Customer Collaboration Guide: Tips for smooth B2B relationships

The Dock Team
August 28, 2023
June 26, 2024

As the B2B buying process gets more and more convoluted, Sales teams have to shift from a selling mindset to a collaborative mindset.

Buying and selling demands a two-way relationship: Buyers need advice and sellers need organizational buy-in. The key to any deal closing is better collaboration.

This applies to Customer Success teams too. Expanding and renewing accounts comes down to forming long-term relationships with customers. 

So how can Sales and Customer Success better collaborate with customers and truly leverage champions to advocate for your product within their organization?

In this guide, we'll cover tips and tools for better collaboration with your customers.

What is customer collaboration? 

Customer collaboration is the practice of working closely with your customers to create a mutually beneficial relationship. 

  • In sales, this means collaborating closely with a deal champion to understand the company’s needs, wants, and pain points—and then guiding them toward a buying decision by providing relevant information and resources.
  • In customer success, this means providing customers with personalized onboarding experiences, how-to content, and change management processes.

The main philosophy behind customer collaboration is that B2B is a two-way relationship between customer and company—it’s not a one-way service relationship of company to customer.

Why is customer collaboration a bigger deal now?

B2B leaders have always been aware of customer collaboration’s role in business, but recently it has become even more crucial.

While the rapidly changing B2B sales landscape and rise of digital technologies are big reasons behind this, the fact that customers are becoming more empowered and demanding personalized, seamless experiences is a key catalyst that led customer collaboration into prominence.

Keeping this in mind, let’s review its impact on potential and existing customers.

For prospective customers

You know the feeling: you're on the hunt for a new product or service, but the research process is overwhelming. With so many options and so much information to sift through, it can be hard to decide.

Well, it's not just you—77% of B2B buyers find the buying journey complex or difficult, according to Gartner

But this is an opportunity for sales teams. You can act as a collaborative partner to your prospect.

Rather than selling to your prospect, you can be their personal guide, helping them navigate the complex buying process. 

By collaborating with prospects, you can:

  • Provide curated information to help your prospect make informed decisions
  • Help them navigate the complexities of B2B buying by anticipating roadblocks
  • Identify and empower buyer champions who can advocate for your solution

For example, a sales rep can work with their champion to create a personalized product demo. Designed specifically for their internal buying team, the demo highlights specific features and functionalities that align with the customer's needs. 

This allows the customer to envision how the software can be used within their existing ecosystem, helping build excitement and gaining buy-in for the product.

It's a mutually beneficial outcome. Buyers get the support they need to make an informed decision, champions know how to advocate for their product internally, and sellers close more deals.

For new/existing customers

Every customer you convert is a precious opportunity to grow.

Customer collaboration helps you protect your existing sales pipeline and customer base, as well as open up new opportunities for revenue expansion. 

By delving into the specific needs and pain points of your existing customers, you can identify opportunities for upselling and cross-selling, ultimately driving business growth.

You have to treat new customers with care and attention. The onboarding and implementation process is your first chance at retaining customers. But there are often multiple stakeholders involved and technical hurdles to overcome. And that's before you even think about internal training and other logistical considerations.

By working closely with customers, you can understand their unique needs and pain points. You can then use these insights to create a tailored implementation plan that addresses their specific challenges, providing a seamless, personalized experience that builds trust and leads to long-term engagement.

8 ways to collaborate better with customers

As a leader in high-touch sales, your goals are to guide prospects toward a sale and provide personalized customer experiences. Customer collaboration can aid in achieving both objectives, leading to more deals and revenue growth if executed properly.

Here are some effective tips to help you collaborate more effectively with customers:

1. Prioritize buyer enablement

Gone are the days when focusing on internal processes and supporting sales reps were the only thing that mattered to close deals. You need to adapt to changing times and focus on what really matters: supporting your customers.

Buyer enablement provides resources for informed purchasing decisions, allowing Sales and Customer Service teams to offer personalized solutions and build trust. This fosters collaboration, leading to business growth.

Gartner found that prospects need to complete six buying jobs during a single sales process. Here’s how you can enable them at each phase.

  1. Problem identification: Help prospects identify the real problem by providing valuable resources and content, such as thought leadership, industry benchmarks, and diagnostic tools.
  2. Solution exploration: Assist prospects in finding viable solutions by providing transparent website content, trend reports, case studies, pricing calculators, video demos, and multiple calls to action.
  3. Requirements building: Build confidence in the prospect by helping them understand the full scope of their needs. Conduct discovery calls, provide sales engineering support, and create customized demos, sandboxes, and proof-of-concept projects.
  4. Evaluation and selection: Provide prospects with detailed information, such as product data sheets and case studies, to help them evaluate and select the best solution, preferably yours.
  5. Purchase and implementation: Facilitate the buying process by providing detailed pricing quotes, working together to remove roadblocks, and creating a communication plan.
  6. Post-purchase: Maintain customer satisfaction by aligning on business goals, creating a shared workspace, prioritizing onboarding, sharing deliverables, and tracking engagement.

Unfortunately, buyers don't have tools to manage this process. This makes you responsible to collaborate with the buyer, helping them complete these jobs. 

Dock, a buyer enablement platform, is the perfect solution to streamline this process. It enables reps to create a unified sales hub for each prospect, where they can organize and share all relevant information and collaborate on the deal through comments and mutual action plans. 

Created a personalized experience for each buyer with Dock's digital sales rooms.

2. Identify and remove potential deal roadblocks

Buyers may not anticipate all the internal roadblocks that may come up during the buying journey. But an account executive (AE) who routinely sells the same product will likely have a keen understanding of the common roadblocks that can arise

Encourage your AEs to actively collaborate with buyers, preempting these roadblocks and increasing the chances of a successful transaction. 

For example, if a new customer's procurement team has concerns about your product's security, have reps share security documentation proactively, early on in the sales process. This establishes you as a trusted partner that's looking out for their best interests.

3. Create a communication plan

Developing a strategic communication plan with your client can help you achieve successful outcomes for your project. 

It will essentially serve as a set of semi-formalized "terms of engagement" to provide a solid foundation for effective collaboration, ensuring that expectations are clear and all parties are aligned. This helps establish a roadmap for progress, enabling both you and the buyer to stay on track and work confidently towards shared goals. 

Ideally, your communication plan should cover the following:

  • Frequency and format of customer touchpoints. ("Do you want to hold weekly or quarterly business reviews?")
  • Project milestones communication. ("Do you want to use a client portal or continue using email attachments?")
  • Preferred channel for real-time messaging to discuss small things. ("Google Hangouts, Slack Connect, or email")
  • Preferred channel for larger questions or escalations. ("Video meetings or emails?")
  • Mentioning which stakeholders should be notified and in what circumstances. ("Manager for overarching project queries, and project coordinator for deadlines and schedules")

With Dock, you can build a central hub that not only makes all your documenting and planning more accessible but also serves as a single place for communication, where clients can comment directly on individual items contained within your Dock workspace.

4. Ensure goal alignment

When a potential customer shares their goals during the sales process, it's important that their aspirations are not lost in the handoff to the Customer Success team. Unfortunately, sometimes the Sales team may overlook these goals, leading to frustration and wasted time for everyone involved.

To prevent this from happening, a simple solution is to document the customer's goals and key performance indicators (KPIs) clearly in their Dock workspace during the sales process. This way, the Customer Success team can easily access this information and build on the customer's initial goals, without having to re-interview them and waste their valuable time. 

Suppose your Sales team is working with a customer to increase their website traffic. Together, they set a goal to increase website traffic by 15% within a specific timeframe. Reps can then work closely with the customer to develop a strategy to achieve that goal, such as creating targeted marketing campaigns or implementing SEO best practices. 

By working together to achieve this shared goal, your Sales team and customer can build a strong partnership that leads to success.

Another way to align goals is through creating a shared action plan, outlining specific steps and tasks to be taken, and assigning them to the relevant person or team.

For example, when working closely with a customer to improve customer retention, your reps can create a mutual action plan or implementation plan on Dock, outlining the specific steps to be taken. Think: conducting customer surveys, improving customer onboarding, or creating a customer loyalty program. 

Dock's mutual action plans make it easy to track next steps

This helps both the Sales team and the customer focus on the same objectives and take the necessary actions to achieve them.

5. Make it easy to be your customer

If you make it easier to do business with your company, your customers will stay loyal and continue to engage with you. That's why the best companies focus on customer enablement.

Unfortunately, onboarding a new tool or service involves a lot of work (think: lots of reading, lots of setup, etc.), making it feel more like a time-suck than a value-add. 

Consider creating a shared workspace where both sales reps and customers can access all relevant information. This will eliminate the need for customers to dig through emails or spreadsheets to find the information they need, like purchase history, account details, or sales collateral.

Another advantage of a shared workspace is it streamlines the onboarding process. You can create customized onboarding plans for each customer, embed detailed instructional materials, and offer hands-on training and support.

Wondering where to start? Consider using Dock through the entire customer lifecycle, starting as a digital sales room to work closely with a prospect, through to onboarding them and beyond.

6. Deliver delightful onboarding experiences

When new customers join, make sure their onboarding experience is seamless and enjoyable, and sets them up for success with your product. 

To do this, Revenue Operations teams need to take a holistic approach, working together with Sales, Marketing, and CS teams to identify problem areas and implement solutions. By tracking customer engagement, they can identify patterns and trends that reveal friction points and take action to remove it.

For example, the Customer Success team may notice that many new customers are having trouble with a particular feature of your product. The Revenue Ops team can then work with the Product team to improve that feature's design and user experience.

The idea is to win new customers' trust by making them realize the value they can generate from working with your brand.

7. Share deliverables and get feedback

To keep customers happy and build successful partnerships, CS teams should gather feedback after sharing deliverables. This iterative process helps ensure their needs are being met and allows for necessary adjustments.

The only issue? Not every customer will have time to offer time and relevant feedback. 

To ensure you're collecting valuable feedback, create a plan that works for both you and your customers. This could include sending monthly Net Promoter Score surveys or annual customer satisfaction surveys and sending feedback forms or surveys post-project delivery or major milestones.

Be sure to make the feedback-giving process convenient for the customer and keep questions focused to minimize effort on their part.

8. Track customer engagement

When it comes to improving customer collaboration, understanding your customers’ level of engagement is crucial. Not only does it give you insight into how well your products and services are meeting their needs, but it also helps to identify areas where you can improve their experience.

For example, by tracking client engagement, your Revenue Ops team will know which customers are using your software regularly and which ones aren’t. They can then create targeted campaigns to re-engage the latter and ensure they’re getting the most out of your software.

One way to do this is by using a customer relationship management (CRM) system to track customer interactions, such as phone calls, emails, and meetings, and gain insights into how your team is interacting with your customers. 

You can also use Dock to gain valuable insights into your customers' behavior by tracking their engagement in your shared client workspace. Monitor which elements they interact with, such as videos, proposals, or plans, to understand their priorities and tailor your approach.

Additionally, Dock's client management template simplifies the process of documenting and tracking customer touchpoints. With all your customer interactions in one place, you can easily identify areas for improvement and take action to enhance their experience. 

Use Dock to collaborate better with clients

The general consensus is to use standard project management tools like Trello and Asana to work closely with clients. While this is a good idea for internal collaboration, they don’t provide a centralized platform to collaborate with each other and the customers.

Dock solves this problem by allowing Revenue Operations teams to streamline customer collaboration by bringing all necessary sales collateral and deliverables, such as product explainers, pricing quotes, onboarding documentation, and surveys, into one centralized and easily accessible shared space.

Not only does this make the customer experience more seamless and efficient but it also allows teams to track customer interactions and engagement throughout the entire customer lifecycle. No need to waste any more time and resources juggling multiple tools! 

So, take the first step towards simplifying customer relationships and schedule a demo or start a free trial with Dock today!

The Dock Team