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What is B2B Sales?

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By The Editorial team

Business-to-business (B2B) sales, also known as B2B sales, refers to the marketing and selling of products and services from one business to another business. As opposed to consumer sales, B2B sales tend to be more complex, with larger and more expensive products or services involved in the sale. According to Statista, businesses spent over $49 trillion on B2B transactions in 2021 alone. That’s more than twice the total U.S. GDP.

An in-depth examination of the B2B world

With over 35.2 million businesses in the US alone, it’s no surprise that direct sales to businesses have taken off over recent years. There is a definite structure and process involved in selling to businesses, with complex negotiation tactics at every turn. With some background knowledge about your customer—and all you have learned about them during your early research stages—you will be able to quickly and effectively develop a plan that helps close deals and establish yourself as an industry expert.

So what is B2B sales? It’s selling directly to businesses, not consumers. Sales techniques like cold calling and networking are all most likely geared toward B2B prospects because they understand how important business-to-business leads are for growth and expansion. Once you have a clear idea of your customer’s goals, you can focus on ways to help them reach their objectives by providing high-quality products or services that solve their specific business needs. Selling to businesses involves an entirely different approach than selling directly to consumers—and it should be approached as such.

The benefits of making a sale in the B2B environment

Higher pricing: One big benefit of selling to businesses is that you will be able to get a much higher price for your product or service. One reason for that is that businesses buy in bulk and are also more likely to want an extended warranty. Businesses may even offer you payment plans or longer contracts if they like your product enough.

Scalability: Another advantage of selling to businesses is scalability. B2B sales allow you to scale up very quickly as needed. You won’t have to worry about running out of stock or dealing with individual customer complaints as often either. This can save both time and money in the long run.

Increased efficiency and productivity: Companies that engage in b2b sales tend to have improved efficiency and productivity. When a company sells to businesses, they know exactly what their customers need so they can tailor their products or services accordingly. There are also no middlemen involved in business-to-business transactions, which means you’ll spend less time making changes to the product and more time selling it.

High-profit margin: Another great benefit of business-to-business transactions is a higher profit margin. Businesses that deal in B2B sales can expect to see huge profit margins from a few sales. With only a couple of large customers, you’ll start seeing some serious money going into your pockets.

Better analytics: There’s also the advantage of better sales forecasting and analytics in B2b sales than you will find in a business that only sells to consumers. These benefits, along with an increased number of B2B opportunities, are driving more businesses to try out selling to businesses.

The types of buyers in a B2B Sales Environments

There are a few different kinds of buyers in business-to-business sales environments. It’s important to understand which one you’re working with when developing your strategy. 

  1. Influencer: someone who makes decisions on behalf of a company (Think CMOs, Vice Presidents, and other high-level roles.) Influencers set budgets and steer committees toward or away from specific products or services; they might have enough power that influencing them can make or break a deal.
  2. Decision-maker: someone who has authority to purchase a product or service on their own—and more often than not, decides whether or not to move forward with one vendor over another in negotiations. 

Understanding how decision-makers and influencers think is critical: what kind of information do they need, how much time do they spend doing research, how flexible are they as far as pricing goes? Decision-makers and influencers set the tone for purchases within companies, so it’s wise to know as much about them as possible.  

The sales process

When you’re trying to build a business and scale your sales, it’s crucial to understand all of the moving parts and pieces that make up a sale. By learning about each of these individual steps, you can come up with smarter methods for acquiring more leads and increasing your conversion rate.

  1. Research and preparation: Before making any calls or sending emails, you need to thoroughly understand your target market, their needs, wants, buying cycle, and average deal size. You also want to identify your ideal prospects—the kinds of people who are a perfect fit for your product or service.
  2. Prospecting: Now that you know what you’re trying to sell and who you’re trying to sell it to, it’s time to find these prospects. As a business-to-business (B2B) salesperson, you will be spending a lot of time with prospecting tools like  LinkedIn Sales Navigator, Snov.io, or Hunter.com; so make sure you understand how best to use these tools before embarking on your first sales call.
  3. Sales pitch:  It’s called a pitch in b2b since it’s less about convincing a customer to buy something than it is about educating him on why he should buy something. 
  4. Negotiation: What you need from your customers and what they need from you are likely two different things. When selling to businesses, as with other forms of negotiation, it’s not always about getting what you want so much as finding ways for both parties to get what they want. 
  5. Deal closing: With business-to-business (B2B) sales, there aren’t many customers coming back to make exchanges or complain that a product isn’t working right. A service or product cannot just be handed over to a client, because once the transaction is over, you must make sure the client is satisfied and hopes to do business with you again.

Business-to-business sales aren’t easy. Only an average of 21.2 % of leads turn into customers—which means that to succeed in B2B sales, you need to set up a sales funnel that works. At each stage of the funnel, you should be asking yourself: What does my customer want at each stage of their journey with me? And how can I deliver on it?

Awareness: The foundation of every sales funnel is a clear, well-defined awareness campaign. It’s never too early to start spreading awareness about your product or service—ideally, you should start even before you’ve finalized your actual business. That way, when you do start selling, your lead generation will be optimized for high efficiency.

Interest: Once your business has an awareness campaign running, you’ll need to attract interest from customers. This can take a variety of forms—for example, content marketing, social media outreach, and educational materials all help to capture interest from leads who are looking for answers or solutions. Educating potential customers is one of the most powerful tools in a B2B sales funnel.

Decision: When a lead has expressed interest in your company and its services, you should consider how you’ll incentivize them to take action. Some of our favorite tactics include an offer of a free trial or samples of your product—but whether you decide to give something away for free or charge money for a product or service depends on what kind of business you have.

Conversion: Not every lead will convert. So, when you’re formulating your sales funnel, you need to think about what your customer wants from each stage of their journey with you—and how you can deliver on it. You should also set up a series of call-to-action ads and emails to help guide customers through your process.

Purchase and evaluation: It’s important to incentivize potential customers throughout their journey with you—because, for many, purchases aren’t easy. However, when you implement a marketing funnel that prioritizes information and education over sales, you set up your business for long-term success. People don’t make decisions in a vacuum; instead, they gather information from all sorts of sources before deciding to make a purchase.

Repurchase/attrition: At every stage of your funnel, you should be asking yourself how you can provide value to your customer. Because, at their core, a sale and a customer are two sides of the same coin—and neither one exists without good value in exchange. Ultimately, B2B sales come down to building lasting relationships between businesses and customers who see themselves in a long-term partnership. And it all starts with your funnel.

Setting up an effective B2B sales funnel takes time and careful planning. But if you take care of each stage carefully, it’s almost guaranteed that your funnel will be as successful as possible.

Tips to succeeding in B2B Sales

Selling to businesses is one of those things that many people struggle with at first. However, if you follow a few simple steps it can be as easy as anything else you’ve done before. There are several things you can do to make your job easier and help maximize your sales potential. Here are a few tips to sell effectively in any business situation. 

  1. Check out their previous purchases: This might seem like an obvious tip, but don’t underestimate how much information you can get just by taking a look at what they have already purchased from your company or others. Looking over previous purchases will give you insight into what they like, who they trust (if anyone), and what prices they are willing to pay. Knowing these things beforehand will help ease tension between negotiating prices and making them see why their budget should accommodate your product or service 
  2. Don’t Just Make It About Price: Pricing discussions are a necessary part of doing business in general, but remember that there are other ways to go about discussing prices than simply sitting down and saying here’s my price, take it or leave it. Remember that your prospects have options too. You never know what can happen when you keep your options open rather than push them away right off the bat. 
  3. Listen To Their Needs: One of the biggest mistakes newbie salespeople make is going straight to trying to close a sale without understanding where exactly their buyer is coming from. Having some idea of what they need, or why they need it, helps you frame offers in a way that makes sense to them.
  4. Stay flexible: Understanding each party’s position not only leads to better closing deals but also means you can adapt your plans accordingly in real-time as issues arise. Being flexible allows you to plan for something unexpected happening so that you aren’t left scrambling when disaster strikes during a deal. 
  5. Recognize That You Can’t Sell A Dead Fish: Sometimes buyers find themselves in situations where they want to buy, but can’t because someone else on their team won’t let them. As hard as it may be, sometimes recognizing when something isn’t meant to be is important; your job isn’t necessarily meant to close every single deal. Therefore, it’s important to know when to not follow through with a deal. 
  6. Stay in touch: Don’t forget to talk to your clients after a deal is made. They probably have questions, concerns, and worries once they realize they’re buying something from you. Do what you can to address all their concerns while they’re still fresh in their mind. Even little problems can turn into huge problems later on if not addressed right away. 
  7. Start Every Deal With The Right Intention: Part of selling is truly just being a good person and having good intentions. If you’re starting a deal with a negative attitude, then you can bet your buyer will be able to feel it as well. But if you start your deal with positive intentions, then you can be sure that your deal is headed in a good direction from the very beginning. 
  8. Keep An Open Mind: There are no bad deals, but instead learning points to take home. Keeping your mind open will help you not only become better, but will also allow you to be more flexible and deal with a wider range of customers, sales situations, and products. By keeping an open mind you can learn something from everything that happens to you.

Final thoughts

While there are many similarities between B2B and B2C sales, there are also several important distinctions. If you’re selling to a business rather than an individual, it can take more time and effort to build trust, credibility, and rapport with your buyer. You should research the industry to learn about your customers’ needs and concerns, especially since different industries often have different approaches when it comes to buying things.

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