You’ve proven your ability in the B2C sales world and now are moving to B2B – perhaps for a new challenge or maybe to get into a potentially more lucrative career path. Congratulations on your switch. But before your first day, you should be aware of some things about selling B2B:
- You’ll have to be much more proactive.
In B2C, many buyers will come directly to you in search of your products and services, reducing the amount of time you’ll need to spend on outreach and prospecting.
The opposite is true for B2B. There, outreach to potential clients and prospecting are vital activities. While you’ll get some leads from marketing channels, the bulk of your opportunities will come through your contacting buyers who’d be a good fit for your organization.
- Be prepared for longer sales cycles – in some industries, much longer.
B2C sales tend to have high sales velocity and volume. You might move hundreds or thousands of units in a week or two. B2B tends to be the opposite. In some industries, you might work the entire year to close literally a handful or so of deals.
This will likely be the single biggest cultural adjustment for you – going from the quick, short B2C cycle to the seemingly glacial, long B2B one. But stick with it – work on developing your patience and adjusting your expectations of when a buyer is likely to make a decision.
- The sales world is smaller, but more people will be making decisions.
When you sell B2C, odds are that the decisionmakers in a transaction will be few – often only one or two. Increasingly in B2B, that’s not the case – you’ll be selling to an entire group of decision makers and influencers – all of whom have their own competing criteria, concerns, and demands.
That’s going to require major shifts in your approach and tactical thinking about how you sell. In fact, it’s arguably the single biggest change factor in terms of your sales strategy.
- You’re going to spend a lot of time researching.
Researching in B2C is pretty straightforward – sometimes consisting of only the qualifying questions to help narrow things down before making a recommendation.
In B2B, that’s not the case. In fact, you’ll need to thoroughly research a given buyer before even starting the sales conversation – and that includes both whichever individuals you’ll be speaking to and the company as a whole – including their business situation, organizational structure, key news and challenges, etc.
- The stakes are much, much higher.
If you sell the wrong product to someone in B2C, you could lose the costumer, but due to the volume aspect of the sector, you can easily make that up elsewhere – even if you can’t repair the relationship easily.
If you sell the wrong offering to someone in B2B, you could gain a negative reputation that makes the rounds in the industries you sell to. And given the insular world of B2B sales, that can cause considerable harm to both you as an individual and your employer.
I’m presenting this information this way to give you a sense of just how critical the stakes are in B2B sales vs B2C. It’s the reason why sales cycles are longer, why buyers need more information and will take their time, why you need to research, why more people are involved, etc. The effects and ramifications are that much larger in scale and scope.
- The good news – your sales skills will transfer.
Now that I’ve showered you with all the warning notes and differences, here’s the good part: You’ve been a successful sales professional in B2C. Your fundamental sales skills do in fact transfer over to B2B.
Yes, you’ll need to reform your sales approach, tactics, strategies, and expectations. Yes, you’ll have to adjust to a completely different culture, process, and timeline. But the skills you need to make those changes and adaptations – your interpersonal skills, your ability to ask the qualifying questions that help you identify needs, and your knowledge of the sales cycle as a concept – are already in you.
As a final note – it might well take you longer than you expect to get to the productivity you’re seeking. Don’t get discouraged – even experienced B2B reps who are changing industries can have a year-long process to ramp up to full productivity. Just stay patient, learn everything you can, and keep focused.