What is the B2B sales process? Plus tips and tricks for the modern sales pro

Posted April 9, 2019

Joe vignolo headshot

By Joe Vignolo

Senior Content Managing Editor at Outreach

The B2B Sales Process: A Brief Introduction

If your business sells products or services to other businesses, you have a B2B sales process.

A single sale of this type typically involves high price points and multiple decision makers, making the process lengthier and more complex compared to engaging individual consumers (B2C). To beat challenges and remain profitable, companies in this market hire B2B sales professionals who are trained to find, qualify, and engage corporate buyers.

B2B Outbound Sales Process

Depending on your industry, target buyers, and other factors, your B2B sales cycle may have four or more stages. The outbound sales process generally adheres to the following sequence:

  1. Prospecting
  2. Research
  3. Connecting
  4. Needs Assessment
  5. Presentation/Proposal
  6. Follow Up
  7. Negotiation/Objection Handling
  8. Closing

In outbound sales, sellers initiate the relationship and drive interactions with target B2B buyers. They search for and directly engage sales opportunities--companies and decision makers who fit their ideal customer profile--and launch direct outreach efforts such as cold calling and emailing to move prospects through the sales pipeline.

B2B Inbound Sales Process

In contrast to outbound sales, sales buyers that come through the inbound channel make the first move and approach sellers to learn more about their solution. Unlike most outbound prospects, inbound leads are familiar with your company via an online search or marketing content and demonstrate a clear interest for your product or service.

To successfully close inbound sales opportunities, B2B inbound sellers build their sales process from the vantage point and experience of the customer. The customer experience fo the buying process typically involves the following steps:

  1. Awareness
  2. Research (reviews, product comparisons, etc.)
  3. Initial contact with solutions provider (website visit, social media look-up, content requests, email sign-ups)
  4. Solution fit validation (requests for premium, in-depth content, positive email open rates)
  5. Consultation with sales rep (via inbound calls, warm emails, or demos)
  6. Proposal review/Negotiation
  7. Purchasing decision

From the B2B seller’s perspective, the process would look something like this:

  1. Discover/identify customer intent
  2. Personalize learning experience based on behavior/profile
  3. Respond to signals or messages
  4. Needs assessment
  5. Advise/Provide solution
  6. Objection handling/Follow up
  7. Close deal

B2B Sales Tools & Technology

Human sellers drive B2B sales. But in an environment characterized by intense competition and an increasing number of administrative tasks, leaving everything to mere human abilities means letting a good number of revenue opportunities slip by untapped.

You can only read, compose, and send a limited number of emails in any given time, after all. If you need to manually research prospect information, update data, and determine the best call script to use for each particular prospect, that doesn’t leave much time for sales calls either.

Technology can make a tremendous difference. A 2018 study by CSO Insight revealed that organizations with effective sales enablement technologies achieved two-digit improvements in quota attainment rate.

What are common B2B sales tools?

A hand-picked stack of technology solutions will perform the heavy lifting, complete manual tasks, and free up more time for human sellers to actually sell. Tools such as Sales Engagement Platforms also address key challenges in B2B selling such as sales-marketing misalignment, personalization, and performance measurement.

There are many types of software, applications, platforms, and other solutions that help B2B sales organizations achieve higher revenue and better process efficiencies. The main categories of B2B sales technology include:

  1. Business Intelligence
  2. Coaching, Onboarding, and Training
  3. Collaboration, Communications, and Conferencing
  4. Content Sharing and Management
  5. Contract Lifecycle Management
  6. Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
  7. Data and Performance Analytics
  8. Email Management
  9. Lead Generation
  10. Sales Engagement

Fuzzy on the differences between Sales Force Automation, Customer Relationship Management, and Sales Engagement Platform technologies? Read our brief breakdown of these three kinds of sales tech.

Practical Strategies and Tips for Modern Sellers

An ideal sales process reflects the buying journey of a company’s target customers. According to Sales Hacker, an effective B2B sales process is customer-centric, clearly defined, repeatable, goal-oriented, measurable, and adaptable. An optimized sales process translates to revenue growth.

B2B sales has become more complex over the years, and your sales team must navigate multiple decision makers, touch points, communication channels, and competitors.

Gaining competitive advantage in those conditions requires a lot more than personal grit and great sales software. To remain relevant and maintain a healthy win rate, organizations need a highly responsive B2B sales strategy, a capable technology stack, and a host of techniques that will move prospects closer to a positive buying behavior.

Start with talent

Advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence and data science now play major roles in the success and sustainability of business organizations. However, customer-facing humans still account for the most crucial component of your revenue apparatus simply because they are the ones nurturing prospects, building trust, solving pain points, and closing deals.

That means hiring, onboarding, and training competent sales professionals is a top item on the agenda. To build a high-performing sales team, ensure that sellers possess the right skills, traits, and attitude as soon as they hit the sales floor. In addition to having business and selling skills, ideal B2B sales professionals also embrace technology and have excellent interpersonal skills.

Follow through with tools and tactics

There’s a lot of exceptional resources out there, a lot. So, which sales solutions and approaches will fit your organization and sales process?

Some of the more popular techniques include NEAT Selling, SNAP Selling, Solution Selling, and Account-Based Selling. There are many more frameworks and methods used in B2B sales and you should determine which one delivers the best outcomes for your business (we've got a short list of pros and cons for the top five methods).

Regardless of the technique you adopt, here are a few general selling tactics that can elevate process efficiencies and revenue performance:

  1. Be clear and precise in setting your ideal customer profile and buyer personas.
  2. Align all revenue-generating departments — especially sales and marketing — towards the same strategic goals. Involve cross sections of these units in the same campaigns when required.
  3. Embrace new technology and training programs that enable sellers not only to focus more on selling but to also improve their selling skills.
  4. B2B customers demand attention and personalization. They are also looking for authentic advisors, not telemarketers. Ramp up product knowledge, do prospect research, and share case studies and success stories that are relevant and meaningful for each B2B sales lead. Splurge on customer experience.
  5. Strategies, sequences, playbooks, and templates are not written in stone. Be flexible and drive continuous improvement through experimentation and A/B testing.
  6. Upon reaching the proper scale, establish dedicated teams for Sales Ops, Sales Enablement, and Customer Success. Evaluate whether a Chief Revenue Officer and Chief Data Officer or Chief AI Officer suit your organization. The digital marketplace has become a data-driven economy.
  7. Build a culture of customer-centricity and success. You’re not just selling. The real goal is to make customers feel awesome after using your product.
  8. Translate customer feedback into product improvements, iterations, or (new) launches.


Read more

Discover the Sales Execution Platform
See how Outreach helps sellers close over 2 million opportunities every month.