B2B Suppliers: The Do’s and Don’ts from Curated’s Managing Director

B2B | 02/09/2021 | Written by Jake Cawdery

As a Digital Marketing consultancy, Curated have worked with a fair amount of B2B brands, such as Gartner, IDC & Wireless Logic.

One question we are always asked by B2B brands is how to get the most out of their sales team.  

So, we interviewed our Managing Director Jake Cawdery to help answer these questions… 

What’s your background?

My career path thus far has always been operationally orientated with a focus on all things people, process, data and vision, ultimately driving towards our business goals along the way.  

I am fortunate enough to have been able to apply my trade across several very different industries and markets. I kicked off my career in sports entertainment working for Arsenal Football Club when we were a club that knew what silverware looked like. After just shy of five years, I looked for a new challenge and joined The Supper Club (a membership club for CEOs and founders), this is where I met Simon (Curated’s Founder) and after three and half years I joined Curated on a deadline day transfer and haven’t looked back since.

Despite working in different industries, one thing that remains constant is the peppering you get from sales people & that feeling that you are simply a tick box in their sales KPIs rather than a valued, well researched prospect. 

What is the most ridiculous thing someone has tried to sell you within B2B?

Well first off, Curated Digital is a Digital Marketing Consultancy, yet at least once a week I receive an email offering us an all encompassing Digital Marketing service. This is annoying as it is lazy, but the silver lining is that it reminds me of how far apart we are from competing business.   

This aside, I have definitely had some standouts in my time.  The real corkers for me:

  • Private Jet’s – “Hi Jake, We’re an international private jet charter company with access to 7000+ private jets globally.”  I won’t pretend and say that this didn’t give me a little buzz that this company felt compelled to reach out and offer Curated such luxuries, but being realistic I am pretty sure that an email offering me a private Jet wouldn’t have me downing tools and saying “All aboard Curated, we’re off to Cancun.”  If you wanted a private jet, you would make it happen without having to wait around for someone to reach out.
  • Footballers – Yes, I am being serious.  During my time at Arsenal Football Club, I would often be on the receiving end of sales tactics from football agents encouraging me to take a look at this amazing talent they had on their hands. I love my football but speaking to the Operations Manager outside the head office wasn’t going to get them a contract playing for Arsene Wenger.

 
It is so important to know who your audience actually is, and who you are speaking to, rather than wasting everyone’s time with an impossible sale. 

You have admitted that you don’t like being sold to, why is this?

To be completely frank, I just find the whole thing draining and not an effective use of my time. Too often products/services that I am sold have an “off the shelf” approach that doesn’t fit our business model nor our ways of working.  

Don’t get me wrong, I am not against innovative ideas or efficiency improvements, in fact quite the opposite, but receiving templated emails, over and over again from businesses who we have no use for does not fuel me with any motivation whatsoever to respond.

It is so important that when I or Curated are being sold to that we feel that we have been well researched, listened to and that we trust them to deliver on what we agree. Too often, sales teams and representatives miss this step, and go straight into the aggressive sale.

When it comes to picking a supplier, what is your process?

When choosing and negotiating with suppliers, I take a number of different factors into consideration depending on our strategy and goals. 

Step 1 – FIND A PROBLEM

– As a clear starting point, unless we recognise (or are shown) that there is an issue or a need within the business, we will not buy something. Unfortunately, we still have no need for the private jet. 

Step 2 – FIND A SOLUTION

Once you have got a clear idea of what you need to buy, there is a need to actively look for a solution. At this stage I would be reading content from suppliers, asking my network, and actually be in the frame of mind to respond to any potential vendors who emailed me.

I would advise brands to make themselves as easy to find as possible on Google, or LinkedIn where I typically would look for recommended suppliers. 

Step 3 – VALIDATE THE SOLUTION PROVIDER  

– Trust is so important when it comes to selling & buying. No one is going to buy from a brand that is unreliable, provides poor quality, poor service, poor value for money and so on. When signing a contract with a partner, you have to be confident that they will deliver what they promise. 

Putting the time & effort into building a compelling, personalised proposal, along with having strong content, case studies, reviews & testimonials can go a long way in reassuring me that a supplier can be trusted.  

Step 4 – BUILD A RELATIONSHIP 

It’s very important to form strong relationships with all suppliers that your business depends upon.  As much as it is the responsibility of the supplier to understand your needs, if your requirements evolve or you have a strategic shift that you think your supplier may be able to support you with, keep them in the loop.  If they are given transparency of the challenges your business may face in the upcoming months, they can make proactive as opposed to reactive suggestions to keep you moving at pace.

Lastly, if you had 1 piece of advice for brands trying to sell B2B, what would it be? 

Business development teams need to take a step back and appreciate that very rarely are service offerings a one size fits all. If they are, then it is likely one that won’t set your customers apart from your competitors, as they will most likely have been sold the very same thing. 

My advice would be to understand your customer, understand their needs, understand their goals, research their market and then pitch your product/service in such a way that meets these needs.

Following the pandemic, more than ever we are all being much more wise with how we spend our money and who we give it to, a relationship that supports a business plan in some way shape or form is far more appealing than simply feeling like another check box on a KPI dashboard.

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