You've probably heard something like this for years: "Business buyers are logical, while consumers are emotional."
That leads marketers to try and overwhelm business buyers with stats, facts, and figures — and ignore soft skills like emotional buy-in or developing rapport.
Over the past decade, I've sold to both B2B and B2C buyers. And I can tell you, without a doubt, the two are a lot more alike than they're different.
And it turns out there's a series of studies that also prove this point.
For starters, the vast majority of B2B businesses (89%) prefer Facebook over LinkedIn, according to Statista, while 84% of B2B purchases also start with personal referrals.
CMO.com reports that “on average, B2B customers are significantly more emotionally connected to their vendors and service providers than consumers.”
And a report in Harvard Business Review confirms that “with some purchases, considerations such as whether a product can enhance the buyer’s reputation or reduce anxiety play a large role.”
That being said, there are a few critical differences between B2B and B2C buyers. Here are a few of the biggest to keep in mind.
1. B2B transactions have larger profit margins. On average, B2B purchases tend to be bigger. That sounds obvious, but it's actually an incredibly important point.
The largest B2C purchase might be a house. Most of these people are using mortgages, so maybe they're putting down $100,000 of their own cash.
That's a drop in the bucket for most large B2B companies.
This means B2B purchases have larger profit margins. It means you can spend more to acquire each customer (a higher cost per lead) — and use different acquisition methods fromB2C companies.
Take AdWords, for instance. A $100 cost-per-click might be more expensive than a simple consumer product even costs. So a B2C company can't use AdWords in this case and needs to look at ways to reach more people for far less on a per-customer basis (like SEO).
2. There are more people involved in B2B transactions. If B2B transactions are large, it only makes sense that there are more people usually involved in the process. There may be managers, directors, and vice presidents within a single department — or multiple people from multiple departments who might be affected.
Your job, then, is to try and build bridges with all of these people. That's why so much time and money and energy goes into traveling and direct sales. You often need to do these things personally, meeting people and understanding their concerns to address and eventually overcome them.
Meanwhile, if you were selling a house to a couple, you're basically only dealing with those two people — max. Anyone else involved in the process, like banks, title companies or appraisers, don't usually have a say in the transaction happening or not. (Assuming, of course, the buyers are qualified to begin with.)
Unsurprisingly, if more people are involved, this also means that…
3. B2B transactions take longer to close. Bigger transactions, with more people involved, take longer to close.
Again, it sounds obvious. But it changes everything involved.
Short, easy transactions are straightforward. You can use urgency, scarcity, discounts, and high-pressure sales tactics to close them ASAP. You can pour these on with little risk of it backfiring and convert customers like crazy.
Now, here's the problem.
Try a lot of those same tactics in a much longer, more complex, B2B transaction and they'll all backfire. So not only will you blow the sale, but you'll also piss off the prospect and basically hand them directly over to your competition.
You can incorporate factors like discounts or scarcity to a certain extent. But their influence tends to matter a lot less toward the overall decision to buy from your company versus another one.
Instead, you need to spend more time understanding needs, developing creative solutions, and again — building rapport with internal champions.
B2B and B2C buyers are a lot more alike than most people would have you believe.
However, the techniques you use to attract, nurture, and close them are what's different.