What are B2B Sales? Definition and Strategies
B2B eCommerce sales are expected to exceed $1.8 trillion by 2023. This is three times the expected $600 billion B2C eCommerce sales by 2024.
My first experience with B2B sales was in 2012 when I sold legal services to SMB businesses. As exciting as it sounded, it was thrilling as well.
Since then, I have seen significant improvements in the B2B sales process.
Researchers-driven buyers, multiple avenues to purchase, and a variety of vendors are just some of the major developments I have seen over the past decade.
Is this making it harder for B2B leads to be reached?
Yes, to a certain extent.
This is good news, however. (More on this at the conclusion).
It is essential to understand the dynamics of modern B2B sales and recognize the best sales techniques if you want to meet, but also exceed your sales quotas.
Also read: Top 19 Hottest B2B Business Ideas
What is B2B sales?
B2B Sales stands for business-to-business. This refers to salespeople or companies that sell products and/or services directly to businesses.
This is in contrast to B2C sales where products and services can be sold directly to consumers.
Three types of B2B sales exist depending on the product/business model.
1. Supply sales
The supplier sells consumables to support another business. This could include office supplies, equipment, or workwear for employees.
Similar to B2C companies, they follow a similar process. However, the difference lies in purchase authorization and quantity.
An employee will purchase 50 cartridges instead of buying one cartridge. A manager or decision-maker must approve the purchase.
Lyreco is a large retailer of office and equipment supplies. This company specializes in this type of B2B sales.
2. Wholesale/distribution sales
Wholesalers sell key components of manufacturing or retail to other businesses.
JJ Foods can be an example of a wholesale distributor. They distribute essential food products to fast-food restaurants, which then sell the products at a higher price to their customers.
3. Service/Software sales
A service provider sells a service, not a product.
Tax accounting is an example. This could be an accountant who works with a small company or an accountant who works with a larger company.
It could also be provided as a service via software such as tax accounting software or Quickbooks.
B2B vs B2C sales: What’s the difference?
B2C sales can be made directly from the business to the customer by a salesperson. They are typically smaller than B2B sales and require the consumer to make the decision.
- Common B2C examples include:
- A sales rep at a car dealership.
- Online store selling clothes
- A supermarket that sells a wide range of consumables.
Forrester estimated that the US e-commerce market was $9 trillion in 2018. In 2019, US e-commerce sales were $601.75 billion.
B2B is larger than B2C and has more fish and, of course, higher budgets.
Why is the difference so stark between B2B sales and B2C?
Higher average transaction value
While B2B sales pipelines might seem small (e.g. an SMB ordering office supplies), they can easily reach millions to even billions of dollars.
This is not true for all B2C sales companies, except for luxury goods, real estate, and automotive.
Sales cycles that are longer
Excepting the three B2C industries discussed above, consumers base their buying decisions based on emotions and short-term needs: A phone case or charger.
Buyers from B2B are seeking a tangible ROI, measurable advantages, or practical solutions to critical problems.
They also need to win approval from many decision-makers.
B2B sales is a process where every decision impacts the bottom line of the company. Purchase decisions are rewarded with approval.
A successful sale requires a mutual “yes” from all decision-makers. The more valuable the deal, the more “yeses” are required.
Buyers who are educated
B2B buyers exercise extreme selectivity. They choose carefully who they do business with.
Content is an integral part of B2B sales.
The modern B2B sales process
In the past, B2B sales were easier.
A buyer will search for a solution by identifying a vendor and talking to a salesperson about his needs. Then, they will consult with decision-makers. If they were satisfied, they would sign a deal.
Marketing would bring in leads for vendors. Sales would then reach out to them and close the deal.
It was a straight-line buyer journey.
However, unlike most industries, the complexity of the sales process has been dissolved by the internet.
Sales and marketing are increasingly interconnected. Both marketing and sales play an integral part in closing deals and generating leads. The buyer’s journey to purchase is as follows:
- A company recognizes and agrees to solve a problem.
- It’s easy for employees to research the topic online and create criteria for the solution that they are looking for.
- They provide a map of all possible solutions and options.
- Buyers can ask their friends and family for recommendations if they are in need of a vendor. Buyers will also look at review sites, forums, as well as social media.
- They will make a purchase based on the information they have gathered.
- They might contact a vendor if they haven’t been approached.
- Buyers have unprecedented control over the modern sales process
They can also enter the funnel and move around, backtrack, or switch between stages as they please.
B2B sales have evolved from a linear process to one that involves a single platform. It now includes many touchpoints with buyers.
So, what can B2B companies do about it?
Essential B2B Sales Techniques
There are too many strategies to be successful in B2B sales.
- Do you need to make videos?
- Write extensive research whitepapers
- Run PPC ads?
Buyer-centric tactics are the best. These tactics are designed to be relevant to the current B2B sales process, and smart buyers. These are my top three:
Align sales and marketing through account-based sales
Gone are the days of siloed marketing and sales departments.
It is not a line that distinguishes between users being brought into the funnel and those who keep them there.
It’s more like a Venn diagram, roles and responsibilities are still interconnected and cross often.
Marketing and sales are not always in sync, and this can affect the productivity of B2B salespeople.
Account-based sales (ABS), which focuses on target accounts, flips the traditional funnel upside down and encourages collaboration between sales and marketing.
An ABS approach is similar to the B2B buyer journey’s beginning. It starts with a solution the buyer is looking for and one the company believes it can solve.
Sales and marketing need to agree on who the decision-makers are and how they can present a customized solution to solve the problem buyers want.
DidcuSign observed that many users weren’t completing the B2B sale process.
Leads were falling out of the funnel as bounce rates rose and pageviews fell.
To fix the problem, they implemented ABS campaigns. Marketing refined their messaging after six campaigns based on digital accounts. They also sent more qualified leads to sales.
DocuSigns’ sales pipeline grew by 22 percent. Click-throughs for critical calls-to-action tripled and their bounce rate was more than half.
Engage your mind and hearts with captivating content
69% of highly successful B2B marketers use a documented content marketing strategy.
It’s clear why when you consider that buyers from business to business services consume on average 13 content pieces prior to buying.
Content bridges the gap between seller and buyer. It helps the seller win the purchase.
Effective content doesn’t mean sharing information about the pet of your company. You need to solve problems in order to establish trust and build brand credibility.
Hubspot, our Integration Partner, has grown quickly from a startup to a $513million company.
Turn cold leads into brand advocates with social selling
Social selling allows B2B sales reps the ability to not only build relationships but also close deals faster than their competitors.
New Horizons relied on conference lists to find leads and found that ROI was beginning to decline.
Sales dropped because prospects were very close to making a purchase decision when reps met them.
They needed to reach buyers earlier in order to save declining sales.
Their winning solution was business-to-business selling via LinkedIn. Sales reps were able to gain 1.7M worth of opportunities within 6 months. This was a 57% closing rate and $1M in revenue.
Social selling was so successful at generating leads, the COO created “social hour” where reps spend an hour researching and connecting with leads via LinkedIn.
Are you able to keep up with B2B sales and marketing?
B2B sales is not a straight line anymore.
It is a Venn diagram that overlaps, with multiple touchpoints and value-oriented customers.
This change should not cause despair among B2B sales reps and B2B companies? A wise woman once said:
“Oh, hell no!”
It’s actually a reason for celebration.
Complexity equals higher barriers to entry This is a good thing.
It will reward B2B companies that are buyer-centric with higher sales and keep out dinosaur companies that fail to adapt.