Here's Why Most B2B Sales Relationships Fail (& Why You Should Care)

13 min read
Mar 1, 2022

If B2B companies were banks, then solid, long-term B2B sales relationships would be the most valuable asset in their vault.

In fact, your company can have the best product or service in the world, but if you don't put fostering relationships at the center of your sales strategy, then you'll ultimately:

  1. Find it nearly impossible to close deals at all; and
  2. Lose out on the long-term benefits that stem directly from having great relationships.

Despite the importance of relationships, many sales teams completely ignore them.  Then, they wonder why they're never reaching their sales goals!

That being said, we're sharing exactly why most B2B sales relationships fail.  Additionally, we're also sharing what you and your sales reps can do to start building and sustaining them today!

Without solid relationships, it's nearly impossible for sales teams to achieve their long-term sales and business goals.  Therefore, start here to not just stop sabotaging relationships, but to start building up your most valuable business asset!


Why You Should Want Solid, Long-Term Sales Relationships


Before going any further... What makes having strong relationships so crucial for sales and B2B business success?

Like we mentioned above, fostering solid customer relationships is crucial for two key reasons, including securing immediate sales deals and long-term business stability.  Moreover, you need relationships if you want success in the short and long-term!

First off, laying the groundwork for solid sales relationships begins early on in the sales process.  Because, in order to close deals in the short-term, you need to prove to your prospects that you're capable of establishing a solid relationship with them.

Believe it or not, but B2B buyers are looking for customer-supplier relationship factors just as much as they are looking at the value of deliverables.  

In fact, according to a recent Salesforce survey, 79% of buyers say that it is either absolutely critical or very important to interact with a salesperson who is a trusted advisor, and not just a sales rep.  

Additionally, according to another Salesforce survey, more than 75% of buyers say that there is currently a lack of personal attention and customization in their buying experiences.

Therefore, it's clear that your potential customers are looking for so much more than just a sales rep with a deliverable who will solve one of their pain points.  Rather, they're looking for a valuable deliverable and somebody who is capable of fostering a personal relationship experience.

Second, there are several perks of having solid relationships with customers, including:

  1. Referrals for already highly qualified leads;
  2. Recurring business; and
  3. Potential for future collaboration for things like B2B marketing.

While these are only a few of the potential perks, most of them all have to do with securing success into the future.  In a way, having strong customer relationships is like having business insurance for the future!

At the end of the day, establishing sales relationships throughout the sales funnel is key to sales success, and therefore overall business success, in both the short and long term.


Here’s Why Your B2B Sales Relationships Fail


Here are the key reasons why your B2B sales relationships fail, along with actionable steps you can start taking today to turn the tide for good!

If you want to not just achieve your sales goals but also get one giant step closer to manifesting your business vision, then you’re at just the right place.


B2B Sales Relationships


1. You’re Not Telling B2B Leads What They Need & Want to Hear


How many times has this happened to you before: You're outlining an upcoming sales pitch that you'll give to the decision-makers at one of your leading B2B companies.  You've assessed their situation and determined what will need to take place in order for their pain point to be solved.  However, you believe that telling them the harsh truth of their situation will turn them off.  By that, we mean that you believe telling them what they need to hear will make them turn away from you.  As a result, you decide not to tell the decision-makers the harsh truth of their situation!

At the end of the day, not telling prospects what you know they need to hear sets the stage for a relationship catastrophe down the road.

Take a moment to put yourself in their shoes... Wouldn't you be frustrated knowing that your supplier didn't tell you the truth of the matter right off the bat?

While telling prospects what they need to hear might initially sting them, it's better than not telling them what they need to hear at all.  Because, eventually down the line, they'll find out the hard truth.

That being said, telling prospects what they need to hear is telling them what they want to hear.  In reality, prospects need to hear the truth AND they want to hear it!

If you try to dodge a bullet early on by avoiding the hard truth, then the relationship will implode later down the road.


B2B Buyers Don’t Know What Their Pain Points Are


Never forget that your potential B2B buyers don't know what their pain points are or how to solve them.  Because, if they did, then they would have already solved them and you wouldn’t serve any purpose in their lives!

Therefore, if you aren't there to tell them what they need and want to hear, then who will?  

Eventually, if their problems aren't addressed, then they'll likely keep getting worse until they completely explode.

That being said, B2B salespeople miss the entire point of their role if they don't clearly address with prospects:

  1. What their pain point is;
  2. How their pain point can be solved; and
  3. The repercussions if it isn't solved.

Don't you think that your prospects want and need to know what their problems are, so that they don't completely get out of whack and ultimately cause even larger issues...?


Potential Customers Want Expert Sales Professionals


Take another moment to put yourself in your potential customer's shoes... If you were them, don't you think that you'd want to work with an expert sales pro instead of a run-of-the-mill sales rep?  Don't you think that you'd want a subject-matter expert to solve your problems for you?

Of course you would!

And, the truth is that experts always tell prospects what they need to hear.  They know that while the truth might initially sting, the prospect will be thankful for it in the end.

For example, imagine that you're an expert surgeon who is sitting down with a patient who has terrible back problems.  You are absolutely sure that the patient needs a major corrective surgery and that telling them the hard truth might initially scare them.  So, do you tell them the hard truth knowing that it'll cause some momentary fear?  Or, do you avoid the truth and let things get worse for the sake of alleviating those momentary fears?

Obviously, if you were the surgeon, you'd tell the truth regardless of how hard it is to swallow.  On the other hand if you were the patient, you'd want to know the reality of the situation, regardless of how tough it is to hear.

Furthermore, you'll strip yourself of expert status if you don't tell prospects the hard truths at hand.


You’re Overcomplicating What You’re Supposed to Simplify


Not only do prospects need and want you to tell them what their problems are and how to fix them, but they also want to hear it in the most straightforward way possible.

Unfortunately though, many sales pros completely botch their sales approach in the sense that they overcomplicate the heck out of it.  More specifically, instead of simplifying things for prospects, they make them more complicated than they need to be.

Think of it like this: Let's say that you're a social media marketing company and you've been approached by a B2B sales strategy company because you've been struggling with cold outreach performance.  Rather than giving you a simple path out of your struggles, they only make your current situation messier than what it already is.  As a result, you lose trust in them because your situation only seems to be getting harder.

Whenever working with a potential customer, one of the easiest ways to kill off the prospects of establishing a solid relationship is to overcomplicate the heck out of things.  Because, complexity makes the prospect's life harder than it already is.

What's the point of establishing a relationship if it's only going to add more noise to your potential customer's already noisy life?


Types of B2B selling


2. You’re Acting Like a Vendor, Not an Expert


Are you one of the many sales professionals out there who absolutely despises being referred to as a vendor?  Especially because you know darn well that you work your tail off for customers and bring something completely different to the table than any other sales representative in your industry…

Not only do you probably despise being referred to as a vendor, but the hard truth is that prospects don't want to work with vendors!

Like we already mentioned above, today's B2B buyers want to work with suppliers who are more than just sales reps.  Instead, they want to work with professionals who are experts at what they do.


Well, when you're working with an expert, you'll likely:

  1. Have security and trust in their abilities; 
  2. Feel as if you're being given a personalized experience instead of being treated as a number; and
  3. Feel better understood.

Moreover, prospects want to work with experts instead of vendors because experts bring all of the supplier-customer relationship goods to the table.

Bottom line: If you don't increase yourself to the level of an expert, then you'll damage the ensuing supplier-customer relationship, and prospects will kick you to the curb before you can get them to sign on any dotted line.


Potential Customers Want a Customized Experience


Your leads want a customized experience.  By that, we mean that they don't want to be given the same prescribed solution that you give every other customer.  

Prescribed solutions make leads feel as if:

  1. They're just a number;
  2. They're an afterthought; and
  3. You're just there to collect money and then forget about them.

Think of it like this: If you went to a physical therapist for back pain and noticed that the therapist was doing the exact same exercises with each of their patients, including you, wouldn't that make you shake your head a bit?  Sure, everybody is there for treating back pain, but not everyone's issues are exactly the same.  More likely than not, you'll abandon that physical therapist and go look for one who offers you a more tailored approach.

Similarly, if your prospects feel as if they're being treated as a number, then they'll likely question their relationship with you.  

While your other customers might have similar issues as them, they still don't want to feel as if they're just a check box on your list.

In order to sustain and maintain solid customer relationships, you need to customize the customer experience!  In fact, you can't say the word 'customer' without using the word 'custom'!


B2B sales techniques


You’re There to Help Bring the B2B Customer’s Vision to Life


The reason why any entrepreneur starts a business in the first place is to bring a vision to life.  

For example, co-founder of Apple, Steve Jobs, started Apple in order to create a world empowered through technology.  When he started Apple, Jobs didn't necessarily know that there would be an iPhone, but he did have a clear vision of a better world that he wanted to manifest.

Just like how Jobs had a vision for a better world, so do your potential B2B customers.  They each have a vision that they're trying to manifest, and the vehicle for that manifestation is their unique product or service.

That being said, experts help bring their B2B customers closer to manifesting their visions.  They understand the world that they're trying to create and lean into it.

On the flip side, vendors simply try to solve a pain point and then leave.  They're not necessarily interested in the customer's vision.  Instead, they're simply interested in their immediate pain point.

Now, put yourself in your potential customer's shoes again...  Who do you think you're more likely to have a great relationship with... An expert who not only understands your vision, but is also actively working to help you manifest it?  Or, a vendor whose only concern is fixing a surface-level problem and doesn’t even know what your vision is?

If you're like most people, then you're more likely to bond and work with someone if they understand and resonate with your vision!


The B2B Sales Process Is Not About You


Given that B2B sales leads want experts who focus on customization and their lead's vision, the sales process should be all about those two things.

Unfortunately though, most business-to-business sales reps reduce themselves to vendors by making the selling process all about themselves!  Instead of getting to know the prospect, they talk about themselves and what they're all about.

Ultimately, if you make selling all about you, then prospects have little reason to buy from you.

Think about it... Why would somebody ever want to form a business relationship with you if all you do is talk about yourself and never consider the prospect’s needs?

That's like having a friendship with somebody who never asks you how you're doing and instead only talks about themself!


Longer B2B Sales Cycles Are Bad Sales Cycles


Last but not least…  If your sales cycle is exceedingly long, you'll drive what could be potentially awesome sales relationships into the ground.


Because, exceedingly long sales cycles reduce you to a vendor!  

Consider this... Experts know exactly what they're doing.  Because they know exactly what they're doing, they don't need to spend an exceedingly long amount of time trying to convince you that you should make a purchasing decision in their favor.  Instead, their expertise speaks for itself!  

On the other hand, vendors are quite shoddy.  Because they're kind of shoddy and know it, they inevitably spend more time trying to convince you that they're worthy of your business.  Ultimately, the longer sales cycle itself makes you question their level of expertise and relationship capabilities!

Additionally, who likes having to go through an extra-long sales cycle?  If you were your prospect, wouldn't you want to find a solution almost immediately after you realize that you have a problem?

Bottom line: Longer sales cycles are bad sales cycles!  They make you look more like a vendor, which ultimately damages the ensuing relationship.


B2B Customer Relationships


3. You’re Not Being Genuine to Yourself


At the end of the day, business and sales relationships are built on many of the same principles as everyday relationships, including friendships!

Believe it or not, but your prospects want to work with exciting, genuine, and truthful people!  They want to work with the real you, not the person who you think you need to be.

Moreover, if prospects see that you're putting on an act for them, then they'll have little motivation to form a relationship with you and ultimately conclude their buying process with a purchase.

This isn't a difficult equation to solve: If you want to form a solid relationship with customers, then you need to be genuine to yourself.


B2B Companies Don’t Want to Work With Robots


You can use all of the best sales techniques in the world, but if you portray yourself as a robot, then your B2B leads likely won't want to work with you.  By portraying yourself as a robot, we mean playing the role of a person who you think you should be instead of just being yourself.

Unlike B2C sales in which you might only spend a few seconds talking it up with individual consumers, B2B sales relationships usually span months if not years into the future.  

Therefore, B2B customers want to be sure that their time working with you is not just productive, but a strong collaborative effort.

And, one of the easiest ways to show them that the relationship will be worthwhile is by showing off your genuine personality.


Are You Accountable for Your Words?


The easiest way to lose people’s respect is to say one thing and then do another.

For example, you'll quickly and easily lose the respect of your potential customers if you say that you're going to do X, Y, and Z, but then turn your back and do A, B, and C.

That being said, if you want to form solid, long-term customer relationships, then staying accountable for your words is of the utmost importance.

It's a subtle fact that will make the most substantial difference.


Confidence & Fear Can’t Coexist


The emotions you feel are infectious.  Whatever emotion you feel is the emotion you radiate.

When it comes to B2B sales and forming solid relationships, the best emotion to feel and radiate is confidence.  On the flip side, the worst emotion to feel and radiate is fear.

Unfortunately, when you feel fear, you unconsciously drive prospects away!  The moment they sense your fear is the moment they question your abilities and ditch the relationship.

On the other hand, if you feel confident, prospects will naturally gravitate towards you.  The more confident you are, the more they'll see you as capable and want in on a relationship.

Therefore, confidence is of the utmost importance because it harnesses your genuine personality and captivates prospects.

You can have the best sales and marketing teams, the best sales and marketing strategies, and quite frankly the best of anything sales-related, but being fearful will drive customers away from relationships and buying decisions faster than almost anything.


Final Thoughts on Failing B2B Sales Relationships

Bottom line: Solid sales relationships are essential to B2B business success!  Without great relationships, you'll almost never see a single prospect move down the entire sales pipeline and make it to a closed deal.  Not only that, but you'll miss out on all the great perks that come from having solid relationships.

Sales relationships aren't just a simple variable to successful B2B selling, but they're part of the entire foundation.  Without great relationships, your sales outcomes go into the toilet, and therefore so do your overall business outcomes.

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