You already know that in order to boost your sales you have to meet your end user’s needs. But, what happens when the end customer is not an individual, but rather another company?
Simple – their needs are different.
And, therefore, your strategy will also be different.
If you have a shop that sells to individual end users (B2C), becoming a supplier to other companies is a great way to make your business grow and, consequently, boost your sales.
Do you know how to properly manage a B2B business?
We’ll explain everything in this post. ;)
What is B2B e-commerce?
The definition says…
A B2B (Business-to-Business) online shop is a business whose end customers are other companies or organizations.
For example, the self-service wholesale chain Makro, from the Metro Cash & Carry group, only sells to professional clients registered in their system:
- Catering companies
- And many more
That means that neither their online nor their physical shops are open to the public the way they would be for a B2C Business-to-Consumer shop where any individual client could go.
Other examples of B2B businesses
However, you don’t need to be a giant like Makro to sell B2B.
Any e-commerce selling only to professionals can build a website for that purpose, such as this wholesaler of maternity and infant products. Only authorized users can access their registration process allowing them to see the prices.
Likewise, mixed e-commerce is becoming more popular, selling to both companies (B2B) and to end users (B2C).
For example, Ondacer.com is an online shop that sells ceramic products to designers and construction companies: tiles, flooring, mosaics, sanitary equipment, etc.
Anyone can buy from the shop, but there’s also a specific area called the “Technical Zone” for construction professionals.
It’s a very effective 2×1, don’t you think?
As with any other online business, the secret is adapting yourself to your clients’ needs.
Advantages and disadvantages of B2B
You may still be doubting that a B2B business is worthwhile, so here you have 4 great benefits of working in this sector.
We know you’ll be able to make a more confident decision after reading about them. ;)
Advantages: The upside
1. It saves time
Obviously, we aren’t talking about those first few steps getting into the market.
However, once you have created your brand image and are considered to be a specialist in the field, it will be much easier and quicker to attract clients.
2. It saves money
Directly related to saving time.
Once you have am image of prestige, you won’t have to put as much effort into marketing and will therefore be able to reallocate your investment.
3. It generates higher invoice volumes per client
It’s quite common for B2Bs to sell more than once to the same client.
The decision-making process takes longer because of the company-specific needs and characteristics…
So clients prefer to repeat purchases with the same supplier that they already know who has already met their needs instead of starting a new process of searching for new offers, validation, and decision-making.
A happy client is always a positive thing, but when selling B2B, it guarantees more recurring sales – so don’t neglect them!
4. It increases brand loyalty
The reasoning here is the same – if a company becomes a client and you provide them with a good service, their loyalty to the brand will be much stronger than that of an B2C.
As you can see, there are plenty of reasons why B2B is an attractive sector for e-commerce.
Disadvantages of B2B: What we aren’t as thrilled about
1. Limited target market
The target market is limited, especially when compared to the potential audience you may have when selling to individual clients.
Obviously, there are fewer companies than people.
On top of that, if you sell a hyper-specialized product, the limitations will be even greater because there will be fewer companies in need of your product.
On the other hand… there are fewer competitors and being the specialist that you are, you can set higher prices than a generalist supplier.
2. Long negotiation process
There are many people involved in the decission-making process when selling to companies. The sale is going to take longer than a normal sale in a B2C shop where sales occur almost instantaneously.
3. Price negociation
Wholesale orders imply large volumes of products and billing.
And that is precisely why the B2B client has the power to:
- Negotiate prices
- Ask for discounts
- Impose certain payment methods
- Demand certain types of extra services
Despite these obstacles, B2B is a great opportunity for any online business, especially if you’re already selling B2C.
Ready to get started? Let’s see how. ;)
How to properly make the jump to B2B
Contrary to B2C, emotional or impulsive sales are not as important in a B2B scenario.
In order to make your online shop a quality guarantee for your company clients, there are several things that you can do (and that we recommend):
1. Humanize your company
Though we’re talking about companies selling to each other, you should always remember that the final decision is made by a real person. Establish trusting relationships and go the extra mile to put a face on your company whenever possible.
The main idea is to create engagement with the person making the decision.
In order to do so, you can use:
- Phone calls: in order to confirm orders or to send catalogs.
- Videoconferences for consulting: in order to solve doubts or to better understand what your client needs.
- Emails with personalized signatures: and even better if you include a small picture of the sender.
- Budgets: with pictures of the staff at work.
- Corporate videos: add them to your home or product page (here we explain how to create and edit videos).
Bear in mind that it’s much easier to create an emotional bond in person than with a PDF of your catalog. ;)
2. Focus on the value you bring instead of product prices
Every business should try to focus on solving the problems that their buyer persona has, and we’ve already talked about the pain points that clients have and how to use them to increase your sales.
When it comes to other companies, their needs are often much bigger since they depend on so many different factors:
- Budget limitations
- Delivery times for their own clients
- Production chains that can’t be stopped
- Strict quality standards that must be met
If your e-commerce helps lessen any (or several) of these worries for your client, the negotiation process will be shorter and simper – and price will no longer be the most important factor.
Have a look at how Xerox explains how they clients can solve a professional problem using their products.
3. Design effective sales strategies
Sales negotiations in the B2B sector are long because there are so many people involved in a process that often involves large quantities of money.
In addition to identifying who the person that makes the final decision is, a good sales strategy will:
- Define which buying phase your client is in.
- Establish the best pricing for your target audience.
- Include Inbound Marketing in the sales strategy.
- Include a focus on SEO positioning for your e-commerce products.
- Optimize the user experience in your B2B business.
- Invest in remarketing.
- Measure your client satisfaction.
Remember that generating sales in this sector is more of a marathon than a sprint and that each phase plays an important role in the final conversion.
4. Optimize the production and distribution chains
When your clients are companies, there biggest worries are typically:
- The quality of the products they are buying.
- The delivery times that you can offer.
No company can afford to waste time waiting for a supplier order to arrive nor can they lower the quality standards of their products.
That’s why you need to pay special attention to your production chain and your logistics system.
Try to avoid mistakes that can destroy a sale after having completed the negotiation process.
5. Offer amazing after-sales service
The premise is the same for any given company:
It’s more expensive to capture a new client than to retain an old one.
In the B2B sector, that sentiment is even stronger given everything we’ve already mentioned. So, make an extra effort to keep your clients happy to get the most out of every sale. In order to foster their loyalty, your after-sales service is a key factor.
Here you have some easy-to-implement ideas.
A. Become a consultant that specializes in your clients’ needs
Nobody knows your product better than you do. It’s not just about selling, but about solving specific problems for your clients even before they realize they exist.
Explain how your products solve their needs and you will become an indispensable specialist for them, which will mean more sales in the future.
B. Provide a toll-free phone line for assistance
It’s as easy as giving them a telephone number for immediate support during your business hours.
In addition to the after-sales service, this is another value added to your product.
Make sure that the person answering said phone has all the knowledge needed to solve any possible doubts that clients may have.
C. Use a CRM tool to optimize customer information
A CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tool helps ease the relationships with your clients. Functioning as a type of intranet, you can file and access information about your clients all in one place, including information about:
- Business management
- After-sales service
A CRM maximizes the knowledge that your B2B e-commerce has about each client since it groups all the operations carried out together in one place. All that information, when properly managed, will allow you to boost your sales (and you have complete tracking of each customer).
Are you already planning the jump into the B2B market with your e-commerce?
You’ve seen that with just a few small changes and some patience you can boost your business and increase profitability.
So get to work and become a company supplier. In just a few months, you’ll begin seeing the fruits of your labor.