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What Separates Elite B2B Companies From the Great Pretenders

Christopher Tuttle

RacingIn business, your culture defines you. It determines whether you live or die.

But here’s the crazy thing about culture: what works wonders in B2C (business-to-consumer) doesn’t necessarily translate into runaway success in B2B (business-to-business). At least not in the beginning.

When you’re building a B2B company, you must create — and aggressively nurture — a strong sales culture. Sales is not just king; it’s the whole royal family.

Sales trumps everything because sales can fix everything. Sales supplies you with a lifeboat brimming with cash, which can buy you the time and resources you need to solve sticky problems with your products, processes and customer experience.

You can build a successful B2B company on sales alone. The B2B history books are littered with high-flying organizations that tossed an insane amount of mediocre products off the back of the truck.

But none of these pretenders has ever achieved the same level of excellence as the world’s greatest B2C brands.

Delighting customers is key

Multibillion-dollar behemoths, like Apple and Microsoft, have literally changed the world by delighting their customers. And they’ve done this not by starting with a sales-first culture, but by developing hardcore product and engineering cultures.

Their maniacal focus on customer experience has won them legions of lifelong fans and evangelists.

How many B2B organizations can boast that same level of customer loyalty? Only the very elite. Salesforce springs to mind. Marc Benioff has masterfully married sales culture with product culture. And that’s why Salesforce is such a dominant force in SaaS.

In B2B, sales will always come first. Sales revenues remain the lifeblood of any vibrant organization. But the best B2B companies also find a way to elevate their product cultures to a close second.

B2C companies have no choice. They must focus on their customers and keep them happy. In B2B, you enjoy a little more leeway. Long-term relationships and contracts offer security and a bit of runway. As long as revenue is rolling in, you can survive another day.

However, if you want to join the elite group of world-class companies, you must eventually develop a product culture that delights your customers. It’s the only way to accelerate your growth once you reach a certain size and scale.

Delighted customers fuel a flywheel effect because they become true evangelists and sell your products better than your top salespeople ever could on their own. That’s the magic of visionary B2C leaders like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates — and it’s what separates the elite B2B companies from the Great Pretenders who fixate solely on sales.

Dave Elkington is CEO and founder of XANT, which offers the industry’s leading sales acceleration platform.

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Image credit: Agnn Foon