B2B Sales: A Comprehensive Overview for Sales Leaders

Will Schmidt

12 min

Inside this article:

What Is B2B Sales?

Who Makes B2B Sales?

What Is the B2B Sales Cycle?

B2B Sales Metrics to Track

How is B2B Sales Changing?

5 B2B Sales Tips

Get Your B2B Sales Tech Stack Rocking and Rolling

Almost all of us have firsthand experience with B2B sales. Just today I got three emails from different AI or content writing services asking if I want to book a meeting to hear how their product could help me with PhoneBurner’s content marketing. 

I’m betting most of you have received similar emails, or maybe even gotten cold calls. Or, maybe you’re a sales rep who does the cold calling or emailing to prospects trying to sell your company’s product or service? 

Regardless of your interactions and experiences with it, it can be easy to underestimate B2B sales as something simple. After all, it’s just businesses selling stuff to other businesses, right? 

Technically, that’s not wrong. However, there are many layers and nuances of B2B sales that require teams to think through robust strategies, tactics, and tools to ensure they don’t miss a beat. 

In this post we’ll run through B2B sales from top to bottom and cover: 

  • What B2B sales is, and how it’s different from B2C
  • Who’s responsible for making B2B sales
  • An overview of the B2B sales process
  • B2B sales metrics to track
  • How B2B sales is changing
  • Tips to help you with B2B selling

Let's get after it.

What Is B2B Sales?

Business to business (B2B) sales is a method of selling where one business sells products or services to another business. B2B products or services tend to have higher price points, consist of several touch points across different channels, and require highly trained sales reps to close deals.  

PhoneBurner is a great example of a B2B sales company. We sell our power dialer software and its many features to companies looking for help with their outbound strategy. 

B2B sales is different from its counterpart in business-to-consumer (B2C) sales, where companies sell directly to the end consumer who uses their product or service. 

For example, clothing companies that sell directly to you through social media, websites, or email are B2C. There are a few other, major differences between B2C and B2B sales as well.

More Decision Makers

With B2C sales, you only have to convince one person to buy a product. B2B sales reps have to deal with multiple stakeholders—about six to 10—across different departments at a company before they can even think about closing a deal. 

For example, when we sell our PhoneBurner power dialing software, our own reps may have a prospect bought in on the product. But the sales manager might need to consult with their VP of Sales, CRO, and legal team on the new product.

Larger Transactions

When you buy new clothes from your favorite retailer, you spend a fixed amount of money on every t-shirt, pair of pants, or jacket. Most B2C sales rely on multiple people purchasing products in one-off transactions. 

B2B sales target a company, which often has a large budget to spend on new products, software, and services. If they buy new laptops for their company, they do so in bulk. If they want a new power dialer software, they sign an annual contract. 

This inherently leads to higher price points and larger transactions. And your prospects expect more flexible pricing than with B2C sales and the ability to negotiate the best deal they can get.

Longer Sales Cycle

B2C sales happen instantly, and often impulsively. B2B sales do not operate that way at all, unless a prospect desperately needs what you’re selling. The deal and sales cycle with B2B sales takes anywhere from four to seven months to complete.

Payment Is More Complicated

When B2C sales happen, consumers pay upfront with a credit card to get their product or service. It happens instantaneously. B2B sales are more complex and require detailed contracts, payment upon reception of goods, or monthly invoices.

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Who Makes B2B Sales?

A B2B sales team requires highly trained reps to navigate the complex and long sales process. Typically, these reps are broken down into two major groups—Sales Development Representatives (SDRs) and Account Executives (AEs). 

Your SDRs are responsible for: 

  • Prospecting for potential clients and initiating contact with them to learn more about their needs
  • Researching a prospect’s company and industry so they can better understand what is most helpful to offer in terms of products or services
  • Developing rapport with a prospect, whether through email, phone, or in-person meetings
  • Qualifying leads based on likelihood of purchasing and then presenting qualified leads to sales executives for follow-up

Once they’ve qualified leads, SDRs pass the prospects on to the AEs who then: 

  • Present official sales pitches that address how your product or services address the issues or challenges facing a prospect
  • Handle objections and questions about pricing, competitor offerings, technical details, legal concerns, or other issues
  • Send contracts to prospects and close the deal
  • Follow-up with clients and source referrals from them for future prospecting 

Further, your SDRs and AEs can be segmented into different groups based on the specific B2B sales methodology your company uses—inbound sales and outbound sales, inside sales and outside sales.

What Is the B2B Sales Cycle?

In the previous section we outlined the job duties for SDRs and AEs. Those responsibilities are closely aligned with the B2B sales cycle, which is made up of a specific set of actions that helps your team steward prospects from their first touchpoint to closed-won.  

It’s a tactical framework that’s made up of seven distinct stages: 

  1. Prospect
  2. Connect
  3. Research
  4. Present
  5. Handle Objections
  6. Close
  7. Follow up and generate referrals 

These stages might vary slightly depending on your company and naming conventions, but at its core the B2B sales process will operate the same across most organizations.

B2B Sales Metrics to Track

There are many different sales metrics associated with the performance of your B2B sales reps and the B2B sales cycle. The best sales leaders are the ones who obsessively track the most relevant metrics to their team, provide transparency into the data for upper management, and can drill down into the activity of each SDR and AE.  

You can bucket these sales metrics down into five major categories across revenue, opportunities, pipeline, activities, and prospecting. Within those five categories, you should track things like: 

  • Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR)
  • Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR)
  • Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)
  • Total Closed-Won and Lost Opportunities
  • Opportunities Won by Lead source
  • Opportunities Lost to Competitors
  • Number of Conversations Needed to Win Opportunities
  • Length of Deal Cycle
  • Win Rate
  • Conversion Rate
  • Churn Rate
  • Outbound Calls Made Daily 
  • Demos Conducted
  • Demo Attendance Rate
  • Inbound Calls Received Daily
  • Percentage of Missed Calls
  • Percentage of Bad Leads
  • Percentage of Leads Being Worked
  • Percentage of Contacted Leads that Don’t Move Forward

How is B2B Sales Changing?

B2B sales has existed as a way of doing business for a while, but over time it’s grown more complex and changed. This evolution was catalyzed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and as we look to a post-COVID era the data suggests these changes are permanent. 

Below, we’ll walk through some fascinating data points sourced by McKinsey that showcase these changes. Use them to adapt your B2B sales strategy accordingly.

Digital Reigns Supreme

Prior to COVID-19, B2B sales absolutely happened digitally. But when the world was forced to operate on a purely digital basis, sales teams quickly adopted digital-first solutions to keep their pipeline full, serve their customers, fulfill orders, and arrange services. 

On-site sales calls had to be held over Zoom, and in-person events shifted to virtual events where sales teams had to manage a digital booth. What’s interesting is that over 75% of buyers and sellers prefer this digital-first approach—it’s here to stay for a very long time.

Remote and Self-Service Purchases Soar

McKinsey asked B2B sales decision makers the maximum value they would purchase for a new product or service, using self-service or remote human sales processes. Of those surveyed, 70% said they would purchase in excess of $50,000. 

Further, 27% said they would spend more than $500,000 and 15% would spend more than $1 million. So, B2B prospects prefer to buy digitally and they’re willing to shell out some serious cash to do so. 

What’s most interesting is that these same B2B decision makers told McKinsey that they think remote selling is just as effective, if not more so, than in-person selling. It’s the perfect formula: both the supply and demand agree that this is the way forward.

Everyone Loves Video

It’s not hard to understand why video became the go-to channel for B2B sales during the COVID-19 pandemic. Reps couldn’t meet face-to-face even if they wanted to. And while the transition was difficult for some at first, it’s become a preferred powerhouse driver of revenue.

Since April 2020, revenue generated from B2B video sales has increased 69% and accounts for 43% of all B2B sales revenue. The numbers indicate that prospects are clearly comfortable engaging with reps over video, and there’s an almost unlimited amount of anecdotal evidence to suggest they prefer video over phone any day of the week.

5 B2B Sales Tips

Today’s prospects are more adept at performing their own research before they ever speak to your SDRs and AEs. They can enter the B2B sales cycle at the beginning, near the end, or somewhere in the middle. 

Plus, on top of all that, the massive shift to digital-first sales tactics has made the world of B2B sales more complex. But you shouldn’t be discouraged. We’ve got five tips to help you stay on top of everything and provide a delightful experience for both your reps and prospects.

1. Personalize Your Outreach

Prospects have an uncanny ability to sniff out a salesy approach from miles away. Your reps can’t copy and paste the same email to their entire list. They can’t deliver their cold calling script without any personal flair or attitude either. 

Personalization is everything, both in their communications to the prospect and in the way they deliver that message. That means performing their due diligence on prospects to find out as much relevant, contextual information on them as possible before the first touchpoint. 

You should also encourage your team to take any templates or scripts you give them and personalize it with their own voice. Creating an authentic, human connection starts by letting your reps be the authentic human beings they already are. 

2. Never Stop Training

You can get your entire sales team up to speed on your product’s latest features, use-cases, and client case studies, but that process never ends. There’s always something you can lean in to as a team, whether that’s a massive new update or simply a thought-provoking team discussion on cold call openers. 

Your B2B buyers are smart, sales-savvy, and they want to work with reps who prioritize expertise and empathy. The more you can train your reps in these areas, the more it will shine through and delight the prospect. 

3. Build Cross-Department Alignment

Your sales reps aren’t in this fight alone—there are countless other individuals at your company who can help improve B2B sales. It’s important that your sales organization foster positive working relationships in order to build strategic and tactical alignment across marketing, customer support, account management, and product developers. 

When you need new case studies to provide strong social proof to new prospects, marketing will have your back. If your reps don’t fully understand new product features, invite the product team to showcase their latest and greatest. 

You may want to consider establishing a dedicated sales operations function or a sales enablement team to support B2B sales full time. 

4. Conversations Over Sales Pitches 

When your reps focus on having actual conversations with a prospect instead of forcing a sales pitch it makes them feel human and authentic. That helps open the prospect up. You may find they’re more willing to share information about their business, priorities, and how they want to fix pain points.  

Coach your reps to start with some basic questions that demonstrate they have a vested interest in the prospect’s day-to-day job. From there, they can start to run with different threads from the conversation and ultimately steer the interaction towards setting a meeting or booking a demo.  

5. Be Patient and Trust the Long Game

Today’s B2B sales are a long game. The most important thing you can do is commit to the process of improving your B2B sales strategy, and then stay committed to it for years to come. 

One of the best things you can do is start to establish your reps as trusted advisors with any potential prospect who engages with your company. Put in the effort to build and maintain great relationships today, which will create satisfied customers tomorrow. And those customers will bring you recurring revenue, upsell opportunities, and referrals. Boom.

Get Your B2B Sales Tech Stack Rocking and Rolling

At the end of the day, your team isn’t made up of B2B robots. But you can certainly enlist the help of some real-world robots—aka, epic tech platforms—to help your team crush their B2B sales goals. 

There are a lot of dialer software options available to help your reps, but make sure you’re focused on a power dialer software platform. Auto dialer software and predictive dialer software platforms carry a lot of risk with them. 

When you use one of these, your prospects hear weird beeps or experience multi-second pauses before a human speaks. It can make people feel like they’re being scammed, which can dramatically increase hangups.

PhoneBurner’s power dialer software ensures that every time a prospect picks up the phone your rep is immediately ready to respond with a warm, human welcome. If they don’t pick up the phone, reps can drop pre-recorded voicemails, send custom emails, and even fire off SMS text messages with one click. 

PhoneBurner also helps your reps dial four times faster than they normally could. And the integrated CRM makes dispositioning calls and logging notes insanely easy. 

If you’re interested to hear how PhoneBurner can improve your B2B sales strategy, our team wants to hear from you. Sign up for a free trial or book a demo today.

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