Many companies are expanding from B2C sales into B2B marketing and sales because of an increasing market share and strong sales opportunities (B2B is growing twice as fast as B2C). Unfortunately, many organizations try to sell to B2B companies using a B2C approach without understanding why B2B is more difficult to manage. The B2B sales process is often prolonged. Buyers might research products for months before making a buying decision. Sales cycles often take from 1 month up to a year or more. Many buyers represent buying committees or multiple company stakeholders who have input into the buying decision. Once a vendor has been selected, it's difficult to steal customers away, due to the cost of switching. There are many reasons that B2B is more difficult. The important thing to understand, is how is it different and what you need to do to do it successfully.
Why B2B Is More Difficult to Manage
The average value of a B2B sale is $491, which is almost triple the average of a B2C sale.  B2C companies target consumers, or end-users, while B2B companies target other companies that sell products--such as distributors, resellers and other wholesalers. Some B2B companies target end-user companies to market the supplies used in business operations. B2B versus B2C differences include a narrower customer focus, longer lead times and critical lead nurturing.
The audience is broader in B2C sales. The single most critical factor in B2B versus B2C differences is that B2B companies target a narrower range of potential customers. A given B2B company might target distributors, certain industries or other verticals such as real estate companies, medical marketers or the hospitality industry. Forbes predicts that the B2B market will reach $6.7 trillion by 2020.  Some of the biggest reasons why B2B sales differ from B2C include:
Building Trust Takes Time
- B2B buying decisions are based on many factors such as price, customer service, delivery options, markup potential and the supply chain. There might be multiple stakeholders involved in the decision, and a buyer might be putting his or her job at risk by recommending a particular B2B vendor. People are naturally cautious and must be reassured and nurtured.
B2B Customers Want More Evidence
- B2B buyers might want references, testimonials and time to research a given company before buying. Research and implementation aren't generic activities but are based on the type of product, price profile and other criteria. Each order must be assessed for any special implementation needs. Materials used in product manufacturing might be prescribed because of unethical labor practices and other problems, and B2B customers can't risk being blindsided by negative information.
Consistency Is Critical
- Long-term buyers become frustrated when price quotes and incentives aren't applied automatically to their accounts, so this information needs to be integrated and applied. Marketing and lead-nurturing efforts should acknowledge each customer's interests and buying history.
Collaborative Customer Service
- Each sales rep or customer service specialist should be empowered to get the details of any customer's account. A collaborative process using integrated technology empowers salespeople and other staff members to collaborate on a long sales process.
Prototypes and Product Testing
- Some companies might want customized products, prototypes of specially designed items or limited runs to test before placing a larger order. An integrated platform enables lots of customizations, product configurators and special pricing.
Educating Customers and Providing Custom Support Materials
- B2B sales take longer because stakeholders need a wide variety of support materials. New products--such as technology and software--might require educating potential customers in their use and benefits. That's why it's important for companies to provide FAQs, product demos, how-to videos and customized content based on each decision-maker's concerns.
How to Manage B2B Sales Effectively
Understanding B2B eCommerce is the first step in taking control of the process. Providing customers with a highly functional, integrated platform automates many of the routine needs of customers, allows them to conduct many tasks onsite without contacting staff members and provides access 24/7/365. Integration enables companies to offer their customers a custom UX based on each type of buyer. Some of the essential services B2B companies need to offer their customers include:
- Support materials should be more exhaustive including direct connections and/or onsite links to authoritative sources.
- Customers with multiple decision-makers should receive stakeholder-specific material based on each person's role such as technical engineering, marketing, pricing, etc.
- Hundreds of end-users might be signing in to a B2B organization to use software, buy for different departments or research products, so custom content is a big benefit.
- Enhanced search functionality provides different customers with easier searches.
- Larger clients--at the very least--should have access to a "Configure Price Quote" application or volume-based discounts.
- Offering a fast, functional and user-friendly interface or custom app can nurture leads throughout a prolonged sales process.
- Self-service features, such as re-ordering, viewing past orders, paying invoices, adding users, updating corporate shipping locations, etc. all need to be a part of the solution.
- It might prove beneficial to curate custom sub-catalogs for certain customers or even offer microsites that address specific buying needs.
- Including all stakeholders in development strategies is critical because companies sometimes need their data structured in unique ways.
Understanding B2B eCommerce doesn’t help unless companies engineer the features that buyers want. Customers can easily use self-service applications, find products easier and simplify the ordering process when using their mobile phones. That provides the level on convenience and professionalism that buyers seek in a regular supplier. A fully integrated platform that’s designed for B2B eCommerce Solutions increases sales and operational productivity.
Finding Gold in Your Own Platform Development
Developing your platform to serve the long-term needs of B2B buyers can generate many long-term benefits including higher conversion rates, larger sales, more repeat sales and greater customer loyalty. Integrating multiple functions, custom displays and automated self-service features that generate sales depends on full platform integration to run these features and deliver consistency to customers over a long sales process. Teaming up with a company like Clarity, who has a robust B2B eCommerce and integration platform, makes easy work of your needs, turning a very expensive and time-consuming project into something affordable and quickly achievable. Give us a call today and see how we can build you one.
 Cleverbridge.com: 7 Key Differences Between B2C and B2B Ecommerce Models