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A common misconception is that if you have certain skills and a good bit of experience, you can move between business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) sales with relative ease. However, selling to retail and corporate markets require completely different approaches and skillsets.

Many organizations operate in a B2C framework—that is, they make a product and sell it to customers. If you have a corn field, for example, you might set up a booth at a farmer’s market where people can buy your produce in small batches.

In a B2B sales model, products and services are sold primarily to other businesses. You might partner with a manufacturing company that will process your corn into sugar. This translates into sales of much larger quantities—but you also need to provide consistent supply and at agreed prices.

Obviously, you can’t use the same tactics to sell corn at a market to convince manufacturers to buy from you. This isn’t to say that B2B sales professionals can’t do B2C or vice versa, but there are some key differences between them. Using B2C strategies in a B2B setting is not only ineffectual, it wastes time and money.

B2C and B2B sales are distinct in a few ways, such as:

Decision-making basis

Retail sales are often emotional and based on a perceived immediate need. If you’re selling produce at a market, your consumers are making the purchase decision on the spot—they’re unlikely to call back in a month to request for a demo. Meanwhile, corporate sales are planned, evaluated and longer term.

Price point

On average B2C sales have a lower price point and are less often paid out over time. There is a crossover however where B2B sales involve products such as office supplies. Corporate services are often retainer-based over a long term. In addition, ‘big ticket’ B2C items such as houses and cars are paid over a long term as well.

Duration of relationship

Retail point-of-sale purchases are often done without prior contact and with no ongoing relationship between sales person and customer. This is seldom true in B2B sales, where the entire sales process is often based on relationship building and trust.

Sales experience

B2B sales professionals must know how to work with senior decision makers in addition to knowing their products inside out. While there are many B2C salespeople with years of experience, the learning (and success) curve is certainly shorter than in B2B. It can take years to develop a successful B2B sales strategy, as well as the right personality to make it work.

Although different approaches are needed, B2C and B2B sales have some key requirements in common.

  1. A well-defined strategy
    Lead generation in B2B sales may take a longer time and involve more nurturing, but without a clear strategy and established tactics, both approaches risk failure and losing customers.
  1. Alignment with marketing
    If your online and offline marketing messages don’t align well with sales communications, potential customers will shy away.
  1. Excellent customer service
    Once a sale is made, the ability a customer has to reach your support team and get helpful service has everything to do with retention and churn rate. This is true of both B2C and B2B sales.

For salespeople, transitioning between B2C to B2B sales (or vice-versa) can both be tricky.

B2C sales professionals are used to a relatively short buy cycle and a much closer connection with marketing and e-commerce. Switching to the B2B world would tend to frustrate most B2C salespeople due to the longer-term strategy and the high amount of effort required for relationship building.

On the other hand, moving from B2B to a retail environment might prove to be too intense for the average B2B sales professional, with little of the predictability or planning they are used to.

In either case, it’s important to consider your salespeople’s backgrounds when building an effective sales force. Are they the right fit for your products, services and markets? Are they transitioning from a retail to corporate market or vice versa?

As these transitions present themselves, the last thing you want is an ineffective training and onboarding program that is not only wasteful, it frustrates your new hires especially when they fall behind on quotas due to tactics that don’t work. In these cases, many companies find that significant training is required to achieve a high level of sales performance. A sales consulting firm will be able assist with creating a strategic sales plan and training.