One of the biggest mistakes that a small business can make is thinking that sales and marketing techniques that work in the consumer (B2C) world will work in the business (B2B) world. 

Sales concepts like “A.B.C. -- Always Be Closing” and marketing concepts like “demand generation through brand awareness” may work in the consumer world, but they fall flat when you’re selling to businesses.  Here’s why:

  • B2B buyers are more sophisticated. Because the Internet makes comparative pricing information publicly available, B2B buyers often know more about the product category and the competition than the person trying to sell it. As such, they’re going to be influenced by brands or high-pressured into buying at a certain price.
  • B2B stakes are much higher. B2B buyers are paid salaries (and often high salaries) because they’re expected to understand what they’re buying and how it will be used. They can lose career points and get fired if they make a wrong decision, something that never happens when a consumer purchases a lousy consumer product.
  • B2B selling requires business acumen. When you’re selling to businesses, it’s not enough to understand a product and be able to present it coherently. B2B selling involves diagnosing a customer’s challenges and then coming up with a customized solution that may very well involve a long-term business partnership. That takes business savvy.
  • B2B selling requires more flexible people skills. When consumers buy a product, typically there are only one or two decision makers involved (like a husband and wife). Corporate buying decisions can involve dozens of decision makers, influences, stakeholders, and naysayers. It takes extraordinary abilities to work with many different types of people, all of whom have different agendas.
  • B2B selling requires more patience. Even “big-ticket” consumer sales (like homes and cars) can be completed in a day or a week (at most). By contrast, B2B deals can involve weeks and months of intermittent activity, meetings, phone calls, back-and-forth documents, as the deal moves through the customer bureaucracy.
  • B2B selling involves larger sums of money. In consumer sales, million- dollar deals are unusual and limited primarily to luxury homes. In B2B selling, by contrast, deals that involve millions of dollars are so commonplace as to be unremarkable. Even billion-dollar deals are struck from time to time. So the stakes are high – higher than even big-ticket consumer sales.

Selling B2B is so much more complicated than selling B2C, that it’s really laughable when sales trainers and marketing consultants attempt to conflate the two.  The stuff that works in the consumer world just isn’t applicable to the business world.

Incidentally, the fact that most sales books try to bundle B2C and B2B together is the reason I wrote How to Say It: Business to Business Selling which will be published on December 6th.

 READERS: Do you agree?  Or do you still think that “sales pitches” work in the real world?