B2B sales representatives are responsible for making and answering sales calls, managing sales emails, setting meetings, conducting product demos/presentations, building rapport, handling objections, identifying pain points, and solving problems.
The definition of business-to-business (B2B) sales is a sales model that involves one business selling products or services to other businesses. This is opposed to B2C sales, or business-to-consumer sales where a business sells products or services to consumers. B2B sales are complex, large, and require multiple people who serve in different roles across a longer sales cycle. B2B sales often occur over a course of weeks through various discussions, rather than a singular transaction.
Besides the significant difference between the target buyers, B2B sales differ from B2C sales in a variety of ways. Firstly, B2B offerings usually have a higher price point, since their solutions are often larger and more complex. They also have a much a longer sales cycle because of the large deals, complex solutions, and multiple stakeholders. Third, B2B sales require multiple touchpoints to close deals, meaning they are not typically done in a single transaction. Due to the price points, B2B deals often require buy-in from multiple decision makers within an organization. As such, B2B sales processes tend to be more strategic than B2C Sales. While B2C selling tactics tend to appeal to buyers’ emotions, B2B selling tactics often appeal to a buyer’s rationality. The B2B buyer’s journey tends to be far more complex than the typical B2C buyer’s journey. Let’s look at a typical B2C buyer’s journey. Rachel needs a new toothbrush. She goes online and does a Google search for “best toothbrush.” She finds an article about a high-end electric toothbrush. And then, after reading some favorable reviews on Amazon, she buys the toothbrush. If only B2B Sales were that simple. B2B deals are often high-risk and high reward. And as such, there are some key differences:
According to Gartner, the typical buying group for a complex B2B solution involves 6-10 decision makers. So why does B2B sales require so many key decision makers? As an example, imagine a new Chief Marketing Officer needs an expensive marketing automation system. She may consult key members of her team before finding an offering. And then, after deciding on a potential solution, she’ll need to get the budget approved by the CFO. A CIO or Chief Data Officer might also need to be consulted to ensure that it will work with the company’s existing technology stack. At small-to-medium sized companies, a CEO might even be involved in key purchasing decisions.
Longer Sales Cycles
Virtually every salesperson who has ever worked at a B2B company has felt frustrated at one point or another at the long sales cycles. So how long are B2B sales cycles? According to a report from CSO Insights, three-quarters (74.6%) of B2B sales take at least 4 months to close, while nearly half (46.4%) take 7 months or more to close.
Dependence on a Predictable Pipeline
So what do these long sales cycles mean for B2B salespeople? It means that they need to constantly have a pipeline of deals to be working. As such, B2B sales often requires intense collaboration. Though some B2B account executives (AEs) source their own deals, B2B AEs regularly depend on marketing teams and sales development reps (SDRs) to ensure that there is always a steady pipeline of new qualified leads to work.
Types of B2B sales
The five sales steps
1. Drive traffic
Get potential customers onto your website or into your store, and in front of your products. For many companies, this is both the hardest step and the marketing department’s biggest hurdle. It’s important not to overcomplicate this step or try to push the customer too far. They don’t need to buy anything right away, they just need to be intrigued.
2. Convert visitors
Turn your interested visitors into contacts. Again, keep it simple. You don’t have to pitch just yet. Get your interested parties on your mailing list, and set up a conversation.
3. Nurture contacts
Now is the time to really get to know your prospective buyers. Research is key in this step. What are their needs? What are they looking for? How can a partnership with your company benefit both parties?
4. Generate opportunities
Once you’ve keyed in on which potential buyers might be the best targets, it’s time to pass them over to the lead sales team for a full product pitch. Pitches can be complicated, and depending on the product, can take a great deal of time. Make sure you’re only pitching to contacts who are likely to buy. The first three steps should set you up for success in this stage.
5. Close sales
Sign the paperwork, make the transaction, and start again. Make sure that you have parts of your team dedicated to checking in with your customers—the nurturing doesn’t stop after the money changes hands. A business with a reputation for strong customer relationships will go further in its future sales.
B2B Sales Tips
- Personalize customer communications. Use technology to help you personalize at scale.
- Never skimp on continuous seller training. B2B buyers are smart — they prefer to engage professionals who demonstrate expertise and empathy.
- Build genuine rapport through active listening, critical thinking, and asking the right questions. Go for omni-channel outreach (mobile, social media, email, events, sales calls, etc.,)
- Consider establishing a dedicated sales ops and a sales enablement team.
- Go beyond CRM and marketing automation. Embrace new technologies such as sales engagement platforms. Use data to help you make smarter decisions and playbooks.
- Encourage, monitor, and display positive customer feedback. Showcase customer success stories and incorporate case studies into your sales playbook.
- Establish full strategic and tactical alignment among all customer-facing units from marketing and sales to customer success.
In B2B sales, outside sales professionals often operate outside of an office because they are meeting with prospects and clients or presenting at an event. On the other hand, inside sales professionals engage clients remotely through cold calling, emailing, and video conferencing.
Inside sales professionals can close deals without ever personally meeting their customers. In contrast, outside sales reps almost always make a sale during or shortly after a personal meeting with clients.
This difference in engagement approach requires different skill sets and selling techniques required for either practice. For example, outside sales professionals leverage in-depth product knowledge and in-person communication skills while inside sales professionals become adept in the use of CRMs, a shared sales process, email, and social media.
Recently, however, the line between inside and outside sales has started to blur as outside sales reps begin using the same communication technologies as well as engagement strategies favored by inside sales professionals.
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As their names imply, business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) sales primarily differ in their target customers. While B2B companies sell products and services to other businesses, B2C companies consider the general public (or certain segments of it) as their primary market and end consumers.
- Price point. B2B products and services generally have higher prices compared to many consumer goods.
- Size of addressable market. B2C companies target thousands to millions of consumers while B2B companies may just have a few to several hundred potential customers.
- Sales process complexity. B2C customers may easily decide to purchase on the spot while it takes patient lead nurturing before B2B buyers make a positive purchasing decision.
- Number of decision makers. Only one individual is needed for a B2C purchase while multiple stakeholders are required to sign off a B2B deal.
- Sales velocity. B2B sales tend to have longer sales cycles compared to B2C due to the complexity of the selling process.
- Sales methodology. B2B salespeople use sophisticated selling techniques and follow well-calibrated sales processes to succeed. B2C sellers also need to hone selling skills but operate in a less punishing environment.
- Customer service. To prolong and increase customers’ lifetime value, B2B companies place a high premium on customer service, satisfaction, and success.