B2B (business to business) and B2C (business to consumer) sales obviously have a lot of basic similarities. Everyone needs to find some prospects to sell to, present the products and services, and seal the deal through a closing action.
However, for those making the transition from selling to individual consumers; and to selling to groups of people in a business, it can be a bit of a culture shock to shift to B2B. Here are some of the things you can expect.
Longer sales cycle
Whereas a B2C sales cycle can take minutes, B2B sales often take weeks or months. In fact, it is estimated that more than two-thirds of B2B sales take three months or longer to close. That is a long time to wait for a commission check!
The truth is that salespeople involved in B2B must plan for an extended dry period in their cash flow when starting out. However, once a pipeline is built, the financial rewards are often far greater than can ever be accomplished with B2C sales. So the key is to build up some reserves and hang in there until deals start to close.
Here are some of the factors that extend the average B2B sales cycle
- Research. A lot of research has to go into each prospect company before the first contact is made.
- Developing coaches. You need to develop people that can grease the wheels for you and help you get the appointment.
- Wooing. It takes month to build a relationship with a prospect, even using coaches. This involves lunches, sporting events, and more.
- Bureaucracy. B2B salespeople must deal with several layers of approval for large ticket items. The deal is never closed until the check or wire transfer clears.
- Complexity. If B2B sales were easy, everyone would be doing them. However, B2B sales often involve selling products and services with a lot of moving parts, and making this complexity understandable and acceptable to the prospect is what earns the salesperson his or her commission.
Formal sales processes take on much greater importance
As shown above, a lot goes into the B2B sales cycle. Corporate sales divisions are therefore well-served by establishing formal sales processes in order to keep a team on track and provide the best opportunity to close a sale.
No shortcuts here: executives, sales managers, and their teams have to work out exactly how they approach prospects, the information they need beforehand, how to determine the feasibility of each deal, how to bridge their efforts with the marketing folks, closing approaches, developing metrics, CRM policies, etc. To do otherwise is to throw away opportunity and money.
We offer training on a 20-step sales process to capture new business that can be modified for any B2B sales organization.
Focus on Productivity
With few exceptions, the entire point of B2B sales is to help your clients and customers make more money themselves. You are forming a sort of partnership with the buyer, and in many cases salespeople and the companies they represent are handed over entire aspects of a customer’s operation to manage.
This requires in depth knowledge of the buyer’s business, as well as having a firm grip on “the numbers.” You need to know the expected ROI, and be prepared to deliver those results or be “fired” and replaced by another firm.
The benefit is that, unlike B2C, a B2B partnership can result in plenty of revenue for years to come. In fact, some firms can live richly from the money that comes in from just a handful of clients.
BONUS: For you content marketers out there, check out more on B2B sales vs. B2C sales as they relate to content marketing with this video on the Content Marketing Institute website.