06/02/2011 01:58 pm ET Updated Aug 02, 2011

B2B? B2C? How About H2H?

To B or not to B? Hamlet is not the only one asking that question as I've been queried many times by readers of my book PEAK about whether the self-actualizing business principles I espouse are just as relevant to B2B (business to business) as they are to B2C companies (business to consumer). The thought behind this is that PEAK speaks to the idea that great companies address the higher, transformative needs of their key stakeholders, like their employees, customers, and investors. So, companies like Apple, Whole Foods Markets, Southwest Airlines, Netflix, and the like are B2C companies effectively focusing on understanding the "unrecognized needs" of their core customers and delivering on those needs. If you do that well, you create customer evangelists who are feeling a little more self-actualized.

Somehow, when we imagine B2B organizations -- IBM, Deloitte, Boeing -- we assume that a business doesn't have higher needs that you can address. Of course, this is a little more complicated because understanding the higher needs of an individual requires a little less mind reading than understanding the meta-needs of a whole organization. But, at the end of the day, most decisions in companies are made by humans. So, it's fine to imagine how your company can meet a higher need of the organization you're trying to sell to, but I highly recommend that you look at the key decision-maker, the human, and ask yourself three key questions about this person: (1) What's the survival need of this decision-maker such that they will not look like a fool a year from now within their organization for having chosen to buy from us? (2) What would make this decision-maker look successful - giving them greater esteem within the organization - if they buy from us? (3) Is this decision-maker looking for a transformative product or service that will help elevate their company far above their competition and how are we communicating those "higher needs" benefits to this decision-maker and their colleagues?

Amidst the spreadsheets, org charts, and policy manuals, there is a heartbeat in our organizations and it comes from humans. Even in the silos of America's biggest corporations, there is a man or woman, full of emotions and aspirations, wants and needs, who is making the buying decisions that can fuel your B2B company. The most neglected fact in business is that we're all human. Don't forget this fact when strategizing about how you can make a sale to that B2B company you've had your eye on.