A complete guide to B2B sales

Alibaba.com SEPTEMBER 26, 20219 MIN READ
A complete guide to B2B sales

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 personalization helps: Your mails or contact must reflect your brand identity. Sending out generic messages will be less advantageous than sending personalized emails.
  • Follow up: Replying to emails when due and following up on leads increases your chances of moving a prospect to the next step.

This initial contact gives you a chance to evaluate each prospect and ascertain what they need. The conversations will help you determine how your business can help provide solutions to their business problems. This process is often a back-and-forth discussion. Both businesses have a clear understanding of their organization, but what is required is for both businesses to see how the other company can help theirs.

The back-and-forth discussions should be able to provide answers to these questions:

  • What are product problems the business faces?
  • When did the problem start, and how did they realize previous solutions weren’t effective?
  • What were the steps taken to solve the issues?
  • What solutions do they need?
  • Which stakeholders are involved in purchasing decisions?

Step #6: Pitching your products

All the steps above are to lead you towards making a pitch for your product. But here’s a fact: while you care about your products, the prospects aren’t too keen on that. The important thing is how your product can provide solutions and further help their business. That’s the area you have to key into. Pitching is all about showcasing how your product can deliver on viable business points.

Setting your pitch to fill the holes in your prospect’s business will increase your success rate. Showcasing impactful content that captures the attention of the prospects is ideal. The first significant way to do this is by creating captivating customer success stories. A positive track record and a history of meeting customers’ needs will further help lead your prospects towards sales.

Pitches can be made through pre-recorded video content or via live video conferences or meetings. However it is done, a sales pitch can make or mar all the efforts you’ve been putting in. It’s best to bring the A-game. Considerable time and effort have to be put into making a personalized sales pitch.

Step #7: Responding to queries

The B2B sales funnel is not a one-way process. It’s about your business and the other business working together. In the process or after a pitch, preparing to provide answers to queries is vital. As a fact, successful pitches are about involving the decision-makers and letting their questions guide your pitch. Pitches shouldn’t be about you talking about your product. It’s most importantly about advising the prospects about your alternatives that’ll help them achieve their goals and solve their problems.

Step #8: Sending the proposal

If you’re in this process, you’re close to clinching the sale. But you aren’t there yet. Your proposal plays a significant role in whether or not you’ll get to make sales. There are many tricks to sending a winning bid. One of these tricks includes creating ‘scenarios’ and various sales options for your prospects.

With just one viable option, the odds are stacked against you. Providing several choices means that your potential clients will have alternatives to choose from. This increases your chances of closing a deal.

Step #9: Follow-up the proposal

For B2B salespeople, the question is not about whether they should follow up or not; it’s about getting the timing right to follow up. When you do a follow-up too soon, you may risk looking desperate or bothering the prospect. Too late, well….

Knowing when to follow up requires a great deal of striking a balance between intuition and the knowledge you already have about the prospect.

What if your proposal gets rejected? Expecting all your bids to get accepted is unrealistic. Getting discouraged and ‘abandoning’ that prospect may be counterproductive. Getting rejected may mean the prospect is not ready to deal at the moment. Try to find out why your proposal was rejected. Also, stay in contact and keep them informed of your content. An initial “no” may later become a “yes”.

Step #10: Closing the B2B sale

Getting a “yes” is excellent. Finalizing the deal is even greater. This final process covers what you should do to ensure the success of the sales pipeline. To some B2B salespeople, this stage is seen as the most challenging funnel process. Your prospects are already leaning towards purchase.

It is not uncommon for some prospects to get cold feet and hesitate about closing the deal. Well, it happens to all consumers. This is not the time to leave things to chance. It may be best to find out the cause of the hesitation and then address their concerns. In some cases, it may only be that the prospect requires more time. Here, it is advisable not to appear like you’re rushing things. Until an actual sale is made, a prospect can drop out at any point.

Documenting an agreement after the sale is agreed upon is also vital to the process. Of course, a contract (or invoice) has to be drawn between the two businesses. Payment terms are some of the details that need to be documented in the sales contract.

Finalizing a sale doesn’t mean the B2B sales process has come to an end. Post-sale ethics require you to put more effort into customer retention. It is advisable to continue strengthening the business relationship between both businesses. Other than helping to boost retention rate, post-sale B2B tactics will also increase customer satisfaction and stimulate referrals.

5 tips for successful B2B sales

Building a business takes time. Overnight success is an unrealistic dream. Even though the sales funnel or process has identified critical paths and how to put your business at an advantage, here are five (5) tips for successful B2B sales.

  1. Take advantage of all channels to derive leads

    Seizing all available opportunities to derive sales is a positive business strategy. In B2B, deriving leads is essential. There are several routes you can take to achieve this goal. It is advisable to explore all available options or channels. Content marketing through websites, blog posts, social media marketing, email targeting, and even cold-calls are some identifiable ways to source leads.

  2. Focus more on building trust, not making sales

    No doubt, you’re in the business to make sales. But sales are not that easy to make. The trick to increasing your success rate is by putting more effort into building trust. In B2C sales, buyers are more likely to make rash decisions or quick purchases based on emotions. This is quite unlike B2B sales. In B2B transactions, decision-makers will generally take their time to find a trustworthy business they can work with.

    Meeting a prospect and immediately shoving your products across to them may be ill-advised. Building a business relationship with prospects takes time. Getting to know the particular solution your business can offer is an ideal way to start. Further, success stories, testimonials, and the value you offer will help strengthen the relationship.

  3. Be knowledgeable about your industry

    Buyers have more access to information on the internet; hence, prospects are now more educated than they used to be. As a B2B company, you need to know your stuff. The salesperson in business-to-consumer sales only has to convince individuals that often have limited or low expert opinion about a product.

    In B2B sales, your conversations will be with a designated personnel, business owner, or trade expert. It would be best if you were conversant with the required information to convince your prospects.

  4. B2B sales take more time and require patience

    B2B professionals estimate that it can take weeks, months, sometimes even years, before you can finalize sales with a prospect. Of course, there are several prospects in the sales pipeline, so the timing of the sales cycle will vary. The prospects will not rush to make a business decision. Trying to speed the process when you should build trust and relationships with the prospects will most likely lead to frustrations.

  5. Show that you can solve the business problem of the prospects

    As good as your products may be, it’s clear that potential clients are only interested in the solutions your products can provide for their own business. The prospects need to be convinced that your offer is ideal for them. Giving the decision-makers proof of this will help showcase your viability. Identifying past success with similar businesses will go a long way in moving the prospects to your side.

Sell on Alibaba.com

Most of the stress and complex B2B sales process can be eliminated if you choose to sell your products on a global e-commerce marketplace like Alibaba.com. The businesses are already available, so you don’t have to deal with looking for prospects. Alibaba.com gives you the visibility you need for your business.

Alibaba.com is an international platform that offers you access to millions of international buyers. The e-commerce platform provides you with the largest b2b platform where you can sell to millions of businesses worldwide. Sell your products here today.