Jessica La

What Are B2B Sales? Definition, Process, and Winning Techniques (2023)

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The name B2B comes from Business to Business, meaning that the end client is another business, not an individual. 

Selling to other companies can be different from selling to normal, everyday people. You can’t rely on emotion or impulsive decisions like many e-commerce businesses do. Instead, you need to prove to the clients that your company is worth the investment and will improve the way their company functions in the long run. 

If you’re considering getting into B2B sales, keep reading to understand what that is in detail, the usual process, and how you can get better at it! 

What Does B2B Sales Mean?

B2B or business-to-business sales is the model where a business sells its products or services to another business. Like other sales models, B2B sales is about selling solutions to problems. But in this case, you’re solving a company’s problem. 

The B2B selling process involves an entire sales team (reps, SDRs, sales engineers, etc.) to close a deal. 

Here’s An Example of B2B Sales

A company like Nielsen that sells research services to other companies makes B2B sales. Similarly, a management consulting firm like McKinsey & Company that advises institutions makes B2B sales. 

Regarding tangible products, consider Dell, a multinational tech company that sources processors from Intel to manufacture their desktops and tablets. The transactions between the two companies are B2B sales. 

B2B Sales vs B2C Sales: What’s the Difference?

As mentioned, B2B sales occur when companies target their sales to other businesses. On the other hand, business-to-consumer sales are made by companies that target their sales to everyday consumers who purchase products and services for personal use or as a gift. 

Unlike selling to individual consumers, B2B sales is a different game. You deal with multiple stakeholders who are very corporate and closed mouth. And such transactions have longer sales cycles – it could take months to close a deal. 

Compare that to B2C sales, where the end customer is the only decision maker and is free and laid back. Most of the time, there is no need for a salesperson as the customer has done some research or impulsively buys on the spot. 

Business clients, however, need a lot of persuasion, making the sales cycle quite long.

So how do B2B salespeople manage to hit their quotas? 

By having multiple deals in their sales pipeline. 

Further still, B2B buyers are logical professionals who want to see an investment’s ROI, while B2C buyers mostly make purchasing decisions based on emotions. 

So, B2B sales teams need to show how their solution will impact a company’s bottom line – the cost of solving the problem and the cost of not solving it.

If you want to know more about the differences between B2B and B2C, I’ve covered them in another article. 

How the B2B Sales Process Works 

The B2B sales process starts with having qualified leads, and then contacting them with personalised pitches. After getting a response, you work closely with your team and the potential prospect to build a business case for the solution you’re offering.

Don’t follow up five times if the prospect delays. Instead, nurture them and build rapport during the stretched-out buying journey. Once they’re ready to buy, act fast!

Let’s dive deeper into this process: (If you have a list of target accounts and their contact information, jump to step 3).

1. Find Your Potential Buyers

It all begins with finding the right people. Since the steaks are much higher with B2B, sales professionals need to spend a lot of time on their sales prospecting process and ensure that all of the people there have a high chance of becoming paying clients.

You probably already know about creating a Buyer Persona, and there is actually a similar thing called the Ideal Customer Profile (ICP). 

The easiest way to create an ICP is to communicate with your customer-facing departments. And if it turns out to be a very long list, prioritize the customers with a high lifetime value. Then analyze the data to identify the following attributes:

  • Industry 
  • Revenue 
  • Budget
  • Company size 
  • Location
  • Needs/pain points

Next, find companies that fit your ICP. You can manually search for companies on Google or LinkedIn. If you’re selling a SaaS product, you can find leads on review sites like G2 and Capterra. And if looking for startups, you can also look at databases like Angelist and Crunchbase. You can also contact authors (decision makers) from Medium or other blogs. 

Generating B2B leads is a tedious but worthwhile process – because you need to find the right company. If it’s a lot of work, it’s better to outsource the process than buy a list of generic B2B leads. 

LinkedIn Sales Navigator is my preferred lead generation tool because besides finding the company information, you also see the decision-makers titles and contact information.

After this process, you should have a long list of leads categorized by their customer journeyAwareness, Consideration, and Decision

B2B sales: customer journey

Why? 

No amount of cold emailing or follow-ups will push a decision-maker to buy if they’re not ready to buy. The potential customers in the awareness and consideration stages need some more convincing or time. 

As I mentioned previously, take the time to build rapport and educate them until they’re ready to buy. My B2B content marketing guide covers how to use compelling content to push prospects down the buying journey. 

In the next steps, I’ll focus on the prospects ready to buy. 

2. Determine Your Outreach Channels

After determining the company’s key decision-maker, find out how to contact them through their shared social platforms, email, or phone. 

Look, a McKinsey study on how US businesses win new customers found that email marketing is 40 times more effective than Facebook and Twitter combined

B2B sales - Email, Facebook and Twitter comparison chart

Source

And a more recent study found that 80% of B2B buyers prefer to be contacted via email and 49% prefer phone calls. So phone calls are a second favorite after cold emails

But there are no hard and fast rules here. We know sales and marketing are about experimenting until you get it right.

If you’re a known industry leader and your LinkedIn profile shows it, you’ll be glad to know that 92% of B2B buyers engage with thought leaders. Obviously, if the prospect has not been active for 6 months+ on LinkedIn, you wouldn’t message them on LinkedIn.

Whichever channel you choose, personalization is key (more on this below). 

Many prospecting and b2b database tools can help you get all the information you need about your prospects. 

3. Pitch the Potential Buyers

B2B sales involve educated buyers who engage with informed sellers. So sales professionals aim to provide insights about the prospect’s businesses from the get-go, relying on previous research. 

The least you can do to personalize your pitch is address the prospect by their name. But you can do more, i.e., show exactly how your product/service solves a problem that the prospect’s company has.

In the first conversation, a salesperson aims to understand what the prospect cares about. Is this a problem that the company wants to solve?

Here’s a sample sales script when cold calling a B2B prospect (Source: Hubspot). 

Salesperson: “Hello, [Prospect name]. My name is … and I help hiring managers like you reduce the time it takes to interview, hire, and onboard new talent in 50% less time than the industry average. How many new hires do you have planned for the year?”

Prospect: “Well, my department has the budget for seven new hires in 2019.”

Salesperson: “What’s your biggest pain point in the hiring process right now?”

Prospect: “I’ve got a million other things going on, and finding qualified candidates has been a challenge. We need to get these positions filled, but I’m having a hard time making it a priority with everything else on my plate.”

Salesperson: “I hear that a lot. I’d love to set up a 10-minute call to learn more about your goals this year and share how Recruiters International might be able to help. What about this Thursday?”

Prospect: “Um, sure. I think I’ve got an 11:00 open.” 

Now calling senior management prospects means you have to go through a receptionist or personal assistant. In that case, you don’t want to sound like another salesperson. Instead, sound like an executive as you ask the receptionist to transfer your call. 

If contacting them via email, keep it brief, concise, and straightforward. It means that the potential buyer sees the relevance of your product/service to their company from your message. 

Below’s a sample B2B sales email that got a 57% open rate and 16 new clients. 

B2B sale: Email sample

Source

It works because:

  • The subject line is compelling – “10x [company] traction in 10 minutes;
  • There’s a compelling offer – the salesperson is about to share an idea that tripled a client’s monthly run rate;
  • It has social proof.

4. Close the Deal

Closing deals in the B2B space is easier with calls because you’ll get immediate feedback and move the process forward. Compare that to sending an email and waiting for weeks to get a reply. You’ll likely end up sending follow-up emails to the entire (prospect’s) department, even though none of them are decision-makers. 

The two main things in closing business-to-business sales are:

  • Working closely with your team to get things done quickly;
  • Building a solid business case – benefits, costs, and risks of implementing your solution, plus the risk of not solving the problem.

Here’s a rough process:

  • In the second conversation (after getting a response to your pitch), determine what the prospect’s company wants to accomplish and its priorities. Then set an expected timeline for solving their concern.
  • In the next conversation, determine how the company measures success. What do the leaders need to see to consider the investment a win? 
  • You’ll discuss your pricing and the business case in the fourth call. Note that you started building the business case from the start. Here, you help the prospect make a decision. What’s preventing them from solving their problem? Will they choose your solution? 

In the process, you’ll communicate with multiple stakeholders and introduce them to your leadership team. You’ll also send over legal documents for review and get all other processes done quickly from your end. 

5. Check in with your Customer

After closing a deal, give the company time to work with your solution. Then, get their feedback about your products or services. The goal is to get actionable insights to improve your solution or sales process.

Below is a sample survey. 

B2B Sales - sample survey

Source

As I wrap this up, here are final tips for B2B sales:

  • Align your sales budget with the company’s financial goals; 
  • Train your sales and marketing teams. (Hire an external consultant);
  • Research your potential client;
  • Use a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool to keep track of the leads and analyze the sales funnel;
  • Don’t forget LinkedIn is a global networking and good sales tool;
  • Don’t sell a product or service; instead, sell a relationship;
  • Focus on leads that are likely to become customers;
  • Learn to accept a “No” as an answer. 

B2B sales are easier if you’re a subject matter expert in the niche you’re selling in and have a network of professionals who can refer you.

Final Thoughts On B2B Sales

To sum up, B2B sales is the process of selling products or services to other businesses. The main things to keep in mind when making B2B sales are to focus on building a strong business case and relationship with the customer, as well as being knowledgeable about what you’re selling. 

It might look overwhelming and scary, but at its core, you’re still just trying to help people by solving their problems. Don’t be obsessed with the sale and instead, focus on how you can be useful to the prospect. 

If the relationship is right, things will work out as they should! 

Good Luck!

Jessica La 

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Thanks for reading!

Jessica La

Content Marketing Consultant

Hi, I’m Jessica 👋 — I work with SaaS companies to implement effective Content Marketing strategies to drive organic blog growth and conversions.

 I’m greatly enthusiastic about building content driven by data and meaningful human narratives.

For me, it goes beyond reducing storytelling to brand data – I’m a stickler for uncovering the ‘why’ so that your product is noticed by the people who care.

ByJessicaLa was created as an experimental playground for SEO, Content, and Link Building. 

I write practical content that serves marketers, bloggers, and industry leaders.

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