying non-compliance and audits to rip customers of their monies. Big companies use it quite often to plug quarter numbers. Cheeky ain’t it?
Instead, if you start with the market and customer backwards – you will create products and services that will solve customer’s problem. You will get their attention.
You will truly be in business for your customer’s success. You will be trusted.
You become a ‘Business For Business‘. A B4B company.
If you look at every successful story over the last 10 years–Airbnb, KickStarter, Uber, Lululemon, GE Digital, Amazon, Alibaba and the whole lot – are designed this way.
They listened to their customers and built products and services that delight them. Not the other way around.
Though we move fast into the new way of doing business, we continue to use the language and paradigms of the 20th century. The industrial era.
Let’s take an example from B2B selling framework – the term ‘Go to Market‘.
The purpose of a Go to Market strategy is to provide a blueprint for delivering a product or service to the end customer, taking into account such factors as pricing and distribution.
Again this connotes left to right thinking.
Shouldn’t the correct term be ‘Connect to Market’?
‘Connect to Market’ strategy is how you engage and understand customer needs and find ways to collaborate, make, co-create, crowd source products and services that meet their needs.
Language encodes our thinking. To write a new future, we need to use a new language – Nilofer Merchant
Let’s also the compare and contrast the sales equation of B2B versus B4B selling.
In B2B selling, the prevailing equation is:
Employer + Products & Services + Sales exec —-Sell to——> Customers.
In the current model, employers hire sales people and incentivise them to sell their products and services to customers.
In the B4B selling, the equation can be really different:
Employer + Crowd Source + Network <——Sellers——> Customers
In the future, sellers will stand for and connect with their markets (and customers), understand what customers care about and go source the right solution from their employers, network or partners.
Probably in the new sales equation, sellers will be paid by ‘the value creation eco-system‘. The eco-system in this case will comprise of customers, employers, network and partners. Not just the employers.
This way sellers will connect customers to the right solution that solves a problem or create new opportunties.
After decades of using industrial model of selling products and services, we got to shift our thinking and ways to align to the new era – connection economy.
In this era, businesses should be built for businesses to succeed. Humans should stand for other humans to be successful. Leaders should lean in for their troops, not their personal interests, demonstrating servant leadership.
Left to right thinking will not work anymore.
How many of you agree with this line of thinking? I will raise my hand first.
Follow through articles on B4B idea
1) Are you a B2B or B4B Company? Find out. [5 Minutes read. Plenty of examples and inquiry].
2) B2B is dead. B4B is born. [3 minute read. Challenges B2B thinking and language]