What is B2B sales: The Business to Business Sales Process Explained

Updated on January 17, 2022

Ask any sales rep you know and you’ll soon find out that business to business sales is not only about selling. That is because business-to-business sales or also known as B2B sales, relates to grander scale of the sales process. It is about understanding the needs of your prospects in order to provide an actionable solution to the challenges they are facing and also, about how sales reps use their communication and negotiation skills to close the deal.

 

What is business to business (B2B) sales?

Business to business sales represents a sales model where a business sells a product or a service to another business. In other words, B2B sales involves a company selling something to another company.

 

Business-to business sales represents a joint effort between different departments within the company, often requiring close collaboration between the sales, marketing and customer success teams.

 

The B2B Sales Process

The B2B sales process is characterized by a long sales cycle with several touchpoints across multiple channels. It represents a set of specific and carefully defined steps in order to convert a lead or a prospect into a customer.

 

The business to business selling process

Usually, the business-to-business sales process consists of several stages. Oftentimes it is represented into eight steps:

 

    • Preparation stage – Product or service main benefits and competitor analysis
    • Research stage – Target market assessment and potential market research
    • Lead Qualification stage – Creating a desired potential customers profile
    • Prospecting stage (Outbound Sales) – Prospect outreach and engagement
    • Presentation (Demo) stage – Product showcase and unique value proposition
    • Negotiation stage – Objection handling and negotiation management
    • Final proposal stage – Drafting the final proposal and closing the sale
    • Follow up stage – upselling and cross-selling campaigns aimed at new customers

 

The business to business sales process includes all sales activities and interactions between a B2B company and its potential customers, across the different stages of the B2B sales cycle.

 

Key features of B2B sales

In addition to having a noticeably longer sales cycle with an emphasis on increasing, business-to business sales is defined by specific set of characteristics.

 

The B2B sales cycle as mentioned, is noticeably longer with a dedicated sales process, based on an inbound and outbound sales strategy targeting a smaller target customer audience representing a higher value. Business-to-business sales is defined by specific set of characteristics.

 

Handling the decision-makers involved

The business to business sales process typically involved a large buying grout consisting of 6 to 10 decision-makers. This is a common occurrence in B2B sales when you take into account the higher price and contract length when negotiating the purchase of a new product or service.

 

To give you an example, in the case of out platform, which has a set of sales intelligence and sales enablement features, in addition to the sales team manager and sales representatives, the Chief Revenue Officer as well as the Chief Data Officer can be part of the selling process. This is standard practice in larger B2B companies. On the other hand in SMBs even the CEO can take an active part in B2B sales, as the key decision-maker being able to make purchasing decisions (which is oftentimes the case).

 

Dealing with longer sales cycles

Because of the involvement of a larger group of decision makers in the business-to-business sales process, the sales cycle is naturally longer in comparison with other sales segments. When it comes to new customer, almost 75% of B2B sales can last up to four months, perhaps even longer still in terms of purchasing a product or service associated with a higher investment and potential maintenance.

 

The use of a reliable sales pipeline in B2B

In an effort to optimize and streamline the business-to-business process, companies make regular improvements and adjustments to their sales pipeline.

 

Due to the nature of the B2B sales cycle which requires close collaboration between the different teams involved in B2B sales, the process of business-to-business sales must be as efficient as possible. That means being designed with a clear structure in mind, where each team understands their role in the B2B sales process. This way there are no serious friction points between sales stages and new leads are constantly flowing through the pipeline.

 

Making the most of fewer potential customers

A longer and more complicated B2B sales process also signifies the need of more resources and effort spent, meaning B2B companies have higher costs for bringing in new potential customers. Because of a smaller target, a major focus of business to business sales is put on lowering the cost for converting new customers and increasing the value of existing customers.

 

This is done by more accurate targeting, improved messaging and upselling and cross-selling campaigns. Due to these efforts, customers in the business-to-business segment have typically higher lifetime value.

 

Inbound lead generation & lead qualification

A vital part of business to business selling is inbound marketing. Lead generation and lead qualification are key in maintaining a steady flow of new high-value leads coming through existing marketing channels. Mainly lead generation forms on your website and landing pages, email marketing in the form of lead nurturing campaigns, paid advertising and social media channels as well.

 

Inbound marketing presents a perfect opportunity for obtaining valuable leads who can be further qualified by the team, making them sales qualified leads and potential prospects, preparing them for the final stages of the sales process.

 

Outbound sales prospecting

This is the essential part of the business-to-business sales. The sales outreach is focused on finding potential prospects that first your ideal customer profile. It involves a certain level of sales cadence, requiring multiple touch-points across different sales channels. Cold email, getting on a call and social selling, are common steps of a standard B2B sales sequence and are often combined, forming a multichannel outreach process.

 

From a B2B demo to a sale

The process of business to business sales is about more than simply selling. The B2B segment is highly competitive with a wide range of products and services, helping companies automate and improve different aspects of their business.

 

In business-to-business selling it is important to find a way to solve the challenges your prospects are facing. In other words, figuring out how exactly does your product or service help them succeed.

 

B2B sales requires sales reps to ask the right questions in order to better understand prospects and their pain points, and work together to find a solution. A demo in business-to-business sales is an opportunity to listen, resolve objections and build relationships with potential customers in the hopes of making a sale.

 

Customer success for increased customer value

Because of the nature of the business to business sales cycle, the process of B2B sales doesn’t end with the signing on a new customer. The B2B audience representing your desired target audience is relatively smaller when compared with other market segments.

 

Customer success is a necessary part of business-to-business sales, to maintain customer satisfaction, ensure a high customer retention rate and pave the way for the process of increasing customer lifetime value through upselling and cross-selling campaigns. In addition, case studies and customer testimonials are a great way in terms of using social proof in business to business selling.

 

Common B2B Sales Challenges

B2B companies face similar types of sales challenges, that are commonplace in business-to-business sales:

 

    • Strong competition in market segment
    • Limited audience of potential customers
    • Slow adoption and implementation of new technologies
    • Ingrained and outdated sales mindset
    • Lack of sales skills and insufficient training
    • Difficulty aligning sales and marketing

 

A large part of the obstacles B2B companies face, come from problems that can be addressed only through proper sales coaching, sufficient onboarding and challenging prevailing mindset concerning the B2B sales process.

 

B2B Sales Tips

Following some of the most frequent challenges in business to business selling B2B companies are facing, here are some tips on how to improve your B2B sales process:

 

    • Implement a data-driven process combined with a dedicated CRM integrated with additional sales automation tools
    • Educate sales and marketing teams on the benefits of automation
    • Invest into proper onboarding for your sales team and gather feedback on present and potential solutions that can help them
    • Get a sales coach to train your sales team or have an experienced sales manager
    • Aim to align your key customer-facing teams, meaning marketing, sales and customer success
    • Use a multi-channel approach and combine different channel in an effort to increase their effectiveness and improve prospect engagement
    • Tailor your messaging based on your target audience, appeal to them through personalized outreach and use automation to personalize at scale
    • Ask your customers for feedback, as positive feedback in the form of product reviews, success stories and case studies represent valuable social proof

 

B2B Sales Enablement Tools

As the business to business sales process grows more complex, there has been a rising need for sales automation solutions that can take of day-to-day tasks that are important but otherwise take up a large portion of a sales team’s time and resources for instance.

 

The continuous increase in usage of sales automation tools has been of great benefit to B2B companies. Showing an improvement in productivity and increase in profit as sales reps can handle a growing number of customer more easily and efficiently.

 

There are various types of sales tools that B2B companies can implement in their sales process. Ranging from smaller email automation and lead generation tools, to large feature packed platforms like Sales.Rocks, offering a range of modules in the form of sales intelligence and sales enablement tools.

 

Whether a sales reps is in need of email verification tool, a contact dialer and booking app, even a CRM system to maintain a customer database, one thing is certain. Sales automation tools have become a vital part of the success of business-to-business selling.

 

The future of B2B sales

With the increasing use of sales technology in business-to-business selling, the number of decision-makers included in making a purchase decision and the need of reaching out to them through personalized messaging, one thing is clear. The future rising trend in business to business sales is the shift to account-based selling.

 

Account based sales focuses on targeting specific companies as high value accounts and then engaging key contacts within those accounts. This approach is preferred for high value accounts and requires coordinating different teams, using a multi-channel, multi-touch engagement process.

 

Conclusion

Business to business sales depends on the proper implementation of sales automations tools and the skills of the sales representatives that are using them. This balance should be carefully maintained and iterated upon constantly. While the goals of B2B sales remains the relationship between two companies as you can see it is the joint effort of various teams and the tools at their disposal that are the main driving force behind the success of each sales.

Author avatar
Igor
Content Writer and Growth Marketer at Sales.Rocks
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