A complete guide to B2B sales

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In many instances, making business-to-business (B2B) sales is the dream of every business owner. There are several reasons for this. Not only do B2B transactions have more significant order values and higher conversion rates, but they also enhance productivity and are generally cost-effective.

B2B sales may be ideal for your business, as against business-to-consumer transactions. With the leaps in e-commerce, especially online marketplaces like Alibaba.com, you can reach more businesses and boost your product sales.

What are B2B Sales?

B2B (business-to-business) trades refer to transactions that take place between two businesses. In B2C (business-to-consumer), you sell directly to (individual) ‘end users’. In B2B, you sell your product or service to another business (wholesalers or retailers, for example). A manufacturing company that sells its products to another wholesaling company or an e-commerce platform like Alibaba.com that provides services for companies to transact with millions of other businesses worldwide are prime examples of B2B companies.

What differentiates B2B from B2C?

Business-to-business sales are very distinct from business-to-consumer sales. The easily identifiable difference is that B2C involves the sales of a product or service from a business directly to consumers. Here are some other distinctions between B2B and B2C sales:

  1. More decision-makers are involved: All sales reps have to do in B2C sales is to connect with individual consumers. B2B sales are a different ballgame. Not only do you or your sales team have to appeal to ‘logic’, but there are also usually several company personnel across various departments before sales may be finalized.
  2. More considerable order value and transactions: Clients in B2C trades often buy in units for consumption. Consumer sales in B2B are usually more significant, of course, because businesses buy in bulk. Bulk sales equate to higher sales and profits.
  3. Longer sales cycle: Admittedly, it is often faster to complete sales in B2C than in B2B. Unlike B2C, there are usually no ‘emotional,’ or impulse buys in B2B sales. Since the sale is to businesses and more stakeholders are involved, transactions generally take a longer time to conclude. B2B buyers have to take their time to weigh their options and make a logical decision.
  4. Fluid pricing: Fixed prices per product are typical of B2C sales. A buyer in B2C interested in getting multiple products will often multiply the fixed price by the number of the quantity. B2B sales are not usually like this. There are more pronounced negotiation processes in B2B sales.
  5. Complex payment process: In B2C sales, consumers often pay upfront or immediately after taking delivery of the goods or services. This is not usually the case in B2B transactions. In B2B, payment processes are to be filled, and an invoice is customarily issued for a later payment schedule.

Overall, B2B sales, like B2C, has its good points and not-so-good points. For businesses whose target market are other businesses or for companies looking to sell more, B2B sales may be a better alternative.

How the B2B sales process works

Business-to-business sales have their path. It’s not often the same instant you get a potential business that sales are concluded. B2B marketers often refer to the B2B sales process as a ‘funnel’. Over the past couple of years, sales (B2B or B2C) have evolved. There’s now more access to information as a result of digital transformation.

Unlike before, B2B sales now involve more people. The era of one person or just a couple of people making decisions on whether to make a purchase is far behind. Now, all the decision-making personnel have to be convinced before sales can be finalized. Also, as mentioned earlier, buyers are now more educated due to access to relevant information on the internet. Even more so, the competition is on a steady growth. As a business, you have to understand your target businesses and position your company to solve their business problems.

But first, an insight into the business buying process is required. Here’s a step-by-step guide on B2B sales strategies.

Step #1: Research

Well, businesses are out there that you can transact with. But it’s not like the companies are lining up on your doorstep. The first step in the B2B sales process is generating leads. How do you find the business prospects to sell to? Several strategies can be used in this process, depending on your business and the industry you’re in. Direct and indirect marketing, or inbound and outbound lead generation, are effective tactics.

  • Research your competition

    The easiest way to get an understanding is by researching your competitors or businesses that sell similar products. Finding out the unique selling proposition is ideal. What makes a brand stand out from the others? Why do consumers prefer a particular brand over others? Importantly also, why should a lead quality you over other brands that market similar products?

    Other relevant business sales points to note are the brand voice, products, or pricing of your competitors. Once you find this out, compare it with the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) of your business.

  • Know your target market

    The next step involves identifying your audience or leads. Go about this by creating a profile dossier. This starts with researching the business niche and creating a catalog of potential leads based on demography (age, gender, income, etc.), company role, business goals and objectives, challenges, and interests.

    Here are some questions that need answers:

    • What are their business stresses?
    • What solutions do your products provide for their business?
    • How do your business goals align with theirs?
    • What are they currently doing that isn’t working?

    Getting a clear insight into your market, competition, and potential leads are essential parts of the B2B sales funnel.

Step #2: Generating leads (prospects)

E-commerce has made this a little bit easier. The main goal of having an online presence is to grow your business and generate leads, which will, in turn, lead to sales. Using an inbound marketing strategy is one of the strategies to employ. You can create relevant content and promote your business on blogs and social media. An inbound system will allow you to attract new leads through your website visitors.

Likewise, email signatures can be used to promote your company’s services and attract new leads.

Step #3: Qualifying B2B leads

The fact is that not all leads are worth pursuing. Not knowing the ones to follow will cost you time as well as resources. After identifying the leads, you still have the big task of sorting them out and determining the viable leads to establish communication with.

Sorting the wheat from the chaff requires a ‘score system’ based on several criteria. A customer relationship management (CRM) system can help you score the prospects and rank them on their levels of viability.

Step #4: Nurturing the prospects

Now that you’ve identified your viable leads, how do you proceed? The next step involves nurturing the prospects and preparing them for a B2B pitch. This process is about building a relationship, gaining the trust of the prospects, and positioning your business as an authority in your niche.

Traditionally, in the past, cold-calling was the way to go. As a salesperson, you call the numbers of identified leads and try to pitch them your business. Cold-calling is still in practice and has its success rates. Nonetheless, technology has offered various other options to get across to leads. One of these is search engine optimization (SEO). Asides from social media engagements, email targeting is also one of the viable options. You get to mail the decision-makers of your prospects and pitch them value for their business.

Step #5: Preparing to make a proposal

Getting in touch with a prospect isn’t about pitching your products immediately. This is a mistake commonly made. An effective way to go about this process is by first getting to know the other business and how your product can particularly help them. Preparing to propose is a vital B2B sales process. The initial contacts may have progressed with little success. The key is not to give up. Here are a couple of tips for this process:

  • The warmest leads get the priority: Ordinarily, the businesses you have a cordial relationship with will take preference.
  • A little…

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