As the adage goes, professional lives and personal lives are best kept separate. In theory, it’s solid advice. But in business-to-business relationships, feelings and business are intrinsically linked. According to Christoph Becker, CEO + CCO of global B2B powerhouse gyro, “There needs to be a feeling of intimacy that exists. Igniting emotions is what ignites business decisions.”
When you think about it, closing a business deal is a lot like landing a date or popping the question. For example, there’s the search for a partner, the courtship and the agreement to be exclusive. Here are a few ways we can learn from our personal relationships, using empathy and intimacy, to build and maintain strong vendor-customer partnerships.
Listen more than you speak.
It’s a classic first-date fail: One person drones on the whole night about his or her college basketball career while the other can’t squeeze a word in edgewise. Just like romantic partners, business partners want to be heard, understood and feel like you have a genuine interest in them. In fact, 89 percent of B2B marketers say the most important feeling they want to experience when choosing a vendor is that their needs are understood.1 And 51 percent say active listening and asking good questions are the main qualities they look for in a partner.2 The only surefire way to check all of these boxes is to open your ears — often. Being attentive and engaging with empathy shows both respect and understanding and can help you seal the deal for the long run.
Of course, you want to put your best foot forward for a new or potential client, just like you would on a first date. But nothing turns off a new love interest — or a prospective buyer — like cockiness. More than half of B2B marketers say that an air of arrogance negatively impacts their perception of a vendor.3 On the other hand, knowing where your weaknesses are and acknowledging when you’ve made a mistake demonstrates vulnerability, which leads to intimacy.
Similarly, once the relationship becomes a bit more comfortable, it can be easy to slip into the tendency to always want to be right. It’s human nature. But if you find yourself saying anything that could be taken as “I told you so,” remember what really matters: the success of your client’s business. It’s why you partnered together in the first place. When you put your ego aside, you make room for a closer, more meaningful partnership.
Write your own ‘vows.’
Before a romantic relationship grows serious, couples have “the talk” about what they want in the future. At weddings, spouses declare their intentions and promise to love each other through thick and thin. So, in business, it only makes sense to create rules of engagement that start the partnership on a solid ground of open communication. Almost two-thirds of markets say a vendor’s purpose, values and culture are the biggest influences on a decision.4 So, when it comes to compatibility, it’s critical that you and your potential partner stay on the same page. After all, 83 percent of marketers say they are more likely to buy from a business whose culture and personality closely match that of their own business.5
Beyond the standard legal contracts, collaborate with your buyer to create partnership guidelines that clearly lay out how you plan to work together. It can be anything designed to help you work harmoniously and effectively — from agreeing to always be transparent to promising to celebrate your successes immediately. When times grow stressful or tough — as they often do — these guidelines are a great tool for keeping everyone accountable and for facilitating tough conversations.
Remember, marketers are only human and so are their needs and desires. Creating a feeling of intimacy between you and your buyers lays the foundation for a business partnership that is truly #RelationshipGoals material.
“Group. Mind. Set. How Group Dynamics Impact B2B Decisions.” gyro, 2017.