B2B (Business-to-Business) sales are complex and require a well-defined strategy. Small businesses specializing in distribution, import-export, or wholesale must master the B2B sales process to ensure their longevity.
Here are the key steps to succeed in B2B sales.
Unlike B2C sales, where a seller primarily needs to convince an individual to make a purchase, B2B sales involve the validation of multiple points of contact within the company. Closing a B2B sale is not a single, simple transaction but a process that requires approval from multiple decision-makers. This demands a more complex approach and a deep understanding of the needs of each stakeholder.
Prices are typically fixed in B2C sales, where buyers pay the displayed price. In contrast, B2B pricing strategy is more flexible. Prices can be negotiated based on various factors, such as order size, payment method, or even the established relationship with the customer. For instance, discounts can be granted for regular and large volumes. Price levels may also be applied.
In B2C sales, customers typically pay upfront in a single payment when purchasing the product or service. However, B2B sales often involve more complex payment processes. Payments can be deferred, depending on product delivery, or even subject to a 30- to 60-day payment cycle. This payment flexibility adds a layer of complexity to the sales process.
The complexity of B2B sales and its longer cycles require sales teams to continually feed their business pipeline with new prospects. Sales teams must closely collaborate with marketing teams to ensure a constant flow of qualified prospects. This ongoing pipeline feed is crucial to maintaining business growth.
B2B buyers are discerning. Not only do they carefully choose who they will do business with, but they also set their own purchasing criteria, often without direct assistance from sellers. These purchases are seen as riskier, but they yield higher rewards. As a result, B2B customer service is typically oriented towards customer satisfaction and retention.
B2B sales can be divided into three major categories, determined by the economic model or the type of product you are selling. Understanding these categories is essential for adapting your sales approach.
In this first category, you will find sales of consumables used by other businesses. This encompasses a wide range of products, from office supplies to uniforms and employee equipment, for example. What sets these sales apart from B2C transactions are the volumes and required purchase approval. Instead of buying a single ink cartridge, an employee may need to purchase 50 ink cartridges, requiring the approval of a manager or decision-maker. A notable example of this category would be Office Depot, a major supplier of office supplies and equipment, specializing in B2B sales.
The second category concerns wholesale and distribution sales. In this case, other businesses purchase essential components for manufacturing or products intended for resale from wholesalers or retailers. These products are initially bought in large quantities (and therefore at lower prices) and then resold with a profit margin to physical or online businesses, professionals, or individuals.
Take the example of a wholesale food distributor. They supply essential food products to restaurants and fast-food establishments, which, in turn, sell them to consumers at a higher price.
The third category focuses on professional services and digital software. Here, the sale is not about physical products, but about services. Many businesses require these services to meet the needs of their employees. In this B2B approach, you can find sectors such as commercial real estate, catering, equipment rental, and even software services to enhance business management and efficiency.
Take accounting as an example, where an accountant may work with a small business, selling them accounting software.
Understanding these different B2B sales categories is essential for tailoring your strategy to your specific industry and target audience.
The first essential step in the B2B sales process is to precisely define your B2B buyer persona. Understanding who you will sell to is crucial. The persona helps define the typical profile of the ideal customer who will purchase the company's products. For small businesses working in distribution, import-export, or wholesale, this means gathering information about your prospects, including the names of potential contacts and their companies, their industry, the size of their company, their online behavior, location, and specific concerns within their businesses. Don't forget to note what your product or service will bring to your target because this forms the basis of your argument. You are engaging with professionals you may meet for the first time, and establishing trust is essential.
It's common to have multiple personas for a business to adapt the strategy to different types of targeted customers. However, it's advisable to have a maximum of 3 to 5 buyer personas.
Once you have data on your B2B buyer persona, it's time to qualify your prospects. You'll be able to present your products or services to people who have shown an interest in you, or you can approach new prospects and search for them based on your persona profile.
Identify the methods your competitors use to prospect potential clients, whether it's by geographical area, industry, product type, communication methods, and so on.
Once you've identified your market, competition, and potential clients, you can reach out to them. Use sales and marketing strategies to reach your target audience, such as email campaigns or advertising on social media, commercial prospecting conducted by salespeople, participation in trade shows, and more.
The discovery phase is now here. It's essential to ask the right questions to understand your clients' needs. You can inquire about what's working well in their business, what's missing, what needs improvement, or what's not working. Gather as much information as you can about their habits, behaviors, and desires, all while building a trusted relationship. This will allow you to identify both the explicit and implicit needs of your client and propose a suitable solution.
The next step is to showcase what you have to sell. You need to make a convincing sales offer to your prospects. You've effectively targeted them, piqued their interest, and now it's time to encourage them to make a purchase.
This phase may involve calls to action to prompt the purchase.
Show your potential clients why they should choose your product or service over another solution to solve their problems. Your pitch should be tailored and personalized for each prospect.
Present your offer convincingly: the argumentation should be based on the information gathered during the discovery phase while emphasizing the benefits of your solution.
During the argumentation, focus on the benefits for the client rather than technical features. This will generate more pronounced interest.
Feel free to offer personalized demos or samples of your products to prospects. This will help them better understand how your solution can address their specific problems and may encourage them to purchase after seeing a tutorial or obtaining a free trial/sample.
Make sure to maintain follow-up with potential clients. Some might need more information about the product, while others may want to be contacted later for further discussion.
B2B sales rely on smooth communication. To build trust, synchronize your pace with that of your client. Pay attention to non-verbal signals like gestures, breathing, and tone of voice. This synchronization will facilitate communication and enhance your credibility.
When prospects are interested in making a purchase, finalize the transaction by signing the proposal or contract. If there are lingering hesitations, try to find solutions or compromises to close the deal.
Retention is the final step in your B2B conversion funnel. Once your customers have made a purchase and are satisfied, they are likely to continue doing business with you. Moreover, they may even become advocates for your business by recommending your products or services to others.
The human aspect plays a key role in B2B sales. Take the time to create strong bonds. This can include simple gestures like expressing gratitude for the welcome, complimenting your contact's office space, or even offering a cup of coffee or tea. These gestures, although not strictly professional, will assess your contact's interest in continuing the conversation.
How does the client come to you?
In B2B sales, every step of the process is crucial for a successful transaction. Understanding your client's decision-making process will help improve your B2B communication and sales.
At the beginning of the funnel, the prospect becomes aware of the problem they are looking to solve and starts seeking solutions. This phase is essential for building their profile. By analyzing their journey (on your website, at trade shows, through contact with sales representatives, or via recommendations), you can begin to understand their needs.
Once the prospect has determined that your solution can solve their problem, they want to gather more information.
At this stage, provide maximum information about your service or product and offer a trial, free samples, or proof of your service's effectiveness. It's also important to understand if the prospect is the sole decision-maker or if there are other parties involved.
The prospect is ready to commit, but they need additional confirmations to be sure they are making the right choice. You can provide them with customer testimonials, your terms of sale, and other supplementary documents, as well as answers to their concerns, such as cost or delivery schedule.
Congratulations! The prospect has chosen to purchase your product or service among other options on the market. This is a crucial step, but it's not the last one. The next step is just as important for retaining your customers.
After the purchase, your customer evaluates the product or service received. They check if their expectations have been met and might leave online reviews. Your company's reputation is at stake, so make sure to deliver as expected.
Based on their experience, the customer may leave a positive review and recommend your brand to others, or conversely, leave a negative review. In the latter case, it's essential to contact them to resolve issues, offer solutions like credits, free items, or refunds.
After the initial purchase, customers may choose to repurchase your product and become brand ambassadors, contributing to your continued success. However, there is also the risk of attrition, where customers disappear and don't return. You must take measures to prevent this disaffection, either by retaining your existing customers or by attracting new ones to maintain a steady flow of business.
Recommended Reading: The Importance of B2B E-Commerce for Small Business Growth
For small businesses specializing in distribution, import-export, and wholesale, managing commercial operations can be a complex challenge. That's where Erplain comes into play. Erplain is inventory and B2B sales management software specially designed to meet your business needs. With Erplain, you can easily manage your inventory, track your sales, and optimize your operations.
But there's more. Erplain also offers the B2B Store, a powerful solution that simplifies your B2B sales. The B2B Store allows your customers to place orders online in an intuitive and self-sufficient manner. They can browse your catalog, check product availability, and independently place orders with a few clicks. Your customer ordering process is streamlined, and your sales are boosted.
Erplain, along with the power of its B2B Store, helps you synchronize your B2B sales processes, present your offer, and boost your sales!