B2B Sales Examples: Insights and Strategies that Work in 2023
We won't beat around the bush: B2B sales is hard.
To succeed, you need a can-do attitude and a proven, bullet-proof plan. We can't help you with the first thing, but we can definitely help you with the second one.
Keep reading to learn what business-to-business (B2B) sales is, how it differs from business-to-consumer (B2C) sales, and B2B sales examples to help you become the hero of your department.
What is B2B Sales?
Business-to-business sales, better known as B2B sales, is the process of selling products and services to businesses, rather than to individual consumers. Here are a few examples:
- Office Supply Companies: A business that sells paper, ink, printers, and related products to other companies in its local area would be considered a B2B business.
- Software-as-a-Service Brands (SaaS): A business that sells software products to companies via monthly subscription would be considered a B2B business as well.
- Professional Service Firms: Finally, legal firms, sales consultancies, and marketing agencies who offer their services to brands fall into the B2B category, too.
B2B companies typically enjoy higher order values than their B2C counterparts. On the downside, the selling process is often more complex for B2B businesses and their sales cycles are usually much longer than they are for B2C companies.
How Are B2B Sales and B2C Sales Different?
B2C sales is short for business-to-consumer sales and can be defined as a retail method in which businesses sell goods and services directly to individual consumers. Examples include:
- Supermarkets: A business that sells bread, eggs, milk, and other grocery store items to the people who will actually consume them is considered a B2C business.
- Car Dealerships: A business that sells cars, trucks, and SUVs to buyers for their personal use would be considered a B2C business as well.
- eCommerce Fashion Brands: An online business that sells clothes like jeans, button-up shirts, and shoes to the general public would also fall into the B2C category.
As you can see, the difference between B2C and B2B sales is the end customer. B2B businesses sell to other businesses, while B2C businesses sell to individual consumers.
This simple distinction changes everything about the sales process.
As mentioned above, B2B sales often result in higher order values than B2C sales. But the B2B sales process is usually more complex, which lengthens the B2B sales cycle.
The way most companies go about closing B2B customers is different, too, as we'll see in the next section. Everything from your brand's marketing campaign to its outreach strategy and sales techniques will need to be fine-tuned to reach and convert potential customers.
What is the B2B Sales Process?
So, what does B2B sales actually look like in real life?
In this section, we'll give you a complete overview of the B2B sales process. By the end, you'll know exactly how successful business-to-business sales is conducted in 2022.
1. In-Depth Market Research
Want to succeed in B2B sales? Start with in-depth market research.
You need to be intimately aware of your ideal customer's desires and paint points, as well as the buyer's journey they'll go on to satisfy and/or solve these things. Without this knowledge, you won't be able to develop messaging strategies that connect with potential clients, earn their trust, and eventually, turn them into paying customers for your company.
The question is, how do you research your target audience? And how do you actually use the information you uncover once you have it? Don't worry, it's not as hard as it sounds.
There are tons of ways to research your ideal customers:
- Google Search: Surf the internet for information on your target audience. This technique is simple and should help you dig up general data on your ideal buyers.
- Study Web Traffic: Who visits your company's website? And what do they do when they're there? Tools like Google Analytics will help you answer these questions. We suggest studying your social media profiles, too. Who follows your company? What kinds of content do these people like, share, and comment on the most?
- Use a B2B Data Provider: Tools like ZoomInfo, Crunchbase, and others allow you to research potential customers in your market and understand what’s happening at these companies as a whole.
- Analyze the Competition: Your competitors can be a wealth of information. Who do they target? Study their websites, social media profiles, and PPC ads to see who they're trying to reach and how they're trying to reach them.
- Talk to Current Customers: We've saved the best for last. To get reliable information on your ideal customers, talk to the folks who already love your brand. Then look for similarities between these people so that you can find common characteristics.
Once you've conducted in-depth market research, assemble your findings into a buyer persona, i.e. a fictional character that represents the real customers you hope to reach.
2. Prospecting and Outreach
Once you know who your ideal customers are, you can attempt to contact them, a process sales professionals usually refer to as sales prospecting.
Sales prospecting is "the process of searching for prospective customers or clients from your pool of leads, with the goal of identifying qualified potential buyers that can move through your sales process and convert into paying customers for your business."
Sales prospecting is essential to B2B sales. Unfortunately, it's one of the hardest tasks sales reps are asked to complete. In fact, 40% of reps say prospecting is the most challenging part of the sales process—even more challenging than closing deals.
Here's the good news: there are plenty of ways to sharpen your sales prospecting skills:
- Study: From free-to-read blog posts to paid courses, there are tons of resources out there that will teach you how to conduct effective outreach.
- Invest: Knowledge is power, but the tools you use to implement your knowledge matter. Look for the latest and greatest SaaS apps to supercharge your prospecting.
- Adjust: Take what you learn via sales resources and your own experiences and adjust your approach to sales prospecting. That way, your messaging is always on point.
To find success, B2B sales teams must embrace sales prospecting. Don't skip this step!
3. Ask Questions About Pain Points
You've got a prospect on the phone… Now what?
Inexperienced sales teams automatically talk about the products they sell, how much they sell them for, and why their prospect should make a purchase. Like, right now.
This is a mistake. Instead of blindly pushing products, sales reps should ask potential customers about their pain points. What do they struggle with? How do these challenges affect day-to-day operations? What benefits would they enjoy if these challenges didn't exist?
Once you know the answer to these questions, you can provide specific solutions that will actually help customers. Doing so will build trust and credibility with prospects.
You have to understand that the average B2B buyer is 57% - 70% of the way through their buying research before they even contact sales reps like you.
They don't want to hear about your product's features. They want you to listen to their problems; then tell them how your products will help them overcome their challenges. If you can do that, you'll develop a B2B sales strategy that explodes your company's bottom line.
4. Setting Up Appointments and Follow Ups
Remember what we said earlier? B2B sales cycles are typically long. Don't expect to close a prospect after your first call. Plan to follow up with prospects well into the future.
According to Brevet, 80% of sales require an average of five follow ups to close. It could be way more than this, though. After all, 6 to 10 people are involved in B2B buying decisions.
Translation: if you're in B2B sales, you're selling to a group of people, not a single person. This means that you have multiple decision-makers to woo before a sale is made.
Here are a few tips to help you set up appointments and follow up with prospects effectively:
- Do Your Research: Know the person you're contacting before you contact them. Research their company, peruse their LinkedIn profile, read their blog, etc. This shows professionalism and will make prospects more likely to book appointments with you.
- Screen Prospects: Your research will reveal details about each of your prospects. You may find that some of them aren't good fits for your products and/or services. Cut these people from your leads list so that you can focus on the best prospects.
- Be Flexible: Your prospects are busy. If possible, give them multiple opportunities to book appointments with you. Monday at 10am? Put it on the calendar. Thursday at 4pm? Not a problem. The more flexible you are, the more appointments you'll book.
- Use a Scheduling Tool: Remove as much friction from the scheduling process by using a tool like SavvyCal. You set your availability, and prospects can see your calendar with an overlay of their own schedule to pick the best time for both parties.
Follow Up With Prospects
- Do It: A lot of sales reps talk about following up. Be the person who actually does it.
- Get Your Number Right: How many times should you follow up with each prospect? If you don't have a relationship with the prospect, reach out a maximum of six times. If you do have a relationship with the prospect, follow up until you get a response.
- Get Your Timing Right: How often should you follow up with each prospect? We suggest sending your first follow up message two days after initial contact. Send another message 2 days later, a third message 4 days later, a fourth message 7 days later, a fifth message 14 days later, and 1 message per month after that.
- Use Multiple Channels: Finally, make sure you use different channels to follow up with prospects. Said channels should include the phone, email, social media, and even in-person visits, if you're able. Just remember to follow up with a purpose. When using email marketing for example, don't say, "Hey, Jim, just checking in…" Send them something valuable, such as a white paper that explains the benefits of your product.
B2B Sales Strategies & Examples
Now that we know what the B2B sales process looks like, let's talk about three common types of B2B sales: digital service and software sales, supply sales, and wholesale distribution sales.
- Digital Service & Software Sales: Businesses that use this B2B sales type sell services instead of products. Said services could be provided by humans, such as marketing professionals who consults with companies on promotional strategy; or by software like Quickbooks, which helps small business owners manage their finances.
- Supply Sales: Businesses that use this B2B sales type sell consumables that help support other companies. Said consumables can range from simple office supplies like paper and ink to heavy duty construction equipment like tractors and forklifts.
- Wholesale Distribution Sales: Businesses that use this B2B sales type usually sell raw materials that other companies use to manufacture products. Said raw materials may include food and herbs that a wholesaler sells to restaurants; or computer chips that tech companies use to build various pieces of technology.
Make sense? Cool, now let's dive deeper! In the following sections, we'll explain each B2B sales type in more detail, give examples of well-known brands that participate in these types of sales, and even provide a proven strategy you can use to close more deals.
Digital Service & Software Sales Examples
Products aren't the only thing that a B2B sales team can sell. In fact, a significant portion of B2B companies don't sell products at all. They sell services.
The digital services and software sales category is full of B2B businesses that sell their expertise, skill sets, and/or the various SaaS products they've created. As mentioned above, marketing consultants fall into this category, as do other service providers like accountants. SaaS brands like Quickbooks, Zendesk, and *cough cough* CLOSE *cough*are a part of it, too.
Decision-Makers in the Digital Service & Software Sales Category
So, who should you contact about your company's digital services and/or SaaS products?
The answer to that question will depend on the kind of services or SaaS products you offer, as well as the size of the company you hope to sell to.
Looking to sell marketing software to a new startup? You probably want to talk to the company's founder or CEO. Why? Because they probably won't have any other decision-makers. Hoping to sell accounting services to a large corporation? Get in touch with the company's Financial Director or Manager of Finance.
Well-Known Brands that Participate in This Type of Sales
- Lyfe Marketing: This popular marketing agency offers social media management services to large brands like Hilton, Crunch Fitness, and Domino's Pizza.
- Slack: Everybody's favorite workplace messaging app makes it easy to connect and collaborate with colleagues.
A Strategy for Selling in this Space
There are plenty of ways to sell digital services and SaaS products, from email marketing to webinars. But one of the most popular channels is social media—especially LinkedIn.
LinkedIn can be used throughout the entire sales funnel, which makes it an ideal channel for sales people in this space.
Supply Sales Examples
Next up, supply sales.
Companies that use this B2B sales type support other businesses by selling them the consumables they need to operate effectively, like office supplies and heavy duty equipment.
Supply sales is actually quite similar to B2C sales. Here's the main difference: rather than selling one forklift to Construction Company XYZ, your company would attempt to sell 20 forklifts to Construction Company XYZ at one time. In other words, quantity is a factor.
The other difference has to do with the approval process. As in most B2B selling scenarios, there is usually more than one decision-maker involved in supply sales.
Decision-Makers in the Supply Sales Category
Speaking of decision makers, who do you need to contact to succeed in supply sales? Once again, it likely depends on what you're selling and who you're selling it to.
In general, look to contact a manager in the department your product will help. Returning to our forklift example, you could try contacting a warehouse manager of some kind.
Well-Known Brands that Participate in This Type of Sales
- Bulk Bookstore: As the name suggests, Bulk Bookstore sells books in bulk to organizations of all kinds. The company's client list includes Starbucks and Facebook.
- Lyreco: Just about every company needs office supplies. Lyreco's mission is to supply them, which they successfully do in 42 countries around the world.
A Strategy for Selling in this Space
Email is a B2B sales rep's best friend. With this wonderful, old school tool, you can keep in touch with business-to-business buyers, build trust with them, and even close deals. And because of automation, much of the hard work can be set to autopilot.
The keys to effective email marketing are consistency and stellar content.
Make sure to contact prospects on a regular basis. Once a month will probably be fine, but we encourage you to experiment and find a cadence that works for you.
Most importantly, send your prospects amazing content. "Just checking in" emails rarely impact sales. Instead, offer prospects something of value, such as your company's latest blog post, white paper, or other piece of sales enablement content. Special offers work well, too.
Wholesale and Distribution Sales Examples
Last, but certainly not least, we have the wholesale and distribution sales category.
Wholesalers often sell raw materials that other companies use to make products. A wholesale food distributor, for example, would sell food to dine-in restaurants, fast food joints, and other culinary establishments, which would then be used to assemble signature dishes.
Decision-Makers in the Supply Sales Category:
If you want to get your products into retail stores like Best Buy and Walmart, you'll need to contact the purchasing agents for each brand and develop relationships with them. The same goes for most restaurant chains and tech companies.
To sell to smaller operations, like local stores and restaurants, you'll probably need to contact the owner of the establishment. They're most likely to make purchasing decisions.
Well-Known Brands that Participate in This Type of Sales
- Sysco: As the largest food distributor in the United States, and one of the largest in the world, Sysco delivers food and beverages to a variety of restaurants and hotels.
- TNT Fireworks: If you live in the U.S., you've heard of TNT Fireworks. But did you know that they're a successful wholesale company? TNT Fireworks sells fireworks (obviously) to small business owners who set up firework stands for the 4th of July.
A Strategy for Selling in this Space
Large retailers and manufacturers, AKA the people that wholesalers sell to, pay special attention to the products they purchase. They want to make sure the materials in their offerings, or the goods on their shelves, are right for their respective companies.
To prove that your wholesale brand has "the stuff," you need to build relationships with key stakeholders over time. The best way to do this is to invest in a CRM solution.
A CRM will allow you to store information about your prospects and customers, set follow up reminders, and contact potential buyers when the time is right. Most include automation, too, which means you can do many of these things with little to no effort.
Here's our advice: find a CRM that works for your company. Then learn how to use it so that you can build trusting relationships with customers and close more deals.
5 Examples of Popular Companies Successful in B2B Sales
We've already listed a few companies that use the B2B business model. But the more, the merrier, right? Here are five additional B2B organizations to check out:
- IBM: International Business Machines, better known as IBM, has been helping other businesses increase efficiency for nearly 100 years. These days, they do it via a variety of cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and security solutions.
- FedEx: If you want it shipped fast, you ship it FedEx. The delivery company is a pioneer in the space and known for creating an exemplary customer experience.
- Boeing: As the world's largest aerospace company, Boeing manufactures everything from commercial airliners to special aircraft for the United States military.
- DocuSign: Remember when you had to sign paper documents with a pen? DocuSign is working hard to make you forget. The e-signature app has been revolutionizing the way businesses handle contracts since it was founded in 2003.
- Close: Want to boost your revenue? Then you need a reliable way to contact and manage leads. Close is the answer. Our CRM will let you email, call, and text your leads. Once you do, you can easily manage your pipeline, set reminders, and more.
The five businesses above are very different, but they've each done something similar to help achieve success: their B2B salespeople identify their ideal customers' pain points and present their company's solutions(s) as the best way to overcome challenges.
How do we know this to be true? Because that's what success in B2B sales always looks like. It doesn't matter if you're a new startup or an established brand. This is the way.
Using Successful B2B Sales Examples to Generate More Revenue This Year
B2B sales is what happens when one business sells products and/or services to another.
It can be more difficult than B2C sales, and the sales cycles are almost always longer. But if you stick it out, you will be rewarded. B2B transactions are usually much higher value.
Just remember, to succeed in B2B sales, you have to follow a proven process. First, conduct in-depth market research. Second, prospect for new customers on a regular basis. Third, ask about your prospect's paint points to build trust. And fourth, set appointments and follow up.
If you get stuck, or just need a bit of inspiration, have another look at the B2B sales examples we listed in this article. Brands like IBM, Slack, and FedEx have built world-renown businesses thanks to their commitment to the things we outlined above.
The truth is, B2B sales is tough. But the right technology will make your life as a B2B salesperson easier. That's why you should consider an investment in Close. Our platform has the tools you need to make more sales. Watch our on-demand demo to see if Close is right for you.