The B2B sales process refers to businesses selling products or services to other businesses. Unlike selling to a direct consumer (B2C), B2B companies need to appeal to people who are making the decisions for a business. This means the client is making strategic business decisions and putting extra effort into researching the best option. After all, they want their own business to survive and thrive.
Continue reading to learn more about the differences between B2B and B2C, how the B2B sales funnel works, and strategies for fine-tuning your sales and marketing process.
What’s the Difference Between B2B and B2C?
B2B and B2C companies have two different sales processes, as they are each marketing to a different clientele. B2B companies sell products or services to other businesses. B2C companies sell products or services to consumers.
Selling to another business (B2B) requires patience, relationship building, and proof that your offering will help the business you are selling to. People making purchasing decisions for a business are thinking about their own bottom line. They devote more time to research before making a purchase and make decisions based on rational and strategic considerations.
Selling directly to consumers (B2C) requires building an emotional connection with your audience. People make purchasing decisions based on their individual value system, and they may change that value system at any time. It’s important to understand why your target audience makes purchasing decisions and how your brand can stand out amongst your competition.
The boundaries can sometimes blur between B2B and B2C when your offering is sold to both businesses and consumers. It can be a challenge for marketing and sales departments to choose how to maximize their efforts.
For example, when Blue Summit Supplies sells bulk office supplies directly to businesses, that’s considered a B2B (business to business) sale. When we sell single products to consumers, such as an individual working from home, that’s considered a B2C sale (business to consumer.)
- Decisions are based on a rational value system
- Long-term relationships are built
- More information is needed before a sale is made
- Longer sales cycles
- Purchase decisions require research and strategic considerations
- Often higher priced purchases
- Decisions are based on a personal value system
- Often viewed as one-off transactions
- Not as much research made before a sale
- Purchase decisions are based on an emotional connection
- Consumers may change their buying motivations at any time
- Consumers might opt for an expensive brand if it aligns with their preferences or status
B2B Sales Process (B2B Sales Funnel)
The B2B sales cycle is often described in the form of a funnel that slowly moves a business through a number of evolving steps before they make a purchase. There are many different versions of the B2B sales funnel, with slightly different names for each step. No matter the funnel you follow, the general process and the end goal are the same.
Awareness is at the very top of the B2B sales funnel. At this point, the customer is just beginning their search. They are familiarizing themselves with how they might solve their problem through resources, data, and other people’s opinions.
They might come across your business through an informative article about what to look for in the type of product they are interested in or a detailed product comparison you created. The value of the lead is low at this point because the interested party has only just begun their search.
If you provided the party with valuable information at the beginning of their search, you might develop B2B sales leads. This is why accurate and detailed content resources are so valuable for B2B businesses. Even when potential clients come across your business during the early stages of their search, your free resources may stick in their minds if they are helpful and you have a memorable brand.
In the interest phase of the sales funnel, the client begins to research your product or service. It’s also possible they are considering your competition at this point, too.
They will dig deeper into what you have to offer, and you may be able to interact with them during this phase to build trust and form a business relationship. Ensure you have resources online that can answer their questions, and make sure you have salespeople available to address any concerns.
If you made it this far through the sales process, the client has a genuine interest in what you have to offer. You need to continue to nurture the lead and clearly illustrate how your product or service is the best choice for them.
In this phase, you might run demo presentations, offer samples, or provide a free trial while continuing to build the relationship. Tailor your pitch to the needs of the specific client you are trying to close. You need to prove why you are the best choice and how you will provide value to their business.
The contract may be drafted, and the client may have given you every indication they are going to choose your offering, but it’s not a done deal until the paperwork is signed. Leads can get held up at this stage and may fall through if you don’t dedicate time to engaging (and nudging) the lead.
Stay in contact and drive home your specific value. Don’t let your foot off the gas too soon, thinking you’ve already put in enough work. The work is never done, and it will continue even after you close the sale.
Congratulations! This is the part of the funnel you’ve been working toward. You officially made the sale and can now switch your efforts to nurturing the signed client.
Sales and marketing aren’t done yet. It takes time and effort to keep the client informed and happy. Don’t take the client for granted, and always make sure they don’t have reason to consider one of your competitors. Repeat business or upsells to your current clients cost less than finding new ones.
Plus, if you do a stellar job keeping the client happy, they may become a loyal customer or brand ambassador.
B2B Sales Strategy
Build a Strong, Recognizable Brand
B2B sales often take weeks or even months of deliberation before a sale is actually made, which means your brand recognition is important.
B2B businesses should have a strong, recognizable brand with clear and consistent messaging. This will help ensure businesses in the early stages of research will remember your brand specifically. A recognizable brand will stick in their mind since they see it time and time again through various sales and marketing campaigns.
💡 We discussed brand strategies in our article: How to Execute a Successful Brand Launch
Use Content to Inform and Educate the Buyer
Buyers conduct a lot of research online before they take an interest in a product and long before they actually make a purchase. Businesses expect to be able to find whatever they are looking for online, so the more information you can provide upfront, the easier their journey will be.
Create a detailed content library of your products or services as well as any other information searching customers might be looking for. This may include how-to guides, information about how/where your products are made, storage advice, setup information, safety instructions, or product/service comparisons.
Your vast content library will engage interested customers, reassure them while they evaluate your process, and serve as a sales and marketing tool to build awareness about your offering.
Map the customer journey and common pain points
You may be selling to a business, but there’s a real person behind every business decision. Build detailed personas to better understand your target audience. What type of person in a company is making the buying decisions for your product or service?
Map out the customer journey through your sales funnel and carefully consider what each specific persona is thinking and feeling. What are their pain points? How do they like to solve problems? How quickly do they make decisions? Get to know who you are selling to and the details surrounding how they make purchasing decisions.
Learning what problems or pain points your target audience has can also help you choose what content resources to focus on. Take any problems or questions that came up during the buyer’s journey and turn them into in-depth resources or guides they can access on your website.
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