If you’re looking for ways to engage with your customers then take a few minutes now to get familiar with a recent B4B trend. Not only will this help you take a fresh look at your company’s sales approaches but you’ll get some practical tips on implementing B4B in your fleet operations.

What does B4B stand for?

B4B stands for Business for(4) Business, where businesses are working for their business customers as opposed to simply selling to them.

In a nutshell, it’s the idea that businesses don’t want to be sold a product (or “solution”) – they want to achieve a specific outcome. B4B encourages suppliers to stop thinking about how they can sell more product (as per the existing B2B sales model) and start thinking about understanding and actively working with customers to arrive at a specific end result.

Why does B2B need to change?

B2B originated more than 100 years ago as a way for sellers to move the most amount of goods across to the buyer. The buyer took full responsibility for researching the product and getting value from it.

For example, let’s say Company A sells fleet leasing packages. Company B is looking for ways to manage and control company car costs. Company B researches the problem and decides that a leased fleet is the solution that will, in their opinion, achieve the desired outcome. Company B then starts investigating providers of leased fleets and in the process comes across Company A. Company A seizes the opportunity to sell and goes straight into sales mode. Company B accept the sales pitch and adopt Company A’s solution. At this point Company A has achieved its outcome, but have Company B … maybe, maybe not.

This all-care, no-responsibility approach of Company A just to make a sale fits well with the traditional B2B model originally credited to John Patterson and his booming NCR cash register business back in the 1880s. This serves the seller well but it puts a lot of the responsibility to get positive ROI, and achieve the original outcome, on Company B.

Thankfully a lot has changed in the last 100 years and what worked reasonably well with physical products does not necessarily translate to the more common digital, or intangible, products and services many high-tech (or near-tech) businesses supply in the 21st century.

These we often sell solutions rather than products so it’s time to aim to fulfill the true meaning of what the word solution implies by working with customers to achieve their outcomes. It’s time to start playing an active, ongoing role in the day-to-day life of our customers’ businesses, and be viewed as more partner than vendor or salesperson.

Providers that continue to push the traditional B2B sales model may find themselves eventually edged out of the market by companies that are willing to adapt to a more service-oriented and long-term relationship, particularly as word spreads of the added value customers are enjoying with in a B4B dynamic.

How can I transform my fleet to be more B4B?

If your fleet currently operates in the B2B space and delivers services or products to customers, you may be wondering how you can benefit from the B4B model. You may also be wondering how many changes will need to be made to your existing processes, or how much additional time you will need to invest to make it happen.

Like any transformation it’s best to tackle it as an evolutionary process rather than a revolutionary one. Small steps can still help you reach the end goal – a complete shift to meet the changing demands of a competitive environment. The alternative is to head down the road of extinction … the road to which your competitors that refuse to adapt are firmly glued.

To explain how this could work in a practical way let’s review our earlier example: If Company A chose to transform to a more B4B model they may look at ways of understanding their customer’s pain points better and then adapting their solution to talk directly to those issues. If they asked the right questions during the initial sales interview with Company B they would have discovered their primary objective, which was to control company vehicle costs. Company A could then use a fleet leasing GPS tracking solution to work with the client to meet their main outcome more directly.

By incorporating a fleet management solution with their leased fleet, Company B would have greater control and insight into corporate car expenditure. They could provide staff with fuel cards without worrying about unauthorized use, allow staff to take vehicles home while easily enforcing restrictions on when and where they’re used and enjoy a higher return on off-road tax credits.

The benefits for Company A are just as attractive; adding a fleet management system to their offering is relatively simple yet it helps them to stand out from their competition with unique selling points (USPs) and create a more loyal customer base.

B4B – Four tips on making the transformation

B4B is good news for customers but it’s a fine line between doing more for customers and staying profitable. It’s important to identify smart ways to accommodate the demands of a new generation of customers who expect an active, ongoing involvement from traditionally B2B sellers.

Here are four tips on transforming to the B4B model:

  1. How well do you understand the reason customers come to you? – Sometimes you need to dig deep to find out the real reason customers come to you. What do they hope to achieve with your product? Take the time to talk to them, particularly the successful ones to find out exactly how they use your product (so you can share that with new customers).
  2. Review your after-sales service – What is the process for looking after customers after the sale is signed? Do you offer an onboarding program? Do you monitor for ‘buyers remorse’? How easy is it for your customers to access implementation assistance? What is the consumption gap – the difference between how many features you offer and how many customers actually use – for your product?
  3. Check out your churn – How sticky are your customers? If you’re losing a lot of customers (high churn) why are they leaving? Is there a customer segment that has a lower churn than the rest – why? Find ways to make your offering stickier by understanding the pain points of your customers and helping your users see clearly how your product or solution soothes that pain.
  4. Is your business innovative? – The ability (and desire) to improve as a business is often one of the key ingredients in transforming to a B4B sales model. If your business as a whole is resistant to change, then it’s less likely you’ll adopt new ways of doing business, seriously impacting the switch to B4B. Telogis has always made innovation a high priority and that has served our customers well as they benefit from us working closely with users to not only understand the immediate outcomes fleets want from a our solutions but also to think about the wider ecosystem, the back-office software they need to integrate with, the third-party businesses they need to coordinate with and challenging government regulations they need to comply with. This was the motivation behind building a cohesive location intelligence platform.

Whether you believe B4B is the next big thing and will revolutionize the world of business-to-business selling, or is just an over-hyped concept, the reality is that the market you operate in is definitely changing. The general concept of looking for ways to help your customers achieve successful outcomes will never be obsolete, and the ability to match and exceed what your competitors are able to offer will keep you from getting left behind.