What is B2B sales?

B2B boxes on a table

B2B or business to business sales refers to any sales model where one business sells goods or services to another. In contrast, B2C or business to consumer models involve a business selling directly to their customers.

We know that the B2B sales process is very different from B2C. But what does B2B sales mean?

Let’s break down the B2B sales meaning, key components, as well as some recent trends in the industry. 

The definition of B2B sales

As mentioned above, a B2B sales model is when any business sells products or services to another business. The B2B meaning has expanded in recent years to include digital and software services, but there are still common characteristics that all B2B sales models share.

Business to business sales typically have more decision-makers involved

When selling a business to business service, salespeople often deal with more than one decision-maker. This means B2B sales reps need to get buy-in from an entire group, rather than just one person. To be successful in B2B sales requires a very strategic approach.

It’s also imperative that B2B sales messaging is clear, concise and memorable, so that it can easily be repeated by prospects during their internal decision making process. If the messaging is muddled or prospects don’t understand the solution, a deal can be lost very quickly.

B2B sales have longer sales cycles

B2B deals are often much more complex, expensive, and time-consuming than their B2C counterparts. They require a much longer sales cycle, with multiple touchpoints and in some cases spanning several years. The result is that B2B revenue tends to fluctuate more often than B2C.

Longer sales cycles mean B2B companies need a predictable sales pipeline

The key to avoiding this unpredictability is to build a steady pipeline of leads. Strong outbound sales systems can go a long way toward more repeatable revenue.

If you need help building a scalable B2B sales process, click here to book a free discovery call with our coaching team.

The typical B2B sales process

Qualifying inbound leads

The B2B sales process begins by qualifying any inbound leads that have been generated through marketing or other forms of advertising. If the inbound lead is a good fit, they turn into a sales-qualified lead and can be moved through the pipeline.

Outbound prospecting

Most sales development representatives (SDRs) are focused on outbound prosecting. This is the typical B2B sales outreach of cold calling, email outreach, and/or connecting on social media.

At this stage, SDRs are focused on finding prospects that match their ideal customer profile (ICP) and starting a conversation. Outbound prospecting may require multiple touchpoints across platforms before a prospect is ready to move on to the next stage. Once a meeting or demo has been booked, the propsect is handed off to an account executive (AE).

Customer Demo (if applicable)

The demo is a critical part of the B2B sales process. Most prospects will want to see the product or service in action before they buy, and they will also have a questions that need to be answered.

During the demo, the AE will dig a little deeper to overcome objections, understand the prospect’s pain points, and present the best solution to meet their needs.

Striking a deal

If the demo was a success, then the prospect will return to their company and to get buy-in from other decision makers. The AE will usually send additional resources to help smooth this process along. Once a proposal has been sent and a contract signed, it’s time to move onto customer success.

Working with the customer to ensure success

The B2B sales process doesn’t end with a deal being signed. Customer success reps immediately take over to ensure a smooth transition from prospect to client. Retention is a critical part of B2B sales, and a great customer experience helps not only retain current customers, but also makes it more likely they’ll send referrals or provide a testimonial.

How are B2B sales changing?

The B2B buyer’s journey has been redefined

The B2B sales process is more complex than ever, with at least six key phases in the buyer’s journey: problem identification, solution exploration, requirements building, supplier selection, validation, and consensus. Add in cross-sells, up-sells, and multiple stakeholders, and things become even more complicated.

Unlike B2C sales where a rep only needs to form a relationship with one person, the B2B buyer’s journey involves multiple decision makers, all of whom have their own opinions about the best solution. 

For this reason, it’s critical for the outbound sales team to collaborate with marketing and customer success, to ensure customers are supported at every step in their journey.

There has been a shift to account based sales

Both marketing and B2B sales have started incorporating a data-driven, account based approach. The two functions then work together to target specific prospects within those accounts.

Curious about taking an accounts-based approach? Check out this blog post to hear from expert Simeon Atkins on how to stop ineffective outreach.

New, powerful B2B tools have come on the market

B2B sales enablement tools are no longer optional, but the new norm. To succeed in such a crowded market requires getting strategic about what tools, technology, and software your sales team uses.

Sales Dialers

Sales dialers allow reps to connect with more prospects on the phone, via a variety of features including calendar integration, automatic voicemail, and CRM integration.

Guided Selling Solutions

Guided selling solutions like Hubspot and Revenue.io use data to recommend how and when reps should reach out to prospects. 

These analytics tools offer real-time advice on how to “guide” a prospect towards the sale and have quickly become an essential part of the sales process. According to Gartner, 75% of B2B sales organizations will have integrated guided selling solutions by 2025.

Conversation Intelligence

Conversation intelligence tools allow B2B sales managers to ramp new hires and improve their team’s performance faster, by collecting valuable voice of customer data.

Solutions like this one from Hubspot integrate directly with your CRM to make coaching easier than ever.

Account Engagement Platforms

Engagement platforms allow you to track customer engagement in real time. This detailed overview of the pipeline allows for greater collaboration between sales and marketing, as both functions work together to convert prospects into customers.

Real-Time Coaching

Real-time coaching is the latest development in the B2B sales coaching space, allowing reps to learn on-demand with training delivered as they need them.

Conclusion: What are B2B sales?

The B2B sales process is distinct from B2C, with a complex buyer’s journey, multiple decision-makers, and a longer sales cycle. As the B2B world continues to evolve, it’s more important than ever to recognize these differences and adapt our sales processes accordingly.

In this guide, we share everything you need to know about sales coaching, including the difference between coaching and management, what makes a great sales coach, how to choose the right coach for your team, and how you can improve your own sales coaching skills.

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