B2B vs. B2C CRM: comparison of key differences

Alibaba.com JULY 04, 202217 MIN READ
B2B vs. B2C CRM: comparison of key differences

Customer satisfaction and business success go hand in hand. And when it comes to B2B sales, making the extra effort to build solid customer relationships can be even more worthwhile.

While CRM software provides the tools and capabilities to foster lasting customer partnerships, deciding which one to use is no easy task. Like most digital solutions available to companies, there are hundreds of CRMs to choose from.

Businesses must consider multiple factors, from price to features, support level, and business fit. As if that is not enough, they often wonder if they need a special B2B CRM or if any CRM with B2C capabilities will do.

Although B2B and B2C CRM systems aren’t all that different in terms of basic functionality and price, there are key differences you should know. This post explains all the important points and provides a handy list of the best B2B CRM software on the market today.

But first, let’s consider what B2B and B2C CRM are and the work they do.

What are B2B and B2C CRM?

CRM means customer relationship management. While the term refers to all activities involved in delivering valuable and helpful service to customers, it’s also typically used in relation to CRM tools.

CRM software is a popular choice for companies that want to elevate the customer experience with digital tools and an end-to-end process. And just as there are two main types of customers – B2B and B2C customers – there are also two primary CRM types.

  • B2C CRM: As the name implies, business-to-consumer (B2C) CRM tools cater to companies that sell directly to individual consumers. The distinctive feature of customers in this category is that they buy to consume, compared to B2B buyers who purchase to produce.
  • B2B CRM: Unlike B2C customer management tools, business-to-business (B2B) CRM is focused on selling to other businesses. B2B companies typically try to attract and engage with decision-makers in target companies, such as the CEO, procurement lead, or manager.

Having defined these terms, let’s turn next to the differences between them.

B2B vs B2C CRM

Differences between B2B and B2C CRM

At their core, B2B and B2C customer management tools have one purpose: to help you drive buyer engagement and sales. They often cover every aspect of the buyer journey, from lead generation to marketing, contact, negotiation, final sale, and customer service.

Despite their similarities, these tools are very different in design and application. Just as B2B and B2C transactions have different priorities, processes, and techniques, CRM tools also function differently when catering to B2B or B2C buyers.

We’ve explained some key differences between these CRM systems based on the characteristics of B2B vs. B2C deals.


In many ways, B2B deals are complex to initiate and conclude. Consequently, B2B CRMs offer functionality that assists with efficient customer and deal management at the level B2B companies require.

For instance, B2B companies may work with resellers, affiliates, and manufacturers. Each customer profile has different needs and buyer journeys, and the software must account for this.

B2B systems typically deal with these diverse pipelines by providing channel complexity. They offer the capability to track unrelated buyer journeys and segment client groups based on their characteristics or other factors unique to your company.

Comparably, B2C CRMs do not require that level of account complexity. Instead, there’s typically more straightforward segmentation based on customer demographic, buying stage, and lead quality. Although, it’s worth noting that B2C might also get pretty complex for companies with a wide and varied target market.

Additionally, B2B is uniquely account-driven and targets a group of contacts within each account, while B2C is more people-driven. B2B transactions typically include between 6-10 client contacts,1 all of whom have to align before a deal can be struck. Meanwhile, B2C is an individual matter, so the focus is on convincing one person to buy.

Deal sizes

B2B transactions are generally larger dollar-wise compared to B2C purchases. A single transaction at the B2B level might be worth millions of dollars. As a result, metrics like customer lifetime value will be measured differently in a B2B CRM.

On the other hand, metrics like repeat sales will be a bigger priority in B2C CRM since volume is a greater concern in small-dollar deals. Likewise, B2C firms will want greater functionality when it comes to supporting with upselling and cross-selling in B2C sales.

A B2C customer management tool will provide data insights that help showcase how customers interact with the company’s goods. Then, it will spotlight lateral or vertical sales opportunities through cross-selling or upsell.

B2B and B2C purchases are also fundamentally different in terms of deal number and flow. While B2B companies may have anywhere from tens to a few hundred transactions in the pipeline, you could have thousands to millions of prospects in a B2C CRM.

Therefore, B2C CRMs need to be able to support that deal volume. These products often come with serious processing power to deliver the insights and support companies need to manage millions of buyer experiences.

Marketing touchpoints

While there’s a common misconception that B2B CRM caters predominantly to sales and B2C primarily to marketing, you should know this is inaccurate. CRMs are not only sales tools; they’re also marketing-focused and sometimes deliver customer-service features. They provide high-level functionality that is designed to cover the whole buyer journey.

That said, B2B and B2C CRMs work differently in marketing. B2C CRMs are designed to accommodate the unique marketing considerations of B2C transactions, which have complex marketing needs.

B2C has multiple touchpoints in its marketing flow, with complex trigger-based drips and workflows. For example, leads may be nurtured with multiple email sequences, depending on their buying stage. At the same time, numerous social media campaigns – across various channels – may be running simultaneously.

Comparably, B2B CRMs rarely need this level of marketing complexity. For B2B marketers, selling to businesses is often like fishing for giant salmon with a harpoon. They take targeted actions and focus on specific leads rather than the “spray and pray” tactics common with B2C.

As a result, B2B CRMs might manage marketing across maybe four to five touchpoints, including email, phone calls, and long-form articles/whitepapers. While in comparison, B2C CRMs coordinate various marketing campaigns across multiple fronts.

Sales cycle length

Lastly, it’s worth remembering that B2B and B2C acquisitions have differing sales cycle lengths. B2B sales cycles are typically longer, lasting from months to years. Comparably, B2C sales cycles are predominantly short.

Purchases can start and successfully conclude in a few minutes to hours. However, B2C sales may last for days to a few weeks at their lengthiest, especially when accounting for lead nurturing and engagement stages.

Due to this, B2B and B2C software must come with the features that support their respective sales cycles. With B2B CRM systems, companies would want functionality that supports and improves the task of convincing an enterprise client over a lengthy period.

Intelligent features like focused sentiment and behavioral analysis can help firms tell when the buyer journey is going according to plan or where it needs improving.

In the same vein, B2C companies prefer to work with software that recognizes the lightning-fast nature of B2C transactions and supports them accordingly. There’s hardly need for a dedicated customer engagement tracking mechanism like B2B firms would prefer.

Instead, it may be enough to get a bird’s eye view of where buyer groups are in their purchase journey and how to steer them to purchase.

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Features comparison: B2B CRM v. B2C CRM

We’ve learned how CRMs operate differently in B2B and B2C transactions. But let’s take a deeper look into how these tools support firms in selling to customers.

Client management software often comes with loads of advertised capabilities. And while wading through the flashy adverts can be daunting, the trick is knowing what functions align with your firm’s business.

Here’s a comparison of features you’d want in a B2B CRM versus ordinary B2C CRM capabilities.

B2B CRM features

  • Account-based marketing: Account-based marketing or ABM is a marketing strategy that prioritizes only high-value, perfect-fit B2B leads. ABM is a powerful tool for B2B firms chasing high-value clients because it delivers outstanding results. Marketers (87%) say ABM outperforms other marketing strategies,2 improves customer lifetime value (80%)3 and boosts win rates (86%). So, it’s an important feature to have.
  • Contact management: B2B sales depend significantly on close contact with leads. So, your B2B CRM needs to provide robust contact management features. This should include the ability to maintain comprehensive contact records and a detailed view of communication activities across website, email, and social media.
  • Quote management: Quotes are a mainstay of B2B transactions. According to Salesforce, B2B sales reps spend over two-thirds of their time generating quotes, writing proposals, and gaining approvals. As a result, the best B2B CRMs provide seamless quote management software to help reduce that burden.
  • CPQ capabilities: While quote management tools do a fair job, market-leading CRMs include CPQ software that helps further accelerate and simplify the quote generation process. CPQ or “configure, price, quote” tools use integrated data to instantly assess, design and generate quotes.
  • Enhanced tracking: Asides from smart quote management features, B2B CRMs must be able to track buyer journeys intelligently. B2B sales cycles can get lengthy, with a lot of back and forth, so getting turned around in that process is easy. Intelligent tracking features help you stay current on the latest developments with a lead and next steps.
  • Automation: Automation is an indispensable capability in modern CRMs, so this should be an essential feature in your B2B system. Automation ensures that your sales and marketing activities proceed on schedule and nothing important goes undone.

B2C CRM features

  • Campaign tracking: As explained above, B2C transactions involve many cross-platform marketing and sales efforts, from loyalty programs to social media giveaways. Staying on top of those activities is critical, so comprehensive campaign tracking support is a must-have in B2C CRMs.
  • Customer support: It’s common to see B2C CRMs include support for integration with call center software. A handy integration lets the firm transfer customer details back and forth from call center tools, providing all teams with the details they need to serve customers effectively.
  • Mass marketing: Perhaps most critically, B2C CRM tools must enable marketing to large groups while maintaining the ability to zero in on specific segments or individual buyers. The best CRM solutions facilitate customer interaction at a high level but still allow companies to drill down with personalized engagement where necessary.
  • Marketing automation: Sales and marketing teams have tons of leads and contacts to work through on B2B deals. Marketing automation helps make that work easier by automating repetitive workflows and removing the need to carry out manual tasks in other cases.
  • Real-time support: B2C transactions happen quickly, so the firm’s CRM must be able to provide instant functionality. Real-time support can include immediate updates in customer data, instant notification of logged customer service tickets, etc.
  • Social media engagement: Much of B2C marketing happens over social media, so real-time social media monitoring features are also key. B2C firms should be able to control social media posting and monitoring from their CRM centrally.

Best B2B CRM software

Now that you know what B2B CRMs do and how they can support your business, it’s time to consider the best options for your company. We’ve ranked four of the top options you’ll see in the market here, including the pros and cons of each product.


Salesforce has two primary CRM products: Salesforce Sales Cloud for medium and large firms, and Salesforce Essentials, for small businesses. While the Sales Cloud system can feel overwhelming for smaller firms, Salesforce Essentials provides the right level of functionality for SMEs.


  • AI-powered insights: Salesforce assists B2B firms with deep insights through its AI interface Einstein, supported with pre-built and customizable reporting templates.
  • Comprehensive customer support: Salesforce maintains an extensive knowledge base in its Trailblazer community portal.
  • Partner and channel management: The Sales Cloud CRM provides detailed workflow rules for partner and channel processes, covering everything from logins to lead acceptance.
  • Process builder: Rapidly build and launch workflows with Salesforce’s drag-and-drop process builder.
  • Quote management: The CRM comes with in-built quote capabilities that cut down on proposal-making time.
  • Territory management: Salesforce supports geographic expansion with territory-specific functionalities, like the ability to clone and export existing models.


  • On-premises app: Salesforce does not offer an on-premise version. Consequently, firms cannot control events like updates, availability, or downtime.
  • Expensive upgrades: The cost to use Salesforce starts at $25 for Essentials and reaches up to $15,000 monthly for Salesforce Pardot.
  • Learning curve: Salesforce is not a plug-and-play app. Users need to spend time learning the application before they can reach proficiency.
  • Free tier: The Salesforce CRM does not include a free plan. While businesses may access a free trial, they ultimately have to pay a fee.

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Dynamics 365

Dynamics 365 for sales is Microsoft’s AI-led sales and customer management solution. Like most of Microsoft’s other business solutions, Dynamics 365 complements and improves business processes. Here’s how the platform performs in terms of pros and cons.


  • Lead management: Dynamics 365 provides automated lead and opportunity scoring capabilities that improve conversion.
  • Opportunity management: With Dynamics 365, users can easily tag, rank, and filter opportunities, then prioritize accordingly.
  • Power BI integration: Power BI is Microsoft’s business intelligence powerhouse. Businesses gain market-leading analytics with this integration.
  • Prescriptive insights: Dynamics 365 won’t just tell B2B companies how sales is performing – it will also give insights on how to perform better.
  • Seamless collaboration: Dynamics 365 users enjoy seamless collaboration through Microsoft’s vast ecosystem through SharePoint, Microsoft 365, Teams, etc.
  • Smart sales insights: Using pattern analysis, Dynamics 365 is your sales team’s intelligent partner, delivering insights and prompts to utilize sales opportunities more effectively.


  • Non-user friendly: While Dynamics 365 has an engaging user interface, users complain that the CRM features are not user-friendly.
  • Low data storage limits: Dynamics 365 provides limited data storage (10 gigabytes and 0.25 gigabytes for each new user), meaning you may have to purchase storage.
  • Learning curve: Just like Salesforce, using Dynamics 365 takes some learning, making it hard to use for SMEs.
  • Gmail integration: The app does not have a native Gmail integration, which is worrying, as Gmail is the world’s most popular email service with 1.8 billion-plus users.4


HubSpot has made a name for itself as one of the dominant sales and marketing solution providers worldwide. The company’s cloud-based Sales Hub shows why, with functionalities that elevate sales results. Here are the pros and cons of this solution.


  • Excellent lead management: HubSpot consistently ranks highly for its lead management and conversion functionality.
  • Extensive integrations: The CRM provides integrations with more than 300 third-party apps, from Outlook to WooCommerce, Mailchimp, and more.
  • Flexible reporting: Performance reporting is simple and easy with the customizable and shareable reporting HubSpot allows.
  • Sophisticated analytics: HubSpot provides advanced analytics features, such as conversion analysis, user behavior trends, etc.
  • Standout email management: Users can convert their best emails into templates, collaborate easily with AI-led email scheduling, and send customizable group/individual emails.
  • Workflow automation: Like all good B2B CRMs, HubSpot includes healthy workflow automation capabilities, ensuring that your efforts create the desired impact.


  • AI-based sales recommendations: HubSpot does not include prescriptive insights like AI-focused sales recommendations.
  • Global activity feed: The CRM does not have a global activity feed, potentially limiting collaboration on the app.
  • Limited custom reporting: Custom reporting gives users great control over how they create and share reports, but HubSpot is limited in the options it provides.
  • Expensive upgrades: Upgrading from a free tier to one of the paid plans on HubSpot can be costly, commanding from $50 to $3,200 a month.


Zoho provides a robust B2B CRM solution that includes free and paid options. Unlike many enterprise solutions, Zoho’s free version allows unlimited users. However, companies still need to upgrade to any of the paid plans to enjoy the full functionality of the CRM.


  • Centralized communication: Zoho makes communication with leads and contacts stress-free with one interface for multiple touchpoints like social, phone, and email.
  • Seamless migration: Companies moving from another CRM to Zoho enjoy seamless migration using Zoho’s migration tool, Zwitch.
  • Team collaboration: Zoho has a live feed that serves as a digital meeting point for sales reps. You can share announcements, leave notes, and create groups in one accessible location.
  • Strong security: Zoho’s CRM provides solid security measures, including data encryption, two-factor authentication, and real-time backups.
  • Inventory management: Unlike many CRMs, Zoho also includes an inventory management tool that lets you keep tabs on your stock.
  • Social suite: Social media management is straightforward with Zoho’s social suite.


  • Email tracking: Zoho does not support email tracking as part of its CRM features.
  • Limited payments: Zoho Books does not support multi-currency transactions. Users can only record transactions in one currency and bill in that currency.
  • Limited free tier: As mentioned above, Zoho’s free tier has limited features that most businesses will soon outgrow.
  • Basic user interface: The CRM’s user interface is more functional than attractive. But that takes nothing away from the features companies get.

B2B vs B2C CRM

Using custom CRM solutions

Apart from ready-made CRM systems, custom CRM solutions are also worth considering. With a custom B2B CRM system, you commission a software engineering firm to build a tool that precisely fits your business.

Every function and feature in the software is explicitly designed to meet your needs. One apparent benefit of this step is it means you don’t have to pay for features you don’t need. In addition, because a custom CRM is unique to your firm, you potentially gain greater security and control over the tool’s operations.

However, it’s worth noting that custom B2B CRMs don’t come cheap. Dollar for dollar, custom solutions tend to be more expensive overall compared to market-ready systems. That’s because your company will be responsible for every aspect of running the software, including data servers, maintenance, updates, and more.

A custom solution might fit your needs if you have a skilled IT team that can take on these burdens. But a market-ready CRM could be the better option for small businesses and teams with sparse IT resources.

Get started with Alibaba.com

Ultimately, whether you choose a market-ready CRM or custom system, you’ll still be gaining an impressive tool that improves your sales and marketing process. And with CRMs that come equipped with value-added features like inventory management, you potentially gain an all-in-one digital solution that fosters better outcomes across departments.

Now that you’ve settled the CRM question, all that’s left is to funnel more leads into your sales pipeline and take them on a fulfilling buyer journey. If you’d like to locate more and better quality leads, look no further than Alibaba.com for help.

Alibaba.com is the world’s largest B2B marketplace, teeming with millions of buyers in nearly 200 countries and territories. Alibaba.com gives sellers on the platform a digital storefront and the tools to attract, convince, and convert buyers on repeat.

Would you like to reach more prospects and gain loyal B2B buyers? Then open a seller account on Alibaba.com today.

1. https://www.gartner.com/en/sales-service/insights/b2b-buying-journey
2. https://www.rollworks.com/resources/blog/abm-metrics-for-your-abm-trial
3. https://resources.terminus.com/ebooks/ebook-topo-predictions-for-2019/?utm_content=account-based-marketing&utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=account-based-marketing&utm_term=account-based-marketing&gclid=EAIaIQobChMI0fvG54CM6QIVBV8NCh0YQgRnEAAYAyAAEgJdhvD_BwE
4. https://www.cnbc.com/2019/10/26/gmail-dominates-consumer-email-with-1point5-billion-users.html