Business-to-business (B2B) describes a commercial relationship between business entities. Building on that definition, B2B sales is the process by which B2B companies engage decision makers at other companies to sell products or services. In general, it involves high price points, long and complex buying cycles, and direct outreach and follow-up to prospects via multiple communication channels.
B2B relationships can take many forms, including:
Software as a Service (SaaS)
Marketing agencies, software development outfits, contractors, consultants, and law firms offering their services to business organizations
Real estate companies leasing office/work/commercial spaces
Consumer brands partnering with supermarkets, convenience stores, and other retail outlets to distribute their products
Business-to-consumer (B2C) describes a commercial relationship between a business and individual consumers. B2C sales can refer to any sales process that sells directly to consumers, though it tends to refer specifically to retail sales. Retail includes physical stores such as bookstores and coffee shops, or e-commerce sites and marketplaces like eBay and Etsy. Some large enterprises such as Amazon, Microsoft, and Google have both B2B and B2C operations.
B2B and B2C sales, at the fundamental level, are the same in that they start with a product or service and end in a sale. But beyond the basics, B2B and B2C have several distinct differences.
The B2B sales process typically has the following characteristics:
Targets businesses, corporations, entities, and organizations
Involves multiple decision makers at the prospective organization
High price points
Salespeople require extensive and continuous training and mentorship
Relationships between sellers and buyers are deep and built on trust
Contracts are carefully worded, reviewed, and edited
There’s no absolute rule when it comes to the number or names of steps in a company’s B2B sales process. Some vendors use as little as five stages while others thrive with as much as eight. It all depends on factors such as the target industry, the sales organization, and the sales methodology or framework in place.
A common 7-stage sales process will look something like the following:
In contrast to the B2B sales process, the B2C sales process:
Targets individual consumers
Is driven by market pricing
Has a short and simple sales cycle
Focuses on quantity, not quality of prospects
Has simple contracts, if any
B2B buyers tend to be corporate decision makers, well-informed and cautious since they are held accountable by organization-wide or departmental budgets. As a result, they are very concerned with ROI.
Individual consumers in the B2C space, on the other hand, tend to care most about the brand appeal, the feature set (if the product or service can really satisfy a want or a need), and price rather than ROI. While some B2C goods are at a high price point (real estate, cars, boats, etc.) the majority of B2C goods are at lower price points with only one or two decision makers. As such, the typical B2C sales cycle has a much shorter sales cycle than the typical business-to-business (B2B) sales cycle.
Strategies, Skills, and Techniques
B2B sales focuses primarily on outbound sales. B2B sales reps act more as brand ambassadors, marketers, and problem-solvers and are rarely involved in the actual sales transaction. As such, they reach out to a large quantity of prospects directly using a wide array of software, including a call dialer, CRM, and Sales Engagement Platform.
When it comes to sales methodologies and frameworks, there are more than a dozen B2B sellers can choose from. Some methods fit specific sales cultures and scenarios and a B2B sales strategy that proved to be effective for one organization might not deliver the same outcomes for another. Some of the more popular B2B sales methodologies include Account-Based Selling, The Challenger Sale, and Solution Selling.
In contrast, B2C sales relies primarily on marketing to spread brand awareness and bring buyers inbound. Because the sales process is fast and transactional, B2C salespeople usually spend most of their time on the actual sale rather than discussing the product or following up with prospective buyers. The most common B2C sales methodologies include retail, door-to-door, and e-commerce.
You’ll find that while there are marked differences between the two landscapes, the boundary between B2C and B2B sales is getting blurred by technology, accessibility of product information, and changing buyer behavior. B2B and B2C sales may implement different methodologies, but they now share certain business imperatives such as customer-centricity, personalized experiences, and authenticity.