While B2B sales differs from B2C sales in many ways, both sales strategies show a great deal of overlap. There is an overwhelming number of sales strategies available, but there are three key ones that are revitalizing the modern market and changing the ways successful companies plan.
What is B2B (Business to Business) Sales and How is it Changing?
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.
A Typical Business To Business Selling Process
Inbound Lead Qualification
A typical inbound B2B sales process might start with Marketing generating a portion of leads via forms, trade shows, email marketing, advertising and other channels. These inbound leads would then be qualified by an inbound-focused SDR. Often the lead will simply be disqualified based on a variety of factors. But when leads are qualified, the inbound-focused SDR would then turn the now sales-qualified lead over to the AE for a demo.
In many healthy B2B sales organizations there are also outbound focused reps. Using tactics like cold calling, cold emails, social media connections and more, these outbound SDRs (i.e. hunters) find potential prospects that fit ideal customer buying profiles. They often reach out in a cadence (that typically requires multiple touch points including calls, email, text and social) until they can initiate a conversation with a potential buyer. After qualifying this lead, the outbound SDR would then hand the buyer off to an AE for a demo.
The B2B Demo
During the B2B demo, the AE has to learn how to best help the prospective company. This involves asking questions, understanding prospect pain points and working with them to discover an ideal solution to those pain points (if one indeed exists). Great B2B AEs are masters at building rapport, overcoming objections, coming up with out-of-the-box solutions and above all, they are great listeners. Giving a great demo is part art form and part science. Here at Revenue.io we offer AI-based tools that help sales coaches uncover best practices that drive powerful outcomes during demos. So coaches can discover which best practices can be scaled across the entire team.
From Demo to Deal
If a demo goes well, then an AE will have an internal champion inside the customer company. The AEs job then is to empower that internal champion to do selling within the company to other key stakeholders. AEs will often collaborate with Marketing teams on decks, sales collateral, battlecards vs. key competitors (during competitive deals), ROI calculators and other collateral that helps move deals forward. One way to look at it is that buyers often have a series of buying jobs (e.g. calculating ROI). And B2B sellers should be enabling those buyers with tools to get their jobs done (e.g. an ROI calculator). Late in the sales cycle, during the contract phase, B2B deals typically go through Procurement and Legal prior to gaining approval.
When contracts are signed, this is hardly the end of a B2B sales cycle. Customer success reps (a hybrid between sales and support reps) often work with customers to ensure that they are successful with the product. This is key, because in B2B sales, customer retention and expansion are vital. In fact, many companies employ a business model entitled “Land and Expand.” The goal here is to sign a smaller deal upfront, ensure that the customer is successful and then grow the deal size steadily over time. Smart B2B companies realize that their most effective salespeople are often going to be their customers. A killer case study or testimonial can be absolute gold. After all, it’s one thing to hear how great a solution is from Joe Salesrep. But watching a video of a high-level executive at a Fortune 500 company sing the praises of a solution is going to be so much more powerful.
Want to fill your sales funnel?
There is an overwhelming number of B2B sales methodologies and frameworks to choose from. While they all claim to be effective, not all will fit your business, your sales organization, or your target customers. Some methods might work well for a specific industry but not others, while other methods succeed only if they fit the type of customer accounts in your portfolio.
To determine whether a B2B sales technique or a specific sales sequence positively impacts a business, sales organizations identify and measure key performance indicators (KPIs). KPIs are agreed-upon metrics used in assessing a sales organization’s performance in different areas such as profitability, sustainability, efficiency. They are also used to discover trends and to evaluate the productivity and performance of individual sellers.
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.