A lot of social media marketing, branding and sales advice is geared more toward Business to Consumer (B2C) companies - with all of the expectations that go with that. In B2C sales, the name of the game is volume - get a lot of inquiries, get a lot of transactions, adjust your pricing to stay competitive as needed, and hope that you can gain enough market share at good enough profit margins to be successful. B2C sales often respond to a sudden spike of marketing - a new social media buzz marketing campaign, new ads, new promotions, special offers - anything to move the needle and generate a short-term increase in customer attention and interest. B2C sales are not "easy," but the timeframe is usually shorter - you know soon whether or not your marketing is successful.
Business to Business (B2B) sales is a different matter. B2B sales, simply put, take longer. The sales cycle is longer and the decision making process is more drawn-out. But lots of B2B companies and B2B sales people are still struggling to overcome their sense of impatience - and are inadvertently driving customers away as a result.
Here are a few reasons why B2B sales take longer - and why it matters to your company's marketing strategy:
B2B Sales are Bigger
Simply put, B2B sales are bigger than B2C sales. Even if you sell some of the most expensive "consumer items" available, like cars or boats or even houses, the maximum selling price is going to be smaller than the typical selling price of a more complex major account B2B sale. For example, if you sell software or IT infrastructure or complex business systems, you might have major accounts that are worth $1 million or more.
More Decision Makers are Involved
Along with the larger selling price, B2B sales tend to be more complex - in large part because there are usually more decision makers involved. If you're selling B2B products, even if they're high-end expensive consumer gadgets or electronics or (again) cars and houses, you only really need to talk with one or two "decision makers" - one person or perhaps a couple - in order to close the deal. But with B2B sales, you might have to talk with multiple decision makers within the buyer's organization. For example, you might start out by talking with the marketing department about selling them your new customer relationship management software, only to find out that they can't get approval until they talk to accounting, and the accounting people need to get input from a higher-ranking manager within the company before they can sign off on the purchase. All of this takes time. It might take 6 months, 12 months, or longer to take a big B2B sale from the start to finish of the sales cycle. That's because more people at the buyer's company need to review and approve the purchase, and they all will want to give input to make sure their voices are heard. B2B buyers tend to be more deliberate because there is more at stake. No one wants to be the one who makes a mistake and buys the "wrong" solution from the "wrong" vendor. So be prepared to keep building trust and building relationships with all sorts of people - not just your primary "buyer," but your buyer's boss and colleagues too.
Every B2B Sale is Different
With B2C sales, broadly speaking, it's more of a transactional sales relationship. Sure, repeat customers are great, and you should try to cultivate customer loyalty and reward good customers no matter what industry you're in, but for the most part, with B2C sales your goal is to maximize the volume of sales transactions. If one consumer buys from you, chances are there hundreds of others out there who share that person's interests and preferences who want to buy from you as well - and you can sell to them the same way you sold to the first buyer; not all consumers are the same, but each consumer that is "right" for your business will often have a similar thought process when evaluating whether to buy from you.
B2B sales are different, because each sale is a unique situation with particular circumstances. When you sell B2B solutions, you are seeking to fit your product, service or solution into your buyer's existing business operations. You have to listen to your buyer's needs and align your solution with those needs. You have to make recommendations for how to implement your solution in a way that meets your buyer's timeline. You have to appease internal politics and find allies to be a champion for your solution when making the case to their bosses to invest in your offering. And you have to demonstrate a compelling case for ROI that is unique to each buyer.
With all of this in mind, it's no wonder that B2B sales take time! Remember to be patient. Create a plan for identifying and talking with key decision makers, and do your research at each step of the sales process - make sure you know who you're talking to and how you can help them. B2B sales, like B2C sales, are never "easy," but if you create smart, consistent best practices and learn how to work with customers throughout the decision making process, you'll be more likely to close deals - and save time along the way.