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