Karina Collis

What is B2B Sales?
Three B2B Sales Processes that will Win You More Customers

By Karina Collis, September 2019

'B2B sales' is short for business-to-business sales, which involves one company selling its goods/services to another company, rather than selling them directly to consumers. Indeed, generally speaking, B2B sales are more complex, require more people, and take longer than business-to-consumer (B2C) transactions.

Two variables are responsible for defining the type of B2B software-as-a-service (SaaS) sales processes: product complexity and product price. Depending on their combination, one can distinguish between three different types of B2B SaaS sales processes: self-service, transactional, and enterprise. The chart below represents the relationship between sales models, product prices, and product complexity.
B2B sales are more complex, require more time to close the transaction
key sales model for SaaS businesses
'Complexity' refers to three elements: the complexity of the product itself, the complexity of the implementation and the complexity of the buying decision.

'Product price' refers to two elements: the price level at which a purchase decision is made and the number of decision-makers involved in said decision. At the beginning of the scale, a single user is responsible for the decision. At the high end of the scale, multiple people are involved in the decision-making process, all of whom are responsible for measuring the potential impact on both budget and business productivity.
So, how do SaaS sales models deal with these dimensions?
This question can be answered according to three different elements: composition of a sales team, length of sales cycle, and customer acquisition tactics.
Composition of a sales team: 'How many salespeople need to be involved in the sale?'

Length of the sales cycle: 'How long does it take to close the deal?'

Customer-acquisition tactics: 'How can we educate a prospective consumer and transform them into a client?'
Let's look at how each sales model uses the three variables to win new clients.

Self-service


Self-service B2B sales are concerned with selling off-the-shelf cloud-based software directly to consumers, which is generally easy to implement and use. The sales approach is similar to the B2C sales process, which mainly involves self-service. However, extra steps are sometimes required to close a sale, such as getting approval from a customer's department head, from a buying authority or from the IT department.
Indeed, because prices are generally low, the budget can be approved quickly, with acquisitions taking place online without the assistance of the sales team.The process relies heavily on marketing automation. If a potential buyer recognises a need with themselves, it only takes them minutes to compare offers, read reviews, subscribe, and start using the product/service in question. To onboard new users, the freemium model might be used, where a SaaS company educates its prospects by offering free services. Canva, a visualisation platform, and Evernote, a collaboration platform, – are promoted this way. In addition, Slack or Trello use this business model by initially targeting smaller teams.

Self-service sales model characteristics

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Product
Simple to implement and non-costly.
Sales Cycle
Short and measured in days.
Scale of Use
From individuals to small teams.
Sales Team
Replaced with marketing-automation tools.
Numberof Decision-Makers
Limited to one person, a fast and easy budget-approval process
Customer-Acquisition Tactic
Mainly freemium (but not limited to freemium).
Transactional


As discussed above, Slack and Trello start at the self-service level and intend to expand across organisations. The simplicity of the platform remains the same from the end user's perspective. However, the cost of the software for the whole organisation is now meaningful, and a salesperson gets involved in helping define the use case, price the service, and assist with the implementation coordination.


The majority of the time this will be carried out by insider sales (sales team that stays inside the office) who support clients over the phone. Budget approval involves a number of top-management employees from different departments. In general, these complexities slow down the sales cycle, which can last from three to six months on average. Sometimes a company will offer a free trial for a product/service in order to demonstrate its potential value to a consumer. Amazon Web Services or Stripe are other good examples of businesses that use B2B transactional sales.

Transactional sales model characteristics

Product
Simple to use, but requires implementation by IT.
Sales Cycle
Three to six months on average.
Scale of Use
Multiple teams; the whole enterprise.
Sales Team
Insider sales.
Numberof Decision-Makers
Several departments.
Customer-Acquisition Tactic
Free trials.
examples of B2B sales models
Enterprise


At the end of the scale, enterprise B2B sales are the most complex out all of sales types; they also have the longest sales cycles, require multiple decision-makers, and the product itself requires heavy onboarding. The main sales challenge here is to identify all the relevant stakeholders, validate the value of the product or service across all departments, and orchestrate the sales process efficiently. The enterprise sales team usually consists of a number of people, such as field-sales team members and pre-sales team members.
On the one hand, field-sales is a client-facing role wherein a salesperson conducts in-person meetings with clients to learn about their needs, thereby leading the sale process. On the other hand, pre-sales generally involves highly knowledgeable product consultants, or, in some cases, product managers. Indeed, companies cannot always offer a free trial due to the complexity of implementation. In some cases, a paid pilot is conducted where the prospective customer covers any IT expenses. This sales process can be slowed down by a number of factors, which, on average, can take anywhere between six to nine months: internal politics, multiple decision-makers with different motivations and agendas, and budget commitments. SalesForce, IBM, Oracle, and SAP are companies that make use of enterprise B2B sales.

Enterprise sales model characteristics

Product
Sophisticated and requires implementation by IT.
Sales Cycle
Six to nine months on average.
Scale of Use
Multiple teams; the whole enterprise.
Sales Team
Field sales and pre-sales.
Numberof Decision-Makers
Multiple decision-makers.
Customer-Acquisition Tactic
Free trials/paid pilots.

Are you in B2B sales? Are you asking yourself how to shorten your sales process and thus rapidly accelerate your sales? My article, Seven Golden Rules for Shortening Your Sales Cycle, can provide you with essential tips about how to best achieve this. Read it here: https://www.liinea.com/blog/shortensalescycle

As a thank you for reading this article, I would like to share a fantastic source for sales knowledge: https://salespop.net/. Here you will find many sales articles and e-books that you can use to drive your business forward.


Karina Collis
I work with start-ups in the tech sector, coaching them to generate sales and increase business growth. More specifically, I help to structure sales processes, develop international sales, and improve both the sales and investor pitch. Please do not hesitate to get in touch, as I am more than happy to share some examples of successful enterprise sales that I have coached.
Sales growth for enterprise SaaS companies

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