Difference between B2B (Business-to-Business) and B2C (Business-to-Consumer) lead acquisition sales strategies

It is vital to ensure your sales strategy is laser focused and effective. Your B2B and B2C lead acquisition strategy is critical to success or failure. You may have the best talkers, presenters and deal-makers in your team. However, it’s going to be a long and difficult journey, and potentially cataclysmic for your business, if you have a mismatched and ineffective client-acquisition strategy.

To devise a methodology that will reap dividends for your business, your first step is to distinguish between B2B and B2C. The sales strategies that you employ are distinctly different, depending on your target audience. Here are six key differences to keep in mind:

Lead Pool

The lead pool size is a major differentiator between B2B and B2C sales strategies. With B2Cs, you are targeting large numbers of people – often millions – who you feel need your product or service.

Let’s say, as example, that you’re selling cornflakes. To zoom in on your target audience, just count the number of people who have breakfast every day. And, in case you want to broaden the market, you can get marketing to design a campaign that sells cornflakes as snack and dinner alternatives. In this case you potentially have a lead pool made up of billions of people.

For B2Bs, the lead pool size usually shrinks significantly, and is more defined by the companies’ specific requirements. As an example, let’s presume that you’re selling one of those corn/oat-flake making machines. This limits your lead pool to companies, such as Kelloggs and Nestle. You don’t even have those artisan cornflake makers in your lead pool, unless you can convince them to turn to machines.

Given this reality, a blanket approach won’t work. Similar companies will go after that puddle-sized lead pool. So, you need to be specific in your pitch to each of the companies in your pool.

For both B2B and B2C sales teams, here’s a useful pointer from SEOmoz‘s effervescent CEO and co-founder Rand Fishkin in terms of how to win over your lead pool: “Best way to sell something: don’t sell anything. Earn the awareness, respect and trust of those who might buy.”

Required Product Knowledge

Your sales team needs to know about what they’re selling. This is the same, regardless of whether they’re trying to procure purchases from consumers or businesses. You and your colleagues need to be flexible and up-to-date with your techniques. As Brian Halligan, CEO and co-founder of HubSpot, emphasises: “People shop and learn in a whole new way compared to just a few years ago, so marketers need to adapt or risk extinction.”

Both B2B and B2C sales teams need to know their product like the back of their hand. They should know their features, design details, advantages and disadvantages. Competitor knowledge is necessary too. Buyers are more sophisticated these days – be it B2B or B2C. They will know some details about your product and ask questions.

The difference lies in the depth of knowledge required. Buyers in B2B and B2C have different information requirements. A modern mother buying cornflakes, for instance, may want to know the calorie and sugar count of the product, as well as its price and taste. Your sales team can be trained to respond promptly these queries. After a week or two, they may already be highly knowledgeable about your product.

Compare this to a B2B sales team. Your team needs to know the specifications and technical details of the product. They need to know how this would fit into the systems – hardware, software and human-powered – and processes of your target companies. And, it is almost always different from one company to the next.

A few weeks of training often won’t cut it. An effective B2B sales team needs continuous training, thorough product knowledge, and experience in product presentations and fielding questions from executive-level prospects.

Number of Decision-Makers

In a typical B2C buying scenario, you only deal with one decision maker. In our cornflake example, to this day in a family set-up it is still usually the mother, and it is her tastes, budget and preferences that you need to consider. Perhaps her partner or children will also have a part to play in the cornflake-buying decision – but that is not always the case.

In the case of B2Bs, the decision-making process is more than likely to be a lengthy process that involves trying to win over several stakeholders. According to CEB (now Gartner) Executive Advisor and author Brent Adamson, the average number of B2B stakeholders is 6.8.

There are several factors to explain this, such as globalization, the decentralization of decision making and solutions packages (instead of singular products). Whatever the case, your B2B sales team should employ a strategy that factors in several key decision-makers.

Expected Response

The response to your sales strategies is expectedly on opposite ends when it comes to your B2B and B2C efforts.

You strive for an emotional response from your B2C clients. Sure, you might offer some facts here and there. Perhaps you will tell your prospects that cornflakes are good fibre sources and that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But, the end goal of your marketing outreach is to gain customer loyalty. You want them to love and prefer your product, even if there are better breakfast options.

Kellogg's corn flakes and other products of U.S. Kellogg Company are offered at a supermarket of Swiss retail group Coop in Zumikon, Switzerland

It’s different with B2B clients. Corporate purchases – such as cornflakes making machines in our example – are usually on the top end of the price scale. They’re investments that need thorough consideration, especially when it comes to the expected costs, returns, advantages and disadvantages. These are things that can’t be left to emotions.

B2B buyers are more likely to approach their purchasing decision with rationality. Keep this in mind when drafting sales strategies that target corporate buyers.

Decision-making Process

In the B2C scenario, the decision-making process is quick – in some case, even impulsive. People buy out of habit or they buy in-the-moment. Their decision is influence by advertising, word-of-mouth or habits/ cravings. To sell to this kind of audience, you need product awareness and presence.

With B2Bs, however, the wooing period is longer. There are several people making the decision, and you need to convince each one of them. You will go through a lot of phone calls, meetings and demos if you’re keen on closing the deal. And, this can take months.

Length of the Business Relationship

Typically, B2C business relationships are looked upon as one-off transactions. The focus is right there at the point of purchase. Outside that, preferences and loyalties can change. The cornflake-buying mother today may decide on another brand next week; or, she may choose to switch to eggs and toasts for breakfast.

With B2Bs, it’s different. The whole purchasing process is an investment for both sides. Your sales team puts in weeks or months of their time and effort attending to the requirements of the prospect. You nurture your lead, and provide necessary information and content. You follow-up, meet and present to all stakeholders. Your buyers put in their time and effort too to find the best-fit solution for their needs.

The underlying expectation of this mutual investment is that it’s for a long-term relationship. It’s never a one-off transaction because there’s going to be a consistent need for maintenance, support and upgrades. The stakeholder’s purchasing decision takes a long time because it’s a crucial one: that of choosing a business partner.

Of course, this can also apply to B2C transactions, at a lesser degree. You create relationships with your clients, whether B2B or B2C. This is where your business’ success lies. As speaker, writer and Chief Content Office of MarketingProfs, Ann Handley, puts it: “Make the customer the hero of your story.”

This article is originally posted at Tenfold.