A B2B sales process is crucial for every B2B business. A B2B sales process is a series of steps that convert your potential leads into customers. Hence, you need to have a structured B2B sales process and optimise it to have a higher win rate that leads to business growth and the generation of more revenue.
Before we move on to the discussion of the B2B sales process, let’s get a clear understanding of what B2B sales means.
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What are B2B Sales?
B2B (business-to-business) sales refer to the sales model in which a business offers its products or services to another company, for example, the business transaction between a manufacturing company and a wholesaling company. This is opposed to B2C (business-to-business) sales where the business sells its products to the end-users. There are some B2B businesses that carry out their business offline and on online B2B e-commerce platforms like Alibaba.com.
What differentiates B2B sales from B2C sales?
Apart from the difference between the target customers, B2B sales are different from B2C sales in several ways:
Long sales cycle
The sales cycle of B2B sales is slower and more complex compared to B2C. This is because B2B buyers tend to make logic-based purchasing decisions and there are some issues they will need to take into account, such as higher payoff, massive agreements, complicated solutions, various stakeholders and more. Thus, a lengthier sales cycle for B2B.
Higher transaction value on average
B2B sales tend to be pricey and have higher order values than B2C sales. The value of B2B sales can range from thousands to millions of ringgit. B2B buyers are willing to purchase the products in bulk and pay a premium price for the sources they require.
Most of the B2B buyers are high-level executives, like CEO, director, founder and so on. They are selective with who they are dealing with. Hence, content is one of the fundamentals in B2B sales. This content needs to be informative and persuasive so that the buyers can be educated and formulate their own purchasing decision without the involvement of the marketers.
Unlike B2C companies, B2B has multiple stakeholders. Since every purchasing decision may have an impact on the company’s bottom line, B2B deals require obtaining permission from a large number of decision-makers. This is to ensure that the deals do not conflict with the interest of the stakeholders and are worth being made.
How does the B2B sales process work?
As you can see, there is a big difference between B2B sales and B2C sales. The B2B sales process will involve more stakeholders than B2C, thus making the B2B sales process complex and you have to persuade every decision-maker. So, here are the nine steps of the B2B sales process you should follow:
Step #1: Research
As we know, there are a lot of competitors who are selling similar products and their target audience is similar, too! Hence, it is crucial to have a thorough understanding of your B2B products, markets as well as the ways the competitors fit their products into the B2B market. Here are some of the factors that you may consider while conducting research:
Unique Selling Points (USP)
Determine the features of the competitors’ products and find out what they offer that nobody else can. This is one of the main reasons their loyal customers stay with them.
Determine the attributes and strategies that the competitors use to differentiate themselves from the other companies. It can be their brand message, content style, marketing campaigns and so on.
This is an environmental analysis framework that enables B2B sellers to identify the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that they are facing in their business. This framework also allows them to make comparisons with competitors and improve their strategies.
Step #2: Generating Leads
Lead generation is an important aspect of the B2B sales funnel. It is hard for B2B businesses to develop their sales and grow their customer base without leads. This begins with the creation of a lead database that includes the demographic profile of the targeted customers listing attributes such as age, income, gender and so on. You may use inbound marketing to publish useful content that relates to the leads’ pain points on social media or blogs to attract these new leads. This allows the leads to learn more about your products and increases the likelihood that they will purchase them.
Step #3: Qualifying B2B Leads
Although the main objective of every B2B business is to create as many leads as possible, it does not mean that every lead is worth following. Categorizing and sorting B2B leads provides you with a wealth of information about the leads. You are also able to differentiate the high-quality or low-quality leads who:
- Have shown interest
- Require or deserve attention
- Are ready to engage with your salesperson
Qualification of leads helps save time and resources in the long run as you are able to focus on the right potential leads in the sector your products relate to. This prevents the sales funnel from stalling and you can have a more accurate view of the sales cycle.
Step #4: Nurturing the Prospects
The next phase of qualifying the leads is to nurture them. Lead nurturing is an important process that needs to be carried out to ensure that the prospects are able to maintain a connection with your business until they are ready to purchase your products or services. You can benefit from a good lead nurturing programme that focuses on listening to the needs and wants of the prospects as well as delivering the product message required by the prospects. It helps to increase brand awareness and establish trust and confidence between you and the prospects.
Step #5: Preparing to Make a Proposal
The goal of preparing a proposal is to present and attempt to persuade the customers about the worthiness of the deal. A B2B business proposal can be varied based on the industry in which the customers are involved, the size and requirements of the company and so on. It needs to match the specific needs and requirements of the customers so that you can persuade them and turn the proposed ideas into reality.
Here are certain aspects that you need to include in your proposal:
Your company’s information
A brief introduction about the nature of your business, the unique selling point of your products that set you apart from the competition, testimonials and social proof will provide your customers with a thorough understanding of your B2B business.
Expertise in a certain field
B2B customers are more rational when making business decisions. They will examine and evaluate your company’s past and present industry experience. Showing your strength in the field helps them to gain confidence in your company and products.
Pricing and methodology
Tell the customers how your plans for your products can help them to resolve their issues, bring them profit and how valuable your products are to them in terms of cost.
Step #6: Pitching Your Products
When it comes to B2B sales, pitching the products is one of the important stages. However, you have to pique the customers’ interest before you explain the benefits of buying your products. You may pitch your products in the form of a video, live video conference, blog articles, client testimonials and so on, as this type of compelling content is able to grab the customer’s attention, making them want to learn more about your products.
Every time you pitch your products, start with the problem and hit their pain points. Customers will not listen to you if they do not realise that they have issues that need to solve. Then, tailor the pitch to their needs when you explain your products and avoid the general pitch. Treat the customer well by personalising the pitch. Customers will be happy and feel respected, giving them a positive impression of your company. You may also offer some stakes when pitching your products to create a sense of urgency and secure buy-in straightaway.
Step #7: Responding to Queries
Customer responsiveness is one of the most undervalued B2B marketing strategies. All customers wish to receive a timely response from B2B sellers when they have enquiries after a pitch. Hence, regardless of the question, whether seeking assistance or making complaints, you have to prepare to respond to their queries as soon as possible to maximise customer satisfaction.
Step #8: Sending and following up on the proposal
You are very close to the stage of closing the deal when you are in the stage of sending the proposal to the customer. Trying to put yourself in their position when you draft the final proposal by understanding the customer’s needs and concerns. It is better for you to include all the details discussed and add multiple sales options in the final proposal to submit a winning offer.
However, a lot of B2B sellers are hesitant when it comes to following up on the proposal. In fact, follow up is a must for every B2B seller. But here is a thing that you have to take note of: timing is crucial. Do not follow up with your customers frequently or too soon, as they will feel annoyed or worse, turn down the proposal. Thus, you have to strike a balance between intuition and prior knowledge of the prospect by knowing when to follow up.
Step #9: Closing the B2B Sales
This is the last stage of the B2B sales process, and it is also the stage that delights B2B sellers, as customers have expressed their interest in purchasing your products. Draw up a contract that includes all the necessary details like payment conditions, rules and regulations and so on after the deal has been agreed upon to protect the rights of both parties. But, some customers might have concerns about signing the agreement. Find out what their worries are and give them some time to consider. Do not rush them or you will turn an initial “yes” into a “no”.
Even if you close the deal successfully, you still have to maintain communication with the customers and keep them up to date on your products. This is to ensure long term collaboration by enhancing the business relationship.
The Bottom Line
These are the nine steps that you will undergo in the B2B sales process. However, there are B2B sellers who find the B2B sales process stressful and complex. In fact, all these B2B processes can be shortened or even eliminated if you choose to market your products on a worldwide e-commerce marketplace like Alibaba.com.
You are able to target a wide range of businesses in different geographic regions on Alibaba.com. You are able to expand your reach with B2B eCommerce digital marketing methods. The built-in technology and analytic tools with Alibaba.com can to help you manage complex orders, analyse information about your target customers and coordinate order inventory and customer information across channels.
Alibaba.com is the largest B2B eCommerce platform and it allows you to access the B2B marketplace as well as a network with millions of worldwide buyers. All the prospects and advanced B2B eCommerce tools are ready and available on Alibaba.com.
So don’t wait. Fill out the form and contact us to learn more on how to sell on Alibaba.com today!
**All information extracted from Alibaba’s Business Blog: A Complete Guide to B2B Sales