The Basics of B2B Sales: How It Transforms Businesses

The Basics of B2B Sales: How It Transforms Businesses

In today’s digital and interconnected world, anywhere you look — there are new businesses constantly coming to life, providing new products and services to global consumers. And while most businesses sell directly to the people, there is a whole separate world of B2B companies. 

B2B (business-to-business) companies have significantly grown over the last couple of years, now valued at over $20 trillion, which is more than 5 times the B2C market, and there are several reasons for that (we’ll dive into them soon). 

Much like in B2C commerce, the ultimate driving force of B2B success and longevity is sales, though they drastically differ from traditional business-to-consumer sales. 

Without further ado, let’s dive into the complex world of B2B sales and explore how they transform modern businesses for growth and success.

What is B2B sales? 

The definition of B2B sales is quite straightforward — it’s the sales transactions between businesses and other businesses, rather than between businesses and individuals like in traditional sales. 

In essence, it’s the practice of one company selling their products or services to other businesses, which in turn helps them better operate their workflows. Just to get a perspective of the sheer volume of B2B transactions, virtually all B2C companies rely on B2B products and services to keep their businesses running. 

To better understand what’s B2B sales and how it works, think of a marketing software company selling their product to an e-commerce store selling clothing and accessories. The store will pay for the software on a subscription basis to use the marketing platform for running marketing campaigns and attracting new customers. 

Everyone wins!  

In B2B sales, there are 3 main roles, each responsible for different stages of the sales funnel: 

  • SDR sales development representatives are responsible for outbound prospecting, qualifying leads, and engaging qualified prospects in the initial stages.
  • AEaccount executives will then take over the qualified and potentially interested prospects with more engagement and nurturing to provide assistance throughout the buyer journey, ultimately pushing toward a closed deal.
  • BDR → business development representatives typically focus on creating new business opportunities and building long-term connections to create new sales streams.

Real-world scenarios of B2B sales

When we talk about B2B sales, it might sound a bit abstract at first and you may ask the question, “What are b2b sales examples?” We got you. 

In reality, it’s all around us! B2B sales are the backbone of countless industries, facilitating the smooth operation of businesses large and small. 

Tech solutions for businesses

Think about a company like Microsoft. They don’t just sell Windows and Office to individual users; a big part of their business is selling software solutions to other businesses. 

For instance, they offer cloud services through Azure, which companies use for data storage, web hosting, and app development. Another example is their Office 365 suite, tailored for business collaboration with tools like Teams, SharePoint, and Exchange.

Consulting services

Management consulting firms like McKinsey & Company or Deloitte thrive in the B2B world. They offer expert advice to other businesses looking to improve operations, enter new markets, or restructure. 

These consulting firms analyze a company’s processes and offer tailored solutions, driving growth and efficiency.

Marketing agencies

Marketing and advertising agencies often work with other businesses to help them promote their products or services. For example, a tech startup might hire an agency to create and manage its digital marketing campaigns. 

The agency provides expertise in areas like social media, SEO, and content creation, helping the startup reach its target audience more effectively.

IT services

Businesses need robust IT infrastructure to operate efficiently. Companies like IBM or Cisco provide networking equipment, cybersecurity solutions, and IT consulting services to other businesses. 

These services ensure that a company’s digital operations run smoothly, securely, and efficiently.

Logistics and shipping

Think about companies like FedEx or DHL. They provide shipping and logistics services to businesses that need to send products to customers or other businesses. 

Whether it’s overnight document delivery or large-scale freight shipping, these logistics companies play a vital role in the B2B landscape.

B2B vs B2C 

Generally speaking, the B2B sales methodology is quite similar to that of B2C, but the way they operate greatly differs.

While both B2B and B2C sales ultimately focus on generating new customers and revenue, there are several key differences between them: 

  1. Target audience → B2B targets other businesses, which often means dealing with multiple stakeholders and decision-makers, whereas B2C targets individual consumers.
  2. Sales cycle length → the B2B sales cycle is typically longer due to its complexity and higher stakes involved, where buyers typically spend a good chunk of time before committing to a purchase. B2C transactions are generally quicker, focusing on immediate consumer needs and impulse buying. 
  3. Purchase decision process → B2B purchases involve a more complex decision-making process, often requiring approval from several stakeholders and decision-makers. In contrast, B2C decisions are usually made by individuals or small groups, without the products affecting their professional lives, often leading to quicker decisions.

In summary, the B2B sales model prioritizes building long-term relationships and personalizing interactions to meet the specific needs of each business client, whereas in B2C sales, quick transactions are the standard, and are built on trust, reliability, and consumer demand.

Key steps of the B2B sales process (+ tools to use on each) 

As mentioned above, the B2B sales process is far from linear and straightforward, but it can be broken down into 6 key steps. 

Unlike in B2C, the B2B sales process does not follow the exact pathway one step after the other, so it’s up to the sales teams to always remain flexible and keep their finger on the pulse. 

Let’s take a look at the key steps of the B2B SaaS sales model, along with the main B2B sales tactics, some battle-tested sales tools, tips, and sales techniques for each stage:

Lead generation (or sales prospecting) 

The first step in the B2B sales process is to generate leads from numerous sources, the most common of which are LinkedIn, inbound channels, and B2B contact databases like Reply Data.

Besides contact databases, B2B sales teams can also use tools like LeadBoxer to capture relevant leads with enriched data profiles, or tools like OptinMonster to create effective lead generation forms to generate inbound leads. 

Successful sales teams have to ensure that there is a constant flow of new potential customers coming into their sales pipeline to ensure long-term success. But the trick here is not to gather as many contact emails as possible but to ensure they are relevant and match your ideal customer profile (ICP).

Ideal Customer Profile and Buyer Personas Workbook (+ Templates)

Get the inside scoop on finding your perfect customers. Grab our free e-book on defining your ICP!

Qualification 

Once you have a pool of inbound and outbound leads, the next step is to qualify them. Once again, it’s a complete waste of precious time and resources to target leads whose businesses do not need your solution to their pain points. 

There are numerous lead qualification strategies to increase the number of relevant prospects who go through your firm’s sales funnel. The most common practice includes creating a lead scoring mechanism to accurately assess the purchasing likelihood of each unique lead.  

Sales intelligence tools like Datanyze empower B2B sales teams with technographic data, helping them discover what software their target leads are using, significantly enhancing the qualification process​. However, keep in mind that most CRM giants like HubSpot have extensive built-in lead scoring and qualification features. 

Engagement 

Now is when we step into the Wild West. You have generated a pool of targeted leads and qualified them to ensure they would be potentially interested in your product or service, and now, it’s time to break the ice and establish a connection. 

Unlike in B2C sales, modern B2B sales engagement emphasizes creating personalized connections with your prospects, providing assistance, and seeing if there’s a fit, rather than pushing for the sale. 

While there are numerous channels for B2B sales engagement, such as LinkedIn and cold calls, emails remain by far the most common communication method. This is why sales reps spend lots of time perfecting their craft to consistently create effective cold emails to ensure greater delivery, open, reply, and conversion rates. 

Dedicated sales engagement platforms like Reply.io are an absolute necessity for all B2B sales teams to communicate with qualified leads with personalized, multichannel outreach sequences. 

With its native AI SDR, Reply users can completely automate their sales engagement, while AI takes care of the rest — defining the target audience, sourcing relevant contact data to create tailored opening messages, handling responses, and booking meetings on their behalf.

AI for B2B sales has become a real game changer, significantly boosting performance and productivity — check it out in action below.

Nurturing 

Once the engagement has started and the prospect has shown some form of interest, this is when sales teams begin their nurturing campaigns, in other words — providing assistance throughout their evaluation process with meaningful, value-added touchpoints.

This could be something like an invite to a relevant product webinar showcasing your new features that are highly relevant to the prospect, a new relevant piece of content, or perhaps a case study with a similar company to showcase the effectiveness of your product. 

Once again, the ultimate goal here is to assist your prospects and help them move along their buyer journey so that when they are in their final decision-making process, your company is on top of their candidate lists. 

And once again, B2B firms can utilize their sales engagement platforms like Reply.io to nurture leads throughout their customer journey with relevant, value-added touchpoints. Alternatively, there are numerous marketing behavior-tracking tools like Marketo to create data-driven buyer experiences for your leads, enhancing their journey toward conversion. These platforms are also a great way to double down on your B2B channel sales efforts to create additional streams of customers. 

Closing the deal 

This is the most crucial stage of the B2B sales process, it’s the deciding factor between generating a new long-term customer and revenue stream or losing them to your competitors. 

Once sales teams have assessed and concluded that the prospect is ready to make a purchase, this is the time to schedule a call, handle the upcoming sales objections, and showcase how your product can solve your prospect’s business pain points. 

Ideally, this will be done with a personalized product demo, showcasing your product in action, and potentially negotiating a more appealing pricing plan to convert your prospect and lock in the deal.

When it comes to closing deals, B2B sales teams usually turn to appointment-booking tools like Calendly to book product demos and video-call tools like Google Meets or Zoom to make their final pitch. Finally, it’s probably a good idea to gear up with a document automation tool like DocuSign or PandaDoc for electronic signatures and document tracking features to ensure a smooth closing process.

Post-sale service 

One common misconception is that once the sale has occurred, the B2B sales process has officially come to an end, and to be fair, in B2C/e-commerce buyer journeys, that’s often the case. 

However, B2B companies live and thrive on the foundation of long-term relationships, where ensuring your clients stick around in the long run is the only way to ensure long-term longevity. 

For starters, this means providing personalized and extensive product onboarding and training at the very beginning and then maintaining top-class support around the clock. 

In addition, it’s crucial to regularly check in with your customers to assess how they are enjoying the product, what can be improved, what would be a great addition, and then take actionable steps with the product team to provide them with their desired features/updates.

Ideally, you should have dedicated customer success professionals with specialized knowledge in helping each of your client businesses best utilize the product to the fullest.  

When it comes to post-sales customer service, B2B marketing and sales teams can leverage knowledge base platforms like Notion to keep track of all product usage data, customer surveys, feedback, etc., as well as their existing engagement platform in their sales stack to effectively communicate with their customers.

How to measure B2B sales success

Now that we’ve covered the B2B sales process steps, it’s imperative to effectively measure the success of your efforts. To do so, sales teams have to keep close track of the most important B2B sales metrics, both in the macro and across each stage of the sales process.

The most crucial metrics include: 

  • Annual recurring revenue (ARR) → refers to the predictable, recurring revenue that a business expects to earn annually from its customers, providing a clear picture of financial stability and growth potential.
  • Customer retention rate → indicates the % of customers that stick around with a B2B business over a specific period, reflecting the company’s ability to maintain long-term relationships and provide customer satisfaction.
  • Overall profit → represents the total income generated by a B2B company from all its activities minus the costs of running its operations, showcasing the company’s financial performance and market success. 
  • Return on sales → aka operating margin, is a common metric to assess your company’s operational efficiency; the return on sales formula is a simple division of your operating profits by sales (and multiplying by 100 to get the percentage). 

However, it’s also vital to track the more immediate performance indicators across the individual stages of the sales cycle. Metrics like email open rates and reply rates are a great starting point to see how well your sales engagement is working because, at the end of the day, that’s the starting point for most B2B sales journeys. 

The good news is that with modern tech, businesses can gear up with reliable, AI-powered sales engagement platforms like Reply. Such tools will automate, scale, and improve sales outreach with personalized, multichannel sequences, empowering sales reps to never miss an opportunity.

How to increase sales in B2B

Boosting sales in the B2B world can sometimes feel like a tough nut to crack, but with the right strategies, it’s definitely achievable. 

First things first, really get to know your customers. What are their pain points? What problems are they trying to solve? 

By understanding their needs deeply, you can tailor your products or services to offer real value. This not only helps in making a sale but also in building long-term relationships.

Speaking of relationships, in B2B sales, they’re often the cornerstone of success. 

Invest time in getting to know your clients. Regular check-ins, personalized emails, and even occasional meet-ups can go a long way. People prefer doing business with companies they trust and feel connected to.

Next, let’s talk about data. Data is your friend. Use analytics to understand buying patterns, forecast demand, and identify potential upsell opportunities. Tools like CRM can help track interactions and sales pipelines, making your sales process more efficient.

Key thing to remember → don’t just sell a product; sell a solution

Position your offerings as answers to your customer’s specific problems. Show how your product or service can save them time, reduce costs, or improve efficiency. This approach resonates more with B2B buyers who are often looking for long-term benefits.

In the world of TikTok, ChatGPT, and WiFi on your fridge, your online presence is crucial. 

Ensure your website is professional, easy to navigate, and packed with useful information to build a B2B digital sales. Consider adding customer testimonials, case studies, and detailed product information. Also, be active on social media platforms where your customers spend their time.

Lastly, let’s not forget the power of excellent customer service

Be responsive, address issues promptly, and go the extra mile to keep your customers happy. Satisfied customers are more likely to return and recommend your business to others.

B2B sales trends for 2024

Now, almost halfway through 2024, several B2B sales trends have come to life, with even more on the horizon, all affecting modern inside sales teams to stay competitive. 

Let’s take a quick look at them: 

  • AI → AI has already established its place as a driving force in the common SDR tasks — from prospecting and generating personalized cold emails to handling responses and booking meetings, becoming top-class copilots for SDRs in 2024.

Let our AI SDR tool handle your outbound sales—from finding leads to booking meetings. Ready to see it in action?

Let’s do this →
  • Rise of RevOps → 2024 has become a pivotal year in revenue operations, strategically aligning sales, marketing, and customer service departments to unlock new growth possibilities and drive revenue.
  • The rise of inbound sales → a growing number of customers are going through their buyer journeys on their own, without the help of sales reps, which places more emphasis on optimizing B2B sales growth strategies and prioritizing inbound leads.
  • B2B sales software → the market has become so competitive and interconnected that literally everyone is competing with each other, with more companies adding new competitive features to their products and making them more accessible.   
  • Sustainability → growing demand for sustainable business practices (and products) and corporate social responsibility, often influencing purchasing decisions.

Transforming your business through effective B2B sales

While the modern B2B sales landscape is complex, uncertain, and ultra-competitive, with the rise of increasingly accessible tools and strategies available, companies have everything needed to create effective sales workflows. 

It’s crucial to clearly map out the customer journey from the perspective of the buyer to truly understand the intricate ways to increase sales in B2B business. You can also research some successful B2B sales strategy examples and case studies to get a better understanding of how they work in action.

The next step is leveraging the appropriate B2B best practices and tools to optimize each stage of the sales process. Nowadays, we would recommend looking for consolidated tools like Reply.io that cover multiple stages of the sales process to keep a seamless flow of data and save on your costs while you’re at it. Good luck on your journey of creating a top-performing digital sales and marketing strategy to grow your business to new heights!

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