Mastering Sales: The Similarities and Differences Of B2B and B2C Sales
Whether you’re just getting started in sales or looking to expand your business’s offerings, knowing the difference between B2B and B2C sales is critical.
Do we have to sell you on the benefits of learning (and mastering!) the difference between these two types of sales? For starters, when you and/or your business are more efficiently targeting the right audience, your sales messages have a better chance of being well-received.
… which leads to more sales.
Sounds simple enough. So, let’s dive right into the fundamentals of B2B and B2C sales, along with examples, similarities, and differences.
What Are B2C Sales?
B2C sales, or Business to Consumer, are all about the sales processes businesses that involve individual consumers.
Examples of Common B2C Sales Situations
Think about your day-to-day life. Any of the times you’ve bought something for yourself, you’ve engaged in B2C sales. These can be categorized as:
- Direct Sales – This is when you as a consumer buy directly from the company who created the product. This includes everything from grabbing a sandwich from a café to booking a flight directly on an airline’s website.
- Online Intermediaries – These are platforms like Amazon, eBay, Etsy, and others that consumers use to buy products that were created by another business or retailer.
- Advertising Sales – These are sales models based around websites created to generate more traffic through targeted ads. Think affiliates and content marketing-based websites.
- Subscriptions – These are fee-based services that consumers receive goods or services on a recurring basis. Ones you’re all too familiar with include Netflix, meal kit delivery services, and of course, your cell phone.
What Are B2B Sales?
B2B sales, or Business to Business, refer to all those sales interactions that happen between two businesses.
Examples of Common B2B Sales Situations
It’s common to group B2B sales in three categories:
- Supply Sales – This is a business that sells products (equipment, supplies, break room snacks, etc.) that will be directly used by another business. Ever seen The Office? Jim, Pam, Dwight, and Michael are all involved in B2B.
- Distribution Sales – This involves one business, often a wholesaler, selling a product in bulk to another company who then repackages and sells it to the consumer. An example could be a toy manufacturer that sells to toy stores, who then sell to consumers.
- Service Sales – This is one business selling a service to another business. It could be legal counsel, business consultation, software (which can include Software-As-A-Service), tax preparation, or other specialized services.
What Are The Differences Between B2B And B2C Sales?
Though both B2B and B2C sales deal with a customer, how you approach that customer depends on the type of sales you’re undergoing.
Given that many of us are quite familiar with at least being the consumer in a B2C sales funnel, let’s outline four fundamental ways B2B sales differ from B2C sales.
- B2B Buyers – Because buyers in the B2B sales conversation are representing a business, you are likely dealing in a more professional environment. That may require a slightly higher level of professionalism (maybe don’t start your cold email outreach with “Bro!”). In-person B2B sales may require a certain level of dress or etiquette. And in larger business, you’ll be navigating gatekeepers, be it receptionists, assistants, or whole teams of people who are looking for the best option for their company.
- Seasoned Vs. Sentimental – Though all sales can be said to have an element of emotion to them, buyers in the B2B sales conversation may be less swayed than a typical consumer by an emotional appeal. Though the latest pair of sneakers may make an individual feel cool, “feeling cool” is a difficult pitch for a new accounting software. Since B2B buyers have received training and are experienced, selling effectively requires knowing more than just a pain point; it requires knowing their whole business environment, as well as the buyer’s role within it.
- Narrower Market – Though B2B sales can represent a bigger potential contract than any individual consumer sale (like Tesla selling thousands of cars to be rented to Hertz versus selling a single car to you or me), you aren’t actually selling to the whole business. You’re selling to one person in that business. Also, there may be many fewer businesses that actually need your product or service, so the margin for error can be thin.
- Extended Sales Cycles, Longer Relationships – Because B2B sales involve a business, there are often multiple stakeholders involved, multiple decision makers, and multiple conversations to finally seal a deal. Once agreed upon, that can lead to a long-term collaboration that can sustain your business longer than a single consumer sale, which may be more impulse-driven. Arriving at that sale means bringing a deep knowledge of the product, the ability to engage with the right people, and then maintain those relationships.
Similarities In B2B and B2C Sales Conversations
Though B2B and B2C sales represent two fairly different opportunities, there’s an important theme to keep in mind as you continue on your sales journey: both B2B and B2C sales focus on the customer.
Ultimately, you can reduce this sales process to selling a product or service that reduces a pain or problem in their personal or professional lives or makes their lives better.
Fully understanding what problem you’re solving, how you’re solving it, and who you’re solving it for will help you choose between B2B and B2C sales.