What is B2B sales and what does a successful growth driving sales process entail? If you’re not sure, then this podcast and post are for you. We’ll explore how a buyer-centric approach can help your organization grow.
A buyer-centric experience means that your customers are always connected to brands through every channel they use – social media, mobile apps, online browsing, etc. This allows companies to create a more personal and engaging experience with their customers than ever before. But it also requires an entirely new set of skillsets for marketers, sales teams, and managers alike. In a constantly evolving environment discover what it takes to succeed in the world of B2B sales.
What is B2B Sales?
B2B sales is the process of buying for companies that do business with other companies. It’s not a category but a practice. It covers the buying process of companies who purchase products and services from other companies.
This can include:
What is B2B sales examples?
Looking at B2B sales examples helps to understand better what B2B sales are about. Put simply, any company that sells services or products to other companies is engaged in B2B sales. For example:
- Tire manufacturers sell their products to automakers.
- Supermarkets buy produce from farms in bulk to resell to consumers at a profit.
- Law firms that handle corporate cases.
- Marketing agencies sell their services to eCommerce firms to develop their brand strategy and content.
What is the sales process?
B2B selling usually comprises a process that necessitates a well-planned and executed sales strategy to be successful because of the number of people involved and the complexity of issues that need to be addressed.
While the sales process is specific, it can also utilize various sales techniques to address the needs of these buyers’ various personas, situations, and environments.
The sales process is not defined by a specific number or the stages’ names. They will vary depending on the industry you’re in and your sales team preferences. That said, most sales processes usually have 5 to 8 stages
Here’s is a breakdown of 7 parts to a B2B sales cycle:
- Assessment of Needs
- Sales Pitch/Presentation
- Handling Objections/Negotiation
B2B sales job description
The B2B market is a complex and often high-pressure environment. Deals typically require multiple touchpoints, decision-makers with varying requirements for information or input from vendors/sellers side of things; channels- not to mention the competition from other companies around them!
These people have to possess personal traits like empathy, strong communication skills, and selling techniques – this includes knowing different types of technologies used by companies AND internal policies within your target client base if you’re trying to break into new accounts.
What is a B2B sales development representative?
The B2B sales representative specializes in building relationships with corporate decision-makers to sell their product or service.
B2B sales reps are professional negotiators who are masters at the art of gaining the trust of potential customers and recommending solutions that are relevant for them. They do this by following a playbook based on their team’s unique selling process, which includes skills like calling or emailing potential buyers and social media messaging to encourage them to find value with what you have for them!
Are there different types of B2B sales development representatives (SDRs)?
There are several different types within the sales profession, but they all have one thing in common: to get more customers for their company. Whether it is through Inside or Outside Sales Reps, roles can depend on what your needs happen to be; whether you need someone who specializes more in Inbound Strategies vs. Outgoing Revenue Generation tactics. Areas of focus can also be specific like lead development, technical sales, business development, etc.
The level at which these individuals work also varies- Junior represents just that – junior professionals focus mainly on raising awareness among prospects rather than actively persuading them. At the same time, Senior seems aimed towards giving advice tailored specifically around each client’s unique challenges.
Account Executives (AE’s) are sometimes called “sales reps,” but we will only be talking about SDRs for this article.
What does a typical day for a B2B sales rep look like?
On a typical day, B2B sales representatives will be engaging leads in their pipeline over one or more channels (web, mobile and social media). They’ll make calls to prospective clients that are stored within an organized stream of potential customers called “the Sales Pipeline.” After researching prospects for new business opportunities throughout the course of a given workweek using a specific CRM software program like ExactTarget’s Salesforce Companion Toolkit, which automatically updates based on user behavior patterns determined by how these people interact both internally among employees who use similar technologies but yet remain unique entities unto themselves individually calibrated specifically towards meeting each person’s needs.
Why are B2B sales reps important?
Sales reps can be seen as customer-facing professionals who directly contribute to relationship-building, revenue, and portfolio growth. Their sales pipelines are often a reflection of the prospects and profitability of their company. In other words, their performance is tied to their company’s survival.
“A rep is not just someone you hire; they are your most valuable assets.” -Anonymous.
The sales process is complex in the B2B space, and without the right people to handle it, your company may never get off the ground. Without competent professionals in this field who can guide prospects through each stage from beginning all the way until they become customers – revenue opportunities will slip by unnoticed and maximizing profitability becomes elusive.
What is a B2B sales funnel?
A B2B sales funnel is a general model that explains a buyer’s steps during a buying process. The B2B sales funnel is different from the sales process for B2B companies, which often approach selling from their own point of view.
To be more specific, a B2B sales funnel is a set of steps used to classify how close a person or account is to making a buy decision for marketing and sales teams.
In other words, the sales funnel is often used to show how close a person is to or how likely they are to make a purchase based on key behaviors, actions, and or emotions a future customer goes through during the buying journey.
If you want to sell something to a business, you have to go through seven key steps that most funnels have in common. here are some of the common ones we’ve found:
How to facilitate B2B sales?
The B2B sales approach needs to consider several factors, including the seller’s ability, the effectiveness of the sales process, the product fit, the available alternatives, and the buyer’s ability and willingness to buy.
To bring all of these parts together, a business brand will need to:
- First, build a B2B sales strategy that can quickly adapt to changes in the business world.
- Their teams and ideal customers need to determine which B2B sales techniques are best for them and their teams.
- The company makes playbooks and sequences for sales reps that are well-balanced.
- Measure and improve how well you do.
What is B2B sales experience?
Inbound Lead Qualification
The process generally starts with the marketing department generating demand and leads from trade exhibits, email marketing, advertising, and other channels. A sales development representative (SDR) would then qualify these inbound leads before turning a qualified lead over to an account executive (AE) to progress the conversation and or a demo.
Many B2B sales teams have outbound-focused salespeople. These outbound SDRs (hunters) find potential customers via cold outreach, which includes phone calls, emails, social media outreach, and more. They regularly send messages out in a sequence until they have established a dialogue with a possible buyer. Then, an AE will schedule a demo when the outbound SDR qualifies the buyer.
Experiencing a B2B Demo
This is where the AE learns how to assist the potential client effectively. Asking questions to understand the prospect’s problems and collaborating with them to find possible solutions. Great B2B AEs develop rapport, overcome objections, come up with creative solutions, and most importantly, listen well. A great demo is part art and science.
Going from demo to sale
After a successful demo, an AE might have someone to champion/advocate the solution within the account’s organization. The AE could then empower the champion to make an internal case for adopting the solution.
The fact remains that buyers often have to make a series of decisions. To facilitate this B2B, salespeople should enable their future customers to make the required decisions through collateral, education, calculators, etc., during each stage of the buyer’s journey. AE’s often work with the marketing department to produce tailored content and collateral to allow for this.
Signed contracts don’t mark the end of the sales process. Customer success reps will then need to work with customers to assist in helping them gain the most out of the product and achieve value from its use. This is critical to keep customers and expand their customer base.
It’s not unusual for a customer to sign up for a small deal and then have that increase over time as they find success in using the product or service.
The idea is to start with a small deal, ensure the customer’s success, and gradually increase the deal size. Smart B2B organizations know that their best salespeople are often their own customers. Therefore, customers who share their own case studies and are willing to testify to their experience are priceless.
Hearing from a sales rep is nice, but hearing from a customer like a Fortune 500 executive praising a solution will be far more effective when communicating value to another business executive.
B2B Sales Techniques
There are so many frameworks and B2B sales techniques to choose from. So it can be hard to pick one. There are many different ways to get your customers to buy from you. Not all of them will be right for you. Some techniques could work well in a particular industry but not in others.
A few different B2B sales techniques that businesses could use are:
- Solution Selling
- The Challenger Sale
- Account-Based Sales
- Value Selling
- The Sandler Selling system
How do you decide which is a good fit?
Decide on and track important metrics or key performance indicators (KPIs). These should be metrics that speak directly to business objectives, including profitability, long-term sustainability, and efficiency.
The metrics you pick can then inform the strategy and sales techniques used. Metrics you pick can also indicate an individual sales performance and highlight market trends.
Sales KPIs for B2B sales are usually:
- Quota attainment rate
- Average deal size
- Sales velocity
- New leads generated per month
- Win rate
B2B Sales Tips
As you look to create a successful sales process, a few tips could help:
- Personalizing the way you communicate has never been more important. So leverage technology wisely to help scale your communication activities.
- B2B buyers want to work with people who have a lot of experience and show that they care. Therefore, provide ongoing sales training to help your salespeople hone their skills.
- Developing good human skills, including active listening and asking appropriate questions, is key to building real connections with future customers and developing an omnichannel strategy.
- Sales enablement and sales operations are different functions and could be run by different teams.
- Using automation tools and CRMs is a fairly common practice. Still, sales enablement technology can also help create better playbooks and drive better decision-making with the data that can be made available.
- Encourage, keep track of, and share positive customer feedback, case studies, and reviews with your sales team.
- Ensure that all customer-facing units, including marketing and sales, are working together strategically and tactically.
What’s the difference between B2B outside sales reps and B2B inside sales reps?
Salespeople in B2B sales have traditionally worked outside of an office because they meet with customers and prospects or speak at an event. Inside salespeople, however, connect with customers from afar by cold calling, emailing, and meeting with them in person.
Inside salespeople close deals having never met their customers in person, whereas outside sales reps tend to close sales during or soon after one or more in-person client meetings.
This difference between these reps lies in their customer’s expectations and the skills and selling processes required. Outside salespeople are required to present and pitch better than most inside salespeople, but beyond that, they both require similar levels of product knowledge, shared sales processes, tools, etc.
In the past couple of years, the distinctions between inside and outside sales have become even harder to make out as outside sales reps have started to use the same ways of communicating and sales strategies that inside salespeople use.
What is B2C sales, and how is it different from B2B sales?
Business to Consumer (B2C) sales is when a company sells its products directly to the end-user (individual consumer).
It refers to any sales procedure in which services or products are sold directly to consumers. For example, a clothing retailer like Cotton On. B2C company examples include:
- Companies like Amazon and Zappos sell directly to consumers.
- Online intermediaries, such as Amazon, who function as a link between retailers and customers, are becoming increasingly popular.
- Advertising sales model in which websites are established to generate greater traffic by serving targeted advertisements to people
- Subscription fee-based models, such as Netflix, provide customers with on-demand material in exchange for a monthly fee.
Business-to-business or B2B sales typically involve a decision-making process that necessitates the approval of more than one person.
Business to consumer, or B2C sales, refers to the sale of products to a single consumer.
In other words, Business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) sales differ in the type of customers they sell to. B2B companies sell to other businesses. B2C companies sell directly to consumers or specific consumer market segments.
The following are the primary distinctions between B2B sales and B2C sales:
B2B services and products are generally more expensive than many retail goods.
B2C businesses have a much larger potential customer base than B2B businesses. The former tend to target thousands if not millions of customers, whereas the B2B pool of target customers may only be a few hundred.
The complexity of the sales process.
The B2B customer base requires time and consensus before making a purchase decision, so salespeople need to maintain a predictable pipeline of deals. As such, these prospects need close collaboration with external and internal stakeholders to function properly – though some AEs source their own opportunities! As a result, B2B AEs frequently rely on marketing teams and sales development reps (SDRs) to ensure a steady pipeline of new qualified leads to work with.
The number of decision-makers.
A single person must sign off on a B2C transaction, whereas with B2B transactions, several decision-makers must agree before a deal can be reached. According to Gartner, a complex B2B buying group consists of 6-10 decision-makers. So why do B2B sales need so many decision-makers? Imagine a new CMO wants a costly marketing automation system. She may consult her team before making a decision. After agreeing on a solution, she must gain the CFO’s approval on the budget. A CIO or Chief Data Officer may also be contacted to guarantee compatibility with existing technologies. In small-to-medium-sized businesses, a CEO may even be active in purchasing.
The rate of sales.
Because of the nature of the buying process, B2B sales cycles are longer than B2C sales. Almost every B2B salesperson has been frustrated by the length of sales cycles at some point. Why? According to CSO Insights, three-quarters (74.6%) of B2B sales take four months or more to close.
To succeed, B2B salespeople employ complex and measurable sales processes. That’s not to say that B2C sellers don’t need to improve their sales skills and processes, but they can do in a relatively easier buying process environment.
For B2B companies, customer service, customer experience, and customer success are elements that need to be nailed down to extend and increase their customers’ lifetime value.
B2B Sales Challenges
B2B businesses face many common challenges. These include:
- Misalignment of sales objectives and marketing objectives
- Competition for a small number of prospective clients
- A reluctance to adopt change, including technology
- A culture and sales mindset that is not aligned to support business objectives and or customer needs
- Gaps in seller skills/training
How is B2B Sales Changing?
The world of B2B sales is constantly evolving. At times, it is hard to distinguish between inside and outside sales, and good practices such as personalization and customer experience are becoming more common in business-to-business transactions.
Sales enablement platforms, for example, are already being adopted as they have proven to be crucial for business sustainability. The buyer-centricity that Tom talks about in the podcast is converging with developments in technology to cater to the evolving needs of buyers. Unlike before, sales teams benefit from AI and machine learning to scale both customer engagement and drive revenue growth.
It remains to be seen how the pandemic and other factors, a few of which we mentioned above, will affect B2B sales in the long run. However, one major trend will be seeing more of a shift from salespeople traveling to in-person meetings to more virtual meetings.
How is B2B Sales Changing?
A Redefined B2B Buyer’s Journey
Research from Gartner says B2B sales are becoming more complex. The average buyer’s recent B2B transaction was complex (77%). So what? Gartner highlighted changes in the B2B Buyer’s Journey based on rising complexity. They currently identify the buyer’s journey as having six stages: According to Gartner research, consumers must complete six B2B buying “jobs” to make a purchase:
- Identifying problems. “What are the issues that need to be solved.”
- Examining options. “How can we solve our issue?”
- Specifying requirements. “What does the solution we purchase need to do?”
- Vendor selection. “Does the vendor and their solution do what we want to be solved?”
- Validation. “We think we know the right answer, but we need to be sure.”
- Consensus building. “We need all decision-makers to be onboard.”
According to Gartner, the B2B sales cycle has grown less linear. As more prospects perform their own research, they form their own unique buyer journey, often revisiting prior stages of the journey.
The illustration below from Gartner of the b2b sales process flowchart provides insight into the looping behavior that B2B buyers often take nowadays.
The Shift to Account-Based Sales
A new emphasis on account-based selling has also changed B2B sales (and marketing) (ABS). ABS selects accounts based on a range of qualifying factors. After choosing which accounts to target, sales and marketing typically work together to drive demand and set up meetings with key buyers (important prospects in key and decision-making roles) at the target firms.
B2B sales enbalement tools
Even when B2B sales procedures get more sophisticated, success is more accessible than ever. As a result, B2B organizations are regularly streamlining sales procedures, accelerating new rep onboarding, and coaching teams more effectively. Here are some of the most effective sales enablement solutions available.
A sales dialler is a tool that allows salespeople to dial more contacts, interact with them, and convert them into paying clients. While B2C telemarketers frequently employ autodialers, B2B sales teams prefer dialers that provide more sales-centric features, such as the following:
- Voicemail automation
- Local area code dialing
- Automatic data logging in CRM
- Contextual information from various sources
- Calendar integration
Guided Selling Solutions
Guided Selling solutions go one step further than dialers by providing reps with information that exposes in real-time which prospects or accounts to contact and how to contact them (whether by phone, email, text, or social media).
Conversation intelligence systems use artificial intelligence to discover calls based on essential characteristics automatically. For example, a conversation intelligence solution such as ConversationAI may automatically identify calls in which reps talk over prospects excessively, calls in which significant competitors are referenced, and many other types of conversations.
Account Engagement Platforms
Using account-based engagement tools such as 6Sense and DemandBase, sales and marketing teams may collaborate more effectively to convert target accounts. These platforms include many tools that assist businesses in identifying target accounts, assessing customer intent, and other tasks.
Real-time coaching is one of the most recent advancements assisting B2B sales teams in converting more customers into paying customers. As crucial terms are recognized during calls, real-time solutions can dynamically provide reps with valuable guidance and content that will help them be more effective.
Create a better sales process
Answering the question of what is business to business sales leads to a better sales process.
The reality is that the buyer’s journey has changed over the past decade, and as a result, so have the needs of buyers. There are now three distinct stages in that process – needs recognition, consideration, purchase decision.
To help you better understand these phases and how to sell more effectively at each stage of this evolving sales cycle I suggest Tom’s framework for selling based on Jobs-To-Be-Done theory which is “a customer development model designed to map out what customers really want from products or services by looking beyond simple demographics like age, gender or income level.”
This will allow you to take the pulse of your clients regularly throughout their buying process rather than waiting until they’ve made up their minds about who they should go with.
Thomas Williams is the founder of Strategic Dynamics Inc. Tom is also the author of “Buyer-Centered Selling: How Modern Sellers Engage & Collaborate with Buyers”.
Strategic Dynamics Inc is a firm that helps sales organizations sell more effectively by markedly improving their new hire candidate assessment process, sales productivity, and business acumen.
In this episode, Tom shares a modern perspective on what is B2B sales and how to create a successful sales process.
Some topics we discussed include:
- What is B2B sales
- How B2B sales have changed over the past decade
- The reality of changing buyer needs
- The framework for buyer-centered selling
- Why Tom incorporates the Jobs To Be Done framework
- How to take the pulse of your buyers at regular intervals
- Quick wins for a buyer centered selling approach
- The five commitments of collaboration
- and much more …
Listen to the episode
Related links and resources
- Check out Strategic Dynamics
- Get a copy of Buyer-Centered Selling: How Modern Sellers Engage & Collaborate with Buyers
- Get a copy of The Seller’s Challenge: How Top Sellers Master 10 Deal Killing Obstacles in B2B Sales
- Check out my interview with Michael Haynes – How to Drive Growth with a Buyer Driven B2B Sales Approach
- Listen to my interview with James Muir – How to Close a Sale: A Powerful Yet Proven 2 Step Process
- Accelerate your growth with this episode with Marcus Cauchi – How To Use Channel Sales Strategies To Drive Massive Growth
- Listen to my interview with Jeff Bajorek – 10 Critical Functions of Sales Management That Drive Business Growth
- Listen to Todd Caponi’s advice in this interview – How To Build Trust With Customers: 9 Rules To Abide By
Connect with Tom
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