B2B vs B2C: 5 Biggest Differences in Sales Strategies

To succeed in sales, you must know your customer. This means understanding their wants and needs, habits, values, and what sales strategies can help you close the deal. 

It also means being able to correctly classify your market as selling a high-tech piece of equipment to a large corporation can be very different from selling a trendy pair of jeans to a teenager.

One of the simplest distinctions in sales is that between B2C, which stands for business-to-customer, and B2B, which stands for business-to-business. 

Simply put, a B2C sale takes place when your business sells a product or service directly to an end consumer. For instance, selling the aforementioned pair of jeans or selling the latest PlayStation from Sony would both count as B2C transactions. 

Alternatively, B2B sales happen when one business sells its products or services to another business. For example, when Oracle sells ERP software or when IBM sells AI solutions to companies, these are considered B2B sales.

B2C and B2B sales are very different processes, requiring different sales strategies.

How B2C and B2B sales strategies differ

Here are some main differences between B2B and B2C sales processes and sales strategies:

Potential leads

The first and simplest difference comes in the form of who you’re selling to, and this should come as no surprise.

When you’re selling B2C, you’re selling to individual customers like you and me. So, unless you sell high-priced items such as cars and real estate, each sale will be relatively cheap. The main motive behind the customer’s purchase will be emotional; sometimes, a purchase will be completely driven by impulse.

And, seeing as the purchase is small, B2C companies tend to focus on acquiring a large market base, a base that could contain millions if not billions of potential customers, spreading out as much as they can.

B2C companies try to widen their market base through solid branding, which means sending out a clear and consistent message to the market. Another important element when acquiring B2C customers is the sales funnel. Companies need to know how to close customers hovering at the top of the funnel, which includes understanding concepts such as CRO and CTR.

Conversely, if you are selling B2B, you are selling to other companies, and each sale tends to be expensive. As a result, companies buying from you make their purchasing decisions based on rationality instead of emotions, and B2B companies need to address them accordingly.

For B2B marketers and salespeople, generating leads is just as important as building a strong brand, if not more so. Generating leads is the process of finding companies that are both capable of making a purchase and likely to do so. 

Also, B2B companies have to contend themselves with a small lead pool in comparison to B2C companies, making B2B companies niche-oriented.

The number of decision-makers involved in the process

When it comes to B2C, each customer tends to make up their own mind without having to confer with a panel of experts on which brand of cereal is the best choice for breakfast. They just make the purchase on the spot, and, as we said earlier, emotion plays a large part in how the customer sways.

But, when selling a B2B product or service, the purchasing company has to take its time; it can’t just make a spontaneous decision on the spot and hope for the best. Instead, B2B customers take their time, deliberate among themselves, bring in experts to weigh in on the matter, and make sure that they are making the right decision. 

Any purchase decision has to be made by a large group of stakeholders, where every member sees a different facet of how the decision will affect the company. Anything else could be costly.

The communication process

When it comes to B2C, the main idea is to develop a compelling message and blast it out to the world as loud as you can and have it spread as far as you can. 

This is why you’ll see B2C companies place their advertisements on large banners in the middle of the road or why TV commercials tend to sell B2C products. All these ads are emotional. They try to make you laugh, feel nostalgic, or just feel positive about the product or service being sold.

On the other hand, B2B messages need to be tailored to each individual customer, and a one-size-fits-all strategy will not work here. This is why B2B companies may prefer investing in salespeople who will call potential leads rather than spend their money on billboards scattered along highways.

Not only must the communication appeal to the rational part of the customer, but it must also be in their language. A big part of a B2B transaction is premised on trust, and to gain this trust, B2B companies must demonstrate their expertise and understanding of the customer’s needs.

The need to build a relationship

Since a B2C sale is a relatively short process, one that is conducted with millions of people, there is no need to build a relationship with every single customer.

Instead, B2C companies want to establish a relationship with their customer base, which is a different thing. This means that, rather than interacting with every customer personally, B2C companies can try to automate the sales process and only interact with customers if there is a problem to be resolved. 

What matters here is establishing trust with the customer base and showing them that the company is reliable and aligned with their values. This starts by ensuring that the product or service being sold is of the highest quality.

However, for B2B sales, things are a little different. First off, since the process takes longer and involves several stakeholders, B2B companies need to take their time wooing the customer and establishing a healthy relationship that fosters trust. 

After all, the goal here is establishing a long-term business relationship, with an emphasis on the “long-term” part. Even after the sale has been concluded and the client has made the purchase, B2B businesses should stay in the picture, offering after-sale services.

The required effort by salespeople

When selling B2C, salespeople don’t have to make a lot of effort as most of the work has already been done by the marketing team.

This doesn’t mean that a B2C salesperson is absolved from having to know their product well, be aware of the competition, and keep up with the latest trends in their industry. How many times have one of us walked into an electronics store where the sales person’s expertise was critical in helping us make a decision?

However, B2B is a whole different ball game. The sales team has to know the product or service back and forth while clearly understanding how this offering will improve the customer’s life. 

This is not to mention the intense preparation a B2B sales team has to go through before every meeting with each customer, bearing in mind that each meeting with a different customer might require its own approach

Appreciating the difference between sales strategies

If a B2C sale is akin to a fisherman casting a wide net at sea and hoping to catch plenty of small fish in his net, then a B2B sale is more like trying to catch the biggest fish in the ocean with a harpoon. 

And, while B2C companies should appreciate that their success comes from the strength and effectiveness of their nets, B2B companies need to understand that it is not enough to have the best harpoons that money can buy; they need to master using them.

Lisa Michaels

Lisa Michaels is a freelance writer, editor, and a thriving content marketing consultant from Portland. Being self-employed, she does her best to stay on top of the current trends in business and tech. Feel free to connect with her on Twitter @LisaBMichaels.