I got a phone call last week from an organizational development consultant with whom I worked a few years ago. At the time, he was in the beginning phases of launching his consulting business and we were hammering through the “tough stuff” that every new business owner goes through.
At the time, he decided that the launch process would be INFINITELY easier if he went back and got his Ph.D. so he put his business on “hold” and went back to get his degree. Now he’s a “doctor” and he’s decided to get back on track to build his OD consulting business. (I wish I could tell him that it’s going to be “easier” now that he has more letters trailing his name. Unfortunately, the tough tasks he was trying to avoid are still there waiting for him. They’re still standing between where he is now and the successful consulting business he wants to run.)
In the opening stages of our “getting reacquainted” conversation, he asked me a profound question. Looking back, I think the question may have been an attempt to “power over” – but because it had been “coming up” lately in other areas, I didn’t take it as such in the moment.
The question he asked was this, “So, are you still working with individuals?” I answered authentically,
“One thing I’ve learned over the years is that I’ve ALWAYS worked with individuals. Sometimes, those individuals are starting their own businesses and sometimes those clients may work for very large corporations – but in the end, every client is an individual.”
I learned this lesson the way I’ve learned every single lesson of value in my business – through experience.
A few years ago, I was working with a “big” company when my contact decided she couldn’t take it anymore there and left the company. After she left, I spent the next few months trying to navigate the now unknown waters of the company. I talked with the graphic designer who had worked with this company longer than I but he was having an equally tough time finding out who had assumed the role of project manager which my client had so capably performed.
What I should have known at the time was that when my client left the company, I officially “lost” the corporation as my client.
That experience taught me that while the corporation’s name may appear on the invoices I issue and the checks sent for payment – my true client is my contact at these larger corporations.
Unfortunately, it took a few times before I recognized the pattern!!! It took me a while to learn an essential truth. I don’t care who you are, or what kind of consulting you do –
You don’t work with “corporations” – you work with individuals!
Recently, I filled out a form which asked whether my business was B2B or B2C. I truly don’t believe there’s any difference between the two!
You may THINK your business is selling B2B -business to business – but I’ll guarantee you that within that business is an individual CONSUMER who is making a buying decision. The transaction may “close” with a Purchase Order instead of a signed check, but that doesn’t remove the human element from the equation.
Instead of thinking of your business as a B2B or a B2C – try viewing your business through another lense. In my book Beyond the Niche: Essential Tools You Need to Create Marketing Messages that Deliver Results, I talk about the TWO types of sales defined by Neil Rackham. They are known as Major Sales and Minor Sales and there’s a HUGE difference in the sales process between the two. Whenever I see someone begin to talk about B2B and B2C – I almost always see them incorrectly assuming that B2B sales are “Major” sales while all B2C sales are all “Minor” sales. (For a more in depth explanation of the differences between Major and Minor sales, read Advertising and You.)
Nothing, and I mean NOTHING could be further from the truth.
There are many B2B sales which are definitely classified as “Minor” sales – for example – purchasing copier paper. Meanwhile, there are many B2C sales which are classified as “Major” sales – buying a home or car for example.
In the end – you must ALWAYS remember that even though the checks that keep your doors open may say they’re from a “coporation” – in the end, your client or customer will always be the individual within the corporation. You’re still in the business of solving problems – helping people achieve goals or satisfy desires. The only difference is you’re doing that for individuals WITHIN a corporation. Now of course, depending upon the product or service, the signing of a single corporation as a client may mean literally HUNDREDS of new “customers” for your business. THAT is where the difference lies between B2B and B2C.
As always, this blog’s comments are open so those who are wiser and wittier than I can share their insights. Leave your take on this issue below.