What is B2B Sales & How Can You Be Successful At It?

Johnny Marx
September 22, 2015

Behind every consumer purchase is a network of business-to-business (B2B) transactions. A simple purchase at the supermarket, for instance, is only made possible by an invisible web of supporting B2B sales. The key distinguishing feature of a B2B sale is that the customer is an organization rather than an individual consumer. So what is B2B sales, what does the process look like in wholesale distribution in particular, and how can wholesalers optimize their B2B sales experience?

What is B2B Sales & Are Wholesalers Doing It Right?

For wholesalers, a sale isn’t just about moving product. As Brandon Gracey points out in an earlier post, there’s an ongoing need for cultivating relationships with a continuous emphasis on service and a more consultative experience. Field sales reps seek to cultivate these relationships by educating retailers about new products, providing merchandising support, and helping to maintain optimal inventory levels in each store. Some recurring problems that wholesale distributors come across, however, are common among all B2B relationships in general. For instance, according to McKinsey Insights:

  • Customers want sales representatives to stay in touch, but at the right frequency. Many sales reps make the mistake of bombarding customers with calls and visits.
  • Customers demand that sales reps have a thorough knowledge of their own products, as well as those of competition. Not being educated enough in your space can have a negative impact.
  • Although B2B buyers are price sensitive, they also value service. Many B2B businesses fail to recognize this.

What Does a Successful B2B Sales Rep Look Like?

Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson, Managing Directors at CEB and co-authors of a book titled The Challenger Sale, outline a successful B2B strategy explaining that most successful B2B sales managers and sales reps proactively solve problems and challenge their customers to make intuitive improvements. Offering this kind of insight requires a deep understanding of the customer’s industry and their needs. To successfully close a deal today, a sales professional must have the ability to share information and ideas that help clients better compete in the market.

B2B Sales: B2B Sales Strategies for Wholesalers to Follow

Building the foundation for best B2B sales strategies is the first step you should take as a wholesaler. Align your strategies with some of the best practices, but prepare to fold strategies when you need to, pivot when you have to, and constantly build upon what you can do. Here are a few B2B Sales Strategies to Employ in Your Business:

1. Be More Consultative in Your Sales Process

Customers are looking for more information from you. This means two things:

  • Make sure your sales reps walk into appointments with adequate product and industry knowledge, so that they can sell with an insight-led approach.
  • Provide enough information online, so that customers can easily find the information they need on their own (like merchandising guidelines, product training resources, etc.). A McKinsey study revealed that customers are happy to use self-serve online tools to find information. Launching a website or other online portal will expand the way you can inform your customer base.

Instituting a consultative sales process will guarantee every B2B sale is imbued with transparency and trust, which ultimately forms the basis for a strong business relationship.

2. Make Tracking a Priority

Having a tracking system in place to monitor your interactions with customers will help your team complete and process orders efficiently, increase sales year-over-year, and build stronger customer relationships over time. Wholesale distributors need a way to track:

  • Customer order history
  • Customer-specific pricing and discounting
  • Sales performance reporting on a customer-level, sales rep-level, and product-level.
  • Where an order is in terms of processing––has it been confirmed, packed, shipped?

3. Remember that Relationships Are Your Biggest Asset

Whether it is B2C or B2B, sales is always about people. It’s not about companies, eCommerce stores, or brick-and-mortar venues. Companies do have organizational challenges, but for the most part, the people behind the companies are those providing the true solutions. Relationships yield results. The best B2B sales leaders understand the wants and needs of their customers, and place the biggest emphasis on providing an optimized customer experience.