What Is B2B Sales? (With Examples and Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published November 10, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

While one of the most visible forms of sales is that between businesses and consumers, B2B sales, or business-to-business sales, comprise much of the activity in which salespeople and companies engage. In B2B sales, companies buy or sell with one another to further their businesses through effective communication and trading. Understanding what B2B sales are and how they work is key to growing a company through the trade of products or services between businesses.

In this article, we answer the question, "What is B2B sales?", list sales processes and techniques, offer tips for success with B2B sales, and explore e xamples of B2B scenarios.

What is B2B sales?

To answer the question, "What is B2B sales?", it's important to first understand how businesses interact commercially. B2B differs from B2C, or business-to-consumer sales, where a company sells its products or services directly to private consumers. With B2B sales, one business sells to another, either to supply them with products to sell to consumers, or to provide them with products or services they require for operating. B2B sales can be complex in the purchasing cycle, as many organizations use multiple buyers or other decision-makers who oversee product and service purchasing to further the company's goals.

You can separate B2B sales into three distinct categories. These can help to determine the ways a company reaches its objectives. These categories are:

  • B2B service sales: In this category, businesses might provide specific services to other companies, such as law consultancy or financial management services.

  • B2B material sales: This is where one company provides materials to another for them to use for the production of their own products. For example, these include equipment wholesalers providing machine components to manufacturers to use those parts to produce their products.

  • B2B product sales: This is when a business sells products that serve a company's needs, such as tools, equipment, or stationary, for another business to use.

Related: A Comprehensive Guide on the Various Types of Sales

7-step B2B sales process

B2B sales are complex and benefit from strategic sales tactics to best target clients and establish lasting relationships. A common process exists for businesses with B2B operations, which employ a variety of sales techniques to serve a range of scenarios and consumer types. This process may vary depending on a company's industry or the marketplace in which it operates. The seven stages of the B2B sales cycle are:

  1. Individual research: Start by finding out about the target market, competitors, product or service information, and functions to inform your approach to the marketplace.

  2. Prospecting: This is the search for prospective clients to whom you may be able to sell your products or services.

  3. Needs Assessment: Next, you can analyze the needs of these prospects to identify if they're a suitable match for your products or services.

  4. Sales Pitch: You may now connect with the prospective client and present to them a pitch for how they may benefit from your goods or services.

  5. Negotiation: In this next step, both businesses enter negotiations to determine the best deal for each party.

  6. Closing: This is the finalization stage, where you complete a sale.

  7. Follow-up: Following up is essential after a sale to maintain a loyal and lasting commercial relationship.

Related: What Are Sales Terms? (Importance and Common Examples)

B2B sales techniques

Within B2B sales, there's a range of techniques that sales professionals can use to identify opportunities and follow the sales funnel to the point of closing. The best techniques for a business suit their clientele, industry, and the nature of their products or services. Here are some effective methods you can use to pursue sales opportunities:

  • Value selling: This technique works by leveraging the inherent value of a good or service.

  • Solution selling: This is a tactic focused on solving a client's problems.

  • Account-based sales: This is a relationship-based approach using client accounts to sustain sales.

  • The Sandler selling system: This is a system wherein sales representatives behave as consultants rather than simply pursuing sales opportunities.

  • The challenger style: This is a sales style encouraging salespeople to take an authoritative approach to prospects and emulate high-performing salespeople.

Related: 20 Marketing Terms to Note (With Definitions and Functions)

Tips for success in B2B sales

When optimizing B2B sales, it's crucial to improve both your sales skills and your ability to plan strategic sales activity. Here are some helpful tips you can follow to improve your B2B sales and maximize sales with other businesses:

Focus on creating solutions for customers

Good business transactions are those which mutually benefit the business and its customers. This means that good B2B sales activity helps the business that a company supplies goods or services to in finding solutions to their needs. For example, consider a business supplying a restaurant with hospitality technology, such as point-of-sale systems. To be effective, they seek to make their products serve the restaurants' needs as comprehensively as possible and create solutions for their service processes.

You can focus business practices to create client-focused solutions by developing clear messages or missions which invite other companies to solve their problems with the products you sell. If the sales force is focusing on solving its customers' solutions, this can help to develop long and lucrative sales relationships with clients.

Related: What Is the Meaning of Gatekeepers in Marketing and Sales?

Establish clientele connections

Building rewarding client relationships is one of the most important elements of B2B sales, and can have a distinct influence on the success of the business. Many businesses rely on sustainable relationships with return customers, so establishing this type of connection is invaluable for B2B-based organizations. It's essential to establish trust early on in business relationships. Equally important is to ensure that you display your value for your client's own business success when trading with them. By retaining loyal and valuable customers, you can ensure that the company has a continuous source of business.

Related: What Is the B2B2C Model? (With Its Importance and Uses)

Develop your product and industry knowledge

It's essential when conducting B2B sales activity that you have a comprehensive understanding of the products the business sells and the industry in which it operates. Having a thorough knowledge of the resources a business in your industry requires means being able to communicate more effectively, and better understand your client's needs. It's wise to conduct any individual research you require to gain knowledge about the way the industry functions, the business' products, or your competitor's commercial offering. This can help you to best position your products or services to succeed in your market.

Related: Outside Sales: Definition, Responsibilities, and Differences

Improve your communication skills

Effective communication is a crucial skill for those working in sales, whether business-to-business, or business-to-consumer. With the complex sales cycles of B2B operations, communication is essential for letting other businesses know important dates, offers, and terms. Communication is also essential in effective negotiation, which is a major component of B2B deals. Similarly, active listening and conversational skills are vital for ensuring that you meet the needs of your clients. Communication also helps to facilitate collaboration with other salespeople and members of the marketing team.

Related: What Is SPIN Selling? (With Definition and Examples)

Examples of B2B scenarios

Here are some examples of various B2B scenarios to help explain how each type of sales process influences the ways that businesses operate:

B2B sales with service providers

Imagine a B2B sales process in which an accounting firm wishes to acquire larger business clients. This is an example of one business providing a service to another company. In the past, this hypothetical firm has only offered its services to small businesses or individual brand owners, but now seeks bigger opportunities. The firm's sales and marketing teams may implement B2B tactics, including e-mail campaigns, content marketing, and hosting seminars to expand their clientele.

Because this organization acquires and works with other businesses as opposed to individual consumers, it's a B2B service provider. It's also worth noting that it doesn't matter to the firm's business whether the companies they offer services to provide B2B or B2C sales to their own customers.

Related: How to Complete the Selling Process in 7 Steps

B2B sales with wholesalers

For this example, suppose a wholesale supply business provides computer parts which businesses use to manufacture and sell computers. In this instance, the wholesaler functions as a supplier for the computer manufacturers who build and sell laptop and desktop computers to consumers. The company supplying the parts operates as a B2B business, while the manufacturer-retailer operates in B2C sales. Here, the wholesaler may deploy marketing and sales tactics to attract and retain manufacturer clients which rely on their resources to operate their business.

Related: How to Use a Sales Strategy Template to Create Your Own

B2B sales with suppliers

For this example, assume a business sells large office equipment, including computers, copy machines, screens, and printers. The business wishes to expand its clientele to include businesses outside of its geographical surrounding. Because this business sells its products to other companies as opposed to private consumers, it classifies as a B2B sales operation. This organization's marketing and sales teams may implement strategies in which to reach a broader market. Such tactics may include e-mail marketing, social media, or cold-calling prospective clients. The ultimate goal of the company is to gain ongoing business with repeat customers.

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