An abbreviation of Business-to-Business, B2B selling involves companies or salespersons who sell products or services to other companies. When the selling is done by companies to Consumers, it would be termed as B2C sales. The B2B selling often involves selling to highly skilled business persons who are trained in getting the best possible deal.
At times, this involves convincing not only one person but a group of people at directorial level. B2B sales are often more challenging and require the following of SOPs, dressing formally, bypassing the gatekeepers and more professional behavior compared to B2C sales.
Types of B2B Sales :
- Selling to Consumers: Although the selling is done to other companies, this is termed as selling to consumers because the businesses may be the end user of the product. This includes office equipment, stationery, and computer equipment. The approach for selling is similar, there may be few additional steps like getting approval from authority, giving quotations of best price, giving demonstrations of products. Generally speaking, the costlier the product, the longer cycle it follows.
- Selling to Re-sellers: Selling to businesses who will use the product to manufacture their own products and sell them in the market or selling to businesses who will resell them in the market. A supply chain formation involving wholesalers to retailers to consumers can be a good demonstration of this type.
In certain cases, the selling may be more complex than the above simple types. For example, in case of Pharmaceutical industry, when a Pharma Sales Rep sells medical equipment or a diagnostic equipment to a doctor, it would be B2B selling of the first type and when the rep sells medicines to the doctors which are to be sold for the patients, it would be type 2 of B2B selling.
There are also B2B service providers which sell service to the businesses. A tax consultant or an internet service provider firm that sets up internet services for a business would be an example of a B2B service provider.
Process of B2B Sales
Although a variety of methods and steps are used in B2B sales, right from cold calling, following are a few basic steps that need to be followed for any and every B2B sale :
1) Market Analysis
This is the basic step in every sales process. Researching the market and connecting with right customers is a pivotal step in the B2B sale. Knowing your customer, knowing your market, knowing your competition form the steps of Market Analysis.
It goes without saying that knowing your product is of paramount importance. One has to know that the potential customer always has access to information and hence false claims will not work in selling.
2) Sales Call
This is the laborious step in which the Sales Reps have to get an appointment and set up a meeting with the prospective client. If the customer is on the user list of the company and it has relations, it’s easier for the rep to close the call. If it’s a new customer, the sales reps have to get the appointment by bypassing the gatekeepers.
The direction of the Sales call and the nature of the meeting will determine the success of the Sale. The sales call should consist of open-ended questions which will shed a light on the nature of the customer and how far are they engaged with the sale process and the product. Closed-ended questions should be avoided as they are conversation enders. There may be times when the Sales call may not end on the first visit and require multiple visits. Regular follow-ups of prospects are essential.
3) Act as Solution provider
There may be times when the prospect sees the representative as the only nuisance and a cost inducing entity. The salesperson is supposed not only to sell the product but also equally involve with the customer and provide solutions.
The customer values the rep if he or she is seen as a solution provider rather than a salesperson. Answering all the queries about own product, going a little out of the way to help the customer in providing information and in some cases being only polite and courteous can help materialize the Sale.
4) Use SMART Goals
SMART Goals are (S)specific, (M)measurable, (A)achievable, (R)realistic and (T)time bound.
For example, generating a business of 10 washing machines from one outlet per quarter. You can read more on SMART goals.
5) Closing the Sale
The sale should be pursued and finally be closed either as a positive completion or lost lead. Keeping the leads open for a long time and pursuing them makes no sense to the company and involves time as well as money. Necessary steps should be taken during Negotiation and offers or discounts if any, should be shared with the customer for conversion.
6) After Sales Service
A step many reps and companies forget is After Sales Service. For regular continuation of sales, it is of paramount importance that the company or the sales rep should follow up not only before materializing sale but also after the sale is concluded so as the goodwill of the company and the rep is maintained.
Advantages of B2B sales
- High-value transactions : B2B sales involves bulk buying and selling of the products, which are higher in value than the B2C sale. This also involves the generation of higher profit margins for the business and long-term business.
- Direct Profits : In B2B sales, unlike B2C, there is no involvement of mediators and middlemen which brings the entire profit to the company directly. The brand generating the entire business makes the brand value higher in a market.
- Professionalism : B2B sales involve a more professional approach and the business would anytime prefer a direct company approach. This is also good in terms of getting an excellent sales deal. A more professional and courteous rep can generate more goodwill along with business for the company than a less courteous one. But it’s a two-way deal and hence professionalism is also expected from another side too.
Disadvantages of B2B Sales:
- No cost sharing : Since the profits are not shared by anyone else but the company itself, the costs have to be borne by the company too. Right from the Ad campaign to promotional costs, everything is to be borne by the company.
- Stringent policies : When dealing with a company the transaction involves dealing with the culture of the companies and at times the cultures may not match. The policies of one company may not work with other companies.
- Dealing with Gatekeepers : The first step of any B2B sales is dealing with Gatekeepers and they can be annoying since they are not involved in the sale bypassing them without offending would a difficult and painful task.
Any and every pharmaceutical company is involved in B2B selling. Companies like Pfizer, Roche, Eli Lily co, GlaksoSmithKlineetc are perfect examples of B2B sales. The Sales teams of these companies approach the doctors who are the buyers and final customers.
This is in case of diagnostic and medical equipment’s but in case of medicines, due to Medical guidelines, companies cannot directly approach the end users and the doctors, in turn, become the resellers for the patients. Apple, IBM, Norton etc. are also involved in B2B selling when they deal with bulk deals for computers, iPads, anti-virus software’s for employees of a company.