A blog post by Roberto Maugeri-de Graaff, a B2B sales process architect.
In marketing and sales, there are often talks about B2B and B2C. The “B” stands for “business”, meaning companies, and “C” stands for “consumer”, the “2” stands for “to”, meaning “to”. B2B is thus broken down into business-to-business and B2C is business-to-consumer, i.e. all of us.
6 dimensions are described below, which allow a fundamental distinction to be made between the two areas of business relations, B2B and B2C:
Dimension 1: The emotions
B2C: When we buy something privately, it is usually something we need in our household, something we want for our hobby, we give something away or we buy it simply because we like it or because it is fun. The last argument is not limited to small expenses. Many people buy an expensive sports car or a holiday home simply because they like it and not because they need it. We often also replace items because they no longer look good or because we have “seen” the item.
B2B: When a company buys something, it is almost always a business investment. The purchased goods should bring the company a financial added value, i.e. a financial profit. They try to leave emotions completely out of the equation. Many companies change the buyer for a certain supplier every year and let the various buyers “rotate” among the suppliers. This is intended to prevent an emotional bond or relationship.
Dimension 2: The time
B2C: Who does not know the impulse purchase? A friend or acquaintance told us about a great product and we thought: “Well, I could actually afford to do that. After Christmas, I’ll take a look at it”. But then after a short time, you walk past a shop where this very product is in the shop window as a “special offer” and you are in a good mood and buy the product not only because of the nice salesperson.
B2B: Completely different from a procurement decision in companies. These are well-coordinated and, among other things, are provided with a plan for profitability and implementation.
Dimension 3: The Buyer
B2B: A very large difference is the professional buyers in B2B. They are trained in dealing with purchasing processes and are often not alone. At Infoteam we distinguish between 5 different roles: the approver, the decision-maker, the auditor, the user and the coach. Often the B2B salesperson is opposed by two, three or a dozen people in the company who influence the purchasing decision (the Buying Center). It is very complex to consider all these people with their wishes and ideas, to know the business and personal goals and to incorporate the criteria leading to the decision into our offer. Interestingly, many personnel departments still first check the professional and technical skills of the prospective sales employee and also weight them strongly. This, however, is material for a future blog post.
B2C: The private “buyer”, on the other hand, has at best been well or very well informed. But it is not his main occupation.
Dimension 4: Legal and voluntary guidelines
B2C: There are legal regulations if we as private persons want to buy a weapon or an exotic animal. Of course, we also impose voluntary criteria such as fairly produced clothes or we compensate for the CO2 emitted by our flight. But if we are invited to the theatre by the car dealer, we gladly accept this without further ado. For the vast majority of B2C purchases, however, legal requirements are irrelevant.
B2B: Different in the corporate environment in B2B. Here I have already experienced it, that my customer insisted on paying for his lunch himself in the in-house canteen. In many companies, lunch or even small gifts like a bottle of wine are forbidden. This presents the B2B salesperson with ever greater problems in establishing a relationship of trust with this customer and establishing a relationship based on which a trusting and efficient transaction can take place.
Dimension 5: Marketing
B2C: Since we cannot personally look after all “consumers” in B2C, we have to spend a lot of money in Marketing.We have to invest in large-scale marketing campaigns. Not just because the margins in B2C are often in the lower, single-digit percentage range. We need at least hundreds of thousands or even millions of customers to run a business profitably.
B2B: In B2B, on the other hand, the revenue per customer is usually higher and therefore we need fewer customers. How much less depends on the industry and business. In general, however, it is often the case that companies generate the major part of their sales and predominant part of their turnover with only a handful of customers. For this reason key account managers in larger companies only have a few customers.
Dimension 6: Level of professionalism
B2C: As a B2C salesperson at a department store or in the grocery store around the corner, our customers do not expect a high level of professionalism. Of course, it is a pleasure to have a noticeably trained salesperson on the other side. But I would say that friendliness and helpfulness are more important. A salesperson in a clothing store does not need a university degree in materials science.
B2B: But we expect more from a B2B salesperson for hydroelectric power plants. By this, I do not so much mean professional and technical skills, but rather business management knowledge and organizational skills. The B2B salesperson must know the challenges and processes of the customer, he must know when to call in an internal expert on a topic and he must also be able to manage the sales process internally (specifications, prices, resources and involvement of other departments and functions). Infoteam’s study has shown that 45% of the customers surveyed expect more professionalism, but only 25% of suppliers feel that more needs to be done.
It is becoming more and more important for the B2B salesperson to gain the trust of their customers already during the sales process. Phil Kreindler has summarized this in his book “Customerized Selling” in the following 5 points:
- Reaction speed
- Team spirit
- Living company values (not just talking about them)
A professional and well-implemented sales process supports the implementation of these principles and makes the sales process more successful.
Many thanks to Janine Brüssing of Cleantechnology Consulting for the editorial support of this article. The picture is by Gili Benita from Unsplash.