Last month we established the focus of this column as being Social Media for B2B Sales. Perhaps, before we go further, it might be best to define B2B. Simply put, B2B is “business to business” and, as much as anything, it defines a company or an individual’s target market. In other words, I am a business and I sell to businesses. Therefore, a company that is B2C (business to consumer) is a business that targets consumers. For example, retail. My efforts have been solely B2B sales for the last 34 years but, prior to that, I spent approximately 7 years in retail and my degree is actually in Retail Merchandise Management. Therefore, I am not completely foreign to this market. I would say, and these are certainly not hard and fast rules, that B2B differs from B2C in the following areas:
– B2B companies tend to have a smaller marketplace than those found with B2C if for no other reason than there are a heck of a lot more consumers than there are businesses. As far as that goes, they are more likely to be narrowly defined in terms of the types of products or services that they offer.
– B2B sales people are often called upon to travel to their customer’s place of business or, at the very least, their efforts are generally outbound. They are also required to typically prospect heavily whereas B2C sales people will more often rely on their marketing and advertising departments to bring the folks to them. While commission programs are found in both arenas, B2B pay models are known to lean more heavily toward commission based compensation.
– B2B products and services are generally higher ticket items and can be more complex than B2C. A high level of product knowledge is a must. Once again, this is not a rule without exceptions. Certainly, new cars and homes command substantial price tags and can be complex purchases. B2B products and services are also more likely to have largely stable pricing structures. No “Black Friday” deals here.
– A goal of B2B products and services quite often would be to yield repeat sales. While I might buy a new TV every 5 years from a store, the B2B sales person who sells those TV’s to that retailer, may do so every month and those orders are in quantity. Making sure that this retailer keeps us as their supplier becomes practically a matter of business life and death. And, as they say, it is ten times less expensive to maintain a good customer than it is to find a new one to replace them.
– Identifying decision makers and influencers can be a much more extensive process in B2B than it would be with B2C and the sales cycle can be substantially longer.
– How and why people buy, and the process that they go through to do so, can also be significantly more complex in the B2B environment.
– Because B2B sales people prospect heavily and derive a large percentage (if not all) of their earnings by commission, keeping their pipelines full and their forecasts flush are absolute musts. If you don’t believe that, ask a B2B Sales Manager.
– Finally, and maybe this is for sales people in general, B2B sales representatives can be notoriously independent and often chafe at the rules and regulations that may apply to “mere mortals”. This is something that we will address in more detail going forward as it does create its own unique set of challenges pertaining to our subject matter.
How do all of these observations relate to Social Media? High volume sales and repeat business are earned by one thing more than any other. Relationships. And who do your valued customers already have relationships with? Hopefully you but, also try: your competitors, other vendors, and other key people inside and outside of their companies. And what is one overlooked tool at the sales person’s disposal that is waiting to assist them in their overall selling efforts as well as helping them to identify other critical contacts? Social media. Case closed.
Next month we will be discussing the different social networking platforms and how they apply to both B2B and B2C sales but, let’s talk about social business (social media) usage in general right now. I interact heavily with both B2B and B2C sales people day in and day out. While our B2C brethren seem to have been largely open to adopting social media, this has not been the case with B2B. Yet, both recognize (or need to recognize) that people buy from people first and then from businesses second and that all sales people need to build quality long-term relationships with their customers.
Certainly B2B sales people must first understand the benefits, and the potential, of social media and then be guided on how best to use it. They understandably ponder how to correctly balance their updates (social and business), how much time this will take away from selling, if it really works, and how to ensure that they will see a return from those efforts that will justify the time invested. I am very much looking forward to sharing with you how to accomplish these goals over the months to come!