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What is B2B sales? Business-to-business sales meaning, strategies, and tips

Business-to-business (B2B) sales is the process of selling products and services to other businesses.

Por Donny Kelwig, Contributing Writer

Última actualización en September 7, 2023

The word “sales” can conjure images of door-to-door salespeople, boardrooms of teams reviewing charts and graphs, cold calling, deal-sealing handshakes, and more. Selling comes in various forms—like B2B and B2C sales—and continues to evolve as customer expectations and business needs change.

Our complete guide details everything you need to know about B2B selling. We define B2B sales and provide examples, strategies, tips, and sales trends to help you become a B2B sales expert.

Table of contents

What is B2B sales?

Business-to-business (B2B) sales is the process of selling products and services to other businesses. Or more simply, in a B2B sales transaction, one business is the seller, and another business is the customer.

What’s the difference between B2B and B2C sales?

Business-to-consumer (B2C) sales is when a business sells products or services directly to the customer instead of selling to a company or organization.

B2B sales is the counterpart to B2C sales. Although they share core similarities and sales strategies—like nurturing relationships and building customer loyalty—they also have a few key differences.

Customer bases

  • In B2B sales, the customer base is businesses.

  • In B2C sales, the customer base is consumers.

Sales processes

  • B2B sales cycles are usually more complex. The sales process often involves multiple touchpoints with detailed presentations, product demos, meetings, and negotiations with decision-making teams or stakeholders to complete the sale. This results in a longer sales cycle.

  • B2C sales have a shorter and more transactional sales process, focusing on price, benefits, and customer pain points.


  • B2B sales deals are often higher in price and volume, making them more valuable to the selling business.

  • B2C sales typically have a higher sales volume at a lower total value.

B2B sales types and examples

There are five main types of B2B sales targets:

  • Suppliers and producers

  • Distributors and resellers

  • SaaS (software as a service) and general service providers

  • Government agencies and municipalities

  • Charity and nonprofit organizations

Let’s take a look at the five types of B2B sales between these parties.

Supplier and producer sales

Supplier and producer sales means selling supplies or raw materials to a business that manufactures a product. Most supplier and producer sales happen in bulk at a discount to the buyer. Many businesses maintain consistent suppliers with regular restocking.

Example: Bunsen Solutions, a chemical supplier, sells bulk chemicals to Darwin Paints for its paint formulas.

Distributor and reseller sales

Distribution sales (also known as wholesales) work similarly to supplier sales, except instead of exchanging raw materials, distributors buy completed retail products from the manufacturer.

Example: Darwin Paints sells its pre-packaged paint to Shiloh’s Home Improvement retail stores.

SaaS and general service provider sales

SaaS sales and general service provider sales is the process of selling services to other businesses. Depending on the service requirements, the seller may also sell or rent physical equipment.

Example: Zendesk provides SaaS where companies subscribe to a plan and receive software to run their business more efficiently.

Government agency and municipality sales

For governments and municipalities to provide programs, products, and services for their communities, they must buy materials. That encompasses everything from batteries and lightbulbs for government buildings to raw materials for construction and repairs. This type of sales is sometimes called business-to-government (B2G) sales.

Example: Carl’s Wholesale Asphalt and Concrete Supply sells materials to the City of Gotham Department of Transportation to repave roads.

Charity and nonprofit organization sales

Charities and nonprofits primarily rely on donations and fundraisers but still need to make purchases. Like government agencies, charitable organizations require supplies and services to keep their operations running.

Example: Zendesk provides nonprofit customer relationship management (CRM) software for charities, social welfare organizations, social advocacy groups, and other nonprofit institutions to help build relationships with donors, manage donations, and track budgets.

What are the steps of the B2B sales process?

A B2B sales process is a series of steps guiding you through the customer journey. Think of it like growing a garden. From seed to harvest, it takes a lot of work and nurturing. But the results can be extremely satisfying.

1. Prospecting: Research potential customers

What are the potential fruits and vegetables you want to grow in your garden?

This first step helps you find potential B2B buyers and determine if your product can help eliminate their pain points. You can find leads in various ways:

2. Qualifying: Identify interested customers

You want to plant carrots, onions, and lettuce. Are they the best options for your climate and soil type?

You may want all three plants to thrive in your garden, but some may be a better fit than others due to factors like timing or resources. This applies to ideal customers, too. If they are a good fit, are interested, have the resources, and are ready to buy, it’s time to start planting.

3. Connecting: Meet and present to your leads

Look for the right seeds to plant.

Schedule a meeting and connect with your seeds—er, leads. Come prepared with a detailed presentation or demo and focus on the benefits of your product or service. Describe the value of your offering and how it can solve their pain points. Providing sales metrics and examples of your product solving similar problems for other companies can help the sale sprout.

4. Quoting: Make an offer and negotiate with your leads

Buy the seeds.

Your leads want to evolve from seed but want to be more than just a head of lettuce. They want to be the best salad in the industry. So, personalize your interactions to create the best environment possible for growth. Find a plan and pricing that has the features they need to thrive. Discuss how you can help them and set them up for success throughout their buying journey. Create a relationship, not a transaction.

Depending on the business size you’re dealing with, the negotiation process may involve some back-and-forth and sign-offs by multiple decision-makers.

5. Closing: Seal the deal

Plant the seeds.

Once you’ve agreed to the terms, make it official by “crossing the t’s and dotting the lowercase j’s” on the contract. Although the sales cycle is nearing its end, the relationship is just beginning. It’s time to implement the plan and make good on your promises.

6. Tracking: Follow up and analyze results

Nurture growth until harvest season.

Continuously build the relationship by tracking the customer’s success, sending proactive communication, and delivering personalized support. You want to ensure that once you harvest the fruits of your labor, your customer is open to planting more seeds and growing with you instead of leaving you with a bowl of wilted lettuce.

Free sales plan template

The right sales plan can help you see the path to your business goals and how to reach them. Map out your sales journey with our free sales plan templates today.

Common B2B sales strategies

Whether you’re selling cloud contact center software to startups, small businesses, or large enterprises, it’s important to create a sales strategy to guide you through the process.

A B2B sales strategy defines your goals and outlines the plan of action to achieve them. Every business is unique and has different sales goals, so sales strategies may vary across the board. However, here are common B2B sales strategies to start you off on the right foot.

  • Align sales and support teams.

  • Utilize social selling.

  • Focus on solutions and benefits.

  • Provide sales teams with the right tools.

  • Deliver a personalized and conversational sales experience.

B2B sales models are always evolving. Businesses are looking for that extra advantage or next innovative trend that sets them apart from the competition. Here are a few B2B sales trends for 2023.

  1. AI and automation: Businesses are finding new benefits to implementing AI in sales. AI can analyze data in real time and use data algorithms to automate data-heavy or cognitive tasks. Conversational AI tools (like chatbots and voice assistants) use machine learning to improve with each interaction, and predictive AI tools can accurately forecast sales.

  2. Removing data silos: Sharing data is extremely beneficial, and businesses understand that. Investing in tools that find, consolidate, and organize fragmented data in a centralized location can streamline the sales process.

  3. Personalization and nurturing relationships: According to the Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report 2023, 59 percent of customers say businesses should use the data they collect to personalize interactions.
    Collecting customer data and keeping it in a unified workspace allows sales professionals to continuously learn from the ongoing conversation, context, and history. Proactively communicating with customers and delivering convenient sales experiences can foster relationships.

  4. Level up sales team skills: According to the latest Zendesk State of Sales Report, 72 percent of sales leaders are focusing on improving the skills of their sales reps. In-house training and skill development programs help sales reps thrive in their roles and boost employee retention.

  5. Invest in a powerful CRM: Eight percent of people surveyed in the State of Sales Report said their business is increasing its CRM and sales tools budget. Tools like AI and automation can enhance efficiency, while collaboration tools can create more and better sales opportunities.

Frequently asked questions

Is B2B sales hard?

Yes, B2B sales is hard. There are a lot of moving parts that you must track and manage, and the job is heavily weighted on results. But those who succeed find it incredibly rewarding.

To quote coach Jimmy Dugan in A League of Their Own: “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.”

How can data inform B2B sales?

Reporting and analytics collect data that provides valuable insights into B2B sales. Data can help you create a better sales strategy, improve lead generation and quality, increase your return on investment (ROI), and surface comparisons between you and your competitors.

What technology is used for B2B sales?

B2B sales teams use AI and automation, CRM software, lead generation software, customer feedback tools, chatbots, self-service, reporting and analytics, and more. Many B2B companies use CRMs, like Zendesk Sell, to keep the sales funnel organized.

How to use Zendesk to enhance your B2B sales experience

B2B sales can be challenging, but with the right tools, the process can be easier for your team.

With Zendesk Sell, you get a unified platform with everything you need—like prospecting, lead generation, and collaboration tools—all in one place. It sets up fast, is easy to learn, and has no hidden fees, resulting in a low total cost of ownership. Learn more about Zendesk Sell and discover everything it can do for you.

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