B2B is an abbreviation for “business-to-business.” But is it important, in terms of sales, whether you sell to human customers or soulless companies? Definitely. Even though it is people who make buying decisions in both cases, the length of the sales process, the movement through the sales funnel, types of customer touchpoints, and a deal price are significantly different for B2B and B2C.
That’s why when anyone asks, “What is B2B sales?” the answer should include the nuances of the business-to-business sales model rather than a definition per se.
Types of B2B Sales
Based on their knowledge and experience, Belkins distinguishes three types of B2B sales:
- Providing raw materials to manufacturing companies (e.g. steel, oil, corn, lumber).
- Providing products to retailers or distributors (e.g. computers, foods, clothes).
- Providing professional services to companies (e.g. market research, CRM, software, tax accounting).
However, businesses can sell corn, computers, and market research services to customers, too. So what’s the difference between B2B and B2C sales?
B2B vs. B2C
Comparing business-to-business sales and business-to-consumer marketing models is indeed the best way to understand the features of B2B sales, sales strategy, and sales techniques. In contrast to B2C, the B2B sales process is characterized by:
- Higher volume and size of transactions. The average order value is higher in B2B. It can be explained by a higher B2B price point as well as a bigger share of long-term contracts.
- Longer customer lifecycle. In B2C, customers are often emotion-driven, and hence their buying decisions tend to be on the spur of the moment (unless we talk about cars, real estate or luxury goods). In the B2B sector, on the contrary, a lot of time is spent on B2B sales lead nurturing through the hard data and measurable metrics, and years can pass before a decision-maker closes a deal.
- Higher ladder of approval. In B2B, there is typically no single decision-maker. A decision to make a deal is achieved by the joint effort of 6 to 10 decision-makers who have different pieces of information and need to come to a conclusion. Sales reps approach the circle of decision-makers through lead nurturing, sometimes spending years until all the parties say ‘yes’ to a B2B deal.
- Pickiness of stakeholders. B2B buyers are more educated and more selective about what they want to purchase. First, their stakes are higher in case of a wrong decision. But also, due to their B2B sales experience, they have developed their own criteria for buying and negotiating and are normally more independent in their buying decisions.
What is the B2B Sales Process?
B2B selling follows a certain process: A business person identifies the relevant business need and starts looking for a solution, finds a vendor, discusses options and suggestions with salespeople, reports to decision-makers, and strikes a deal. After the introduction of online sales, however, the once linear sales process has become more complex. And the Covid-19 pandemic has shifted selling to online even more.
Now the stage between the identification of a problem and deal-making is mediated by peer reviews, social media, and professional recommendations, not only from a business’s sales reps but from anyone on the web. As a result, the B2B buyer is more independent in their sales process. Going back and forth between different solutions and/or vendors, B2B buyers don’t walk a straight line from the emergence of a need to making a purchase. Instead, today’s B2B sales process is rather chaotic and complex.
Nevertheless, the stages the B2B buyer goes through remaining the same:
- Awareness: the B2B buyer finds out about a product.
- Evaluation: the B2B buyer starts thinking about it, analyzing its features, and comparing it to its competitors.
- Intention: the B2B buyer wants to make a purchase and chooses a vendor.
- Purchase: the B2B buyer purchases the product.
The sales process can have more stages and is used by marketers to map out a customer’s journey for effective lead generation.
B2B Sales Funnel
Whereas the sales process is the way vendors look at sales, the sales funnel is focused on the buyer’s perspective. The classical sales funnel has stages similar to the sales process: Awareness, Consideration, Preference, and Purchase (sometimes Loyalty is singled out as the last stage).
However, most marketers prefer to divide the sales funnel into more stages to boost lead generation and prevent the lead leakage. A well-developed sales funnel makes a B2B sales job more effective.
The first two stages – Awareness and Interest – are self-evident, and all businesses try to be equipped for prospects to find their unique value proposition on the company’s website. They usually apply up-to-date technology to reach out to B2B leads that have expressed their interest.
When B2B sales leads are at the Stages of Consideration and Intent, marketers and sales teams stay in contact, provide product demos, schedule calls, and take other steps to nurture B2B sales leads into the Evaluation Stage and boost prospect generation. Once B2B leads have held a face-to-face meeting with sales reps and have all decision-makers on the same page, a deal is made, and the Stage of Remarketing is on.
Even though B2B sales are allegedly logic-driven, B2B sales leads will go through the sales process faster if SDRs and marketers engage their emotions and address their needs.
B2B Sales Strategy
The way marketing and sales teams view the sales process will determine how they will work out their B2B sales strategy. Based on the buyer’s journey and tailored to the Ideal Customer Profiles, a company’s sales strategy requires regular tweaking and adjusting according to new analytical data, the company’s goals, and sales representatives’ insights from their interactions with prospects and customers.
Any business’s sales strategy must be reconsidered based on the new B2B sales dynamics, especially if major life-changing events take place, such as the fast-spreading coronavirus.
B2B Sales Techniques
There are many sales tactics, techniques, and methodologies to choose from. The choice will depend on the industry you work in, the type of your business, target audiences, resources, and other factors. However, the most popular B2B sales techniques include:
- Account-based selling. Referring to companies as accounts, sales teams target them in their lead nurturing rather than individual prospects and B2B sales leads. This sales technique enables them to refine their marketing messages and offer high-value solutions.
- Social selling. Whereas cold emailing is an eternal technique, some businesses can do even better by using social media for lead generation. In B2B, LinkedIn has amassed an incredible amount of users who can be included in B2B selling. Through social media platforms, businesses cannot only prospect and expand their social circles but also use new tools and technologies and start nurturing B2B leads right in their DMs.