B2B eCommerce is on the up and up and is set to reach a massive $1.8 trillion by 2023.
This is (in part) thanks to the baby boomers’ loosening grip on the B2B buying industry, making way for tech-savvy millennials who are actively driving B2B eCommerce growth.
With B2B eCommerce increasing in popularity, it’s easy to assume you can transplant the processes and skills learned in retail buying over to the B2B buying space — after all, we’re still selling goods to people.
But the B2B buying niche is a whole different ball game, with its own responsibilities, risk exposures, and challenges.
So, how can you build a B2B buying process that sets you up to win in the competitive B2B eCommerce world?
With a killer plan, high-quality products, and efficient marketing. Let’s get straight into how you can nail each element to ensure your B2B buying process drives consistent results.
Is your buying process holding your business back? Find out how you can fund a solid turnaround.
B2B Buying Process: What We’ll Cover
- What Is a B2B Buying Process?
- The Critical Difference Between the B2C and B2B Buying Process
- 5 Steps to a Buying Process So Good You’ll Throw Away Everything You Knew Before
- Assess Demand
- Find the Right Platform for Your B2B Store
- Make Purchasing Your Products a No-brainer
- Facilitate the Entire B2B Buying Process Online
- Establish a Post-Sale Communication Loop with Your Customers
- Must-Know Bonus Tips to Fuel Your B2B Buying Process
- Future-Proof Your B2B Buying Process With the Right Tools (and Funding)
What Is a B2B Buying Process?
A B2B buying process is the journey businesses undertake to buy from another business. B2B procurement processes are different from those involved in selling to consumers and come with a host of duties and responsibilities to consider (more on these in a minute).
For example, when buying wholesale supplies and stock, the goal is to make this process as frictionless as possible to close more sales.
The Critical Difference Between the B2C and B2B Buying Process
Buying is in our DNA — from carefully selecting sweets at our local convenience store to choosing the best toys from high street shelves, by the time we hit school age, we’re all seasoned shoppers.
Most new sellers sharpen this skill by selling directly to the customer (D2C) and, while many choose to stay in this domain, some (you included) opt to venture into the B2B world.
As your business grows, you’d think buying for a company (and selling to them) would be a breeze given your D2C experience, whether that’s as a seller or consumer. Unfortunately, it just isn’t that easy.
The B2B buying process is in a world of its own. Giving up your retailer capacity to become a supplier means you have to consider things like how you’ll maintain margins, profits, and ROI, while allowing room for your buyer to generate revenue.
To grow a healthy business, you need a robust B2B buying process. Here’s how to make that happen.
1. Assess Demand
To build a solid foundation for your B2B business arm, you need to start with some in-depth research.
This step helps to gauge demand for your products, so look for things like:
- Top-performing products
- Promising items and categories in your store
- Responses to products and product tests
- Competitor best sellers and risers
Combine your findings with a supply chain analysis to uncover any inventory management issues like stockouts, deadstock, unreliable suppliers and freight forwarders.
This info will help build a clear picture about which items have the most growth potential and are worth additional investment. Plus, it’ll lay out which products and suppliers you can leave out of your B2B sales catalogue.
2. Find the Right Platform for Your B2B Store
Now that you know which products are rainmakers and rising stars, it’s time to find a platform to bring these products to life.
Even if you already have a website, it always pays to be on a marketplace (or three 😉) to expand your leads without constant marketing.
As a B2B seller, your platform hunt will differ from B2C sellers because:
- B2B sellers act as suppliers to companies, not consumers, so their products reflect the companies needs, e.g. wrapping supplies.
- Most B2B customer relationships don’t form on social media platforms or influencer campaigns like they do with B2C relationships. Often, the B2B customer journey starts because a company needs a particular product(s), so they go on the hunt for products by:
- Heading to a tradeshow
- Looking through dedicated B2B forums
- Browsing (online) industry magazines and journals
- Rummaging through search engines
- Asking for a referral from their peers and in online forums
This is where indirect marketing via keyword research comes in to fortify your online presence and increase footfall and conversions.
When correctly done, keyword research isn’t only a great way to get free, organic traffic to your products, but your PPC campaigns on marketplaces and search engines can give you more bang for your buck too.
Need some cash to fortify your B2B buying process? Explore your options.
3. Make Purchasing Your Products a No-brainer
You’ve now reached stage three of your B2B buying process. Give yourself a huge pat on the back because you’ve put in a ton of work to get here! 🙌
In stage three, you need to position your products as the only feasible solution.
Your sales page, ads, and offer should make potential customers run a mile from your competitors and land in the safety of your store.
Let’s explore what you need to put in place:
Eye-catching photos and videos
If there’s one thing you have to get right in eCommerce, it’s your photos — even when you’re selling in the B2B arena.
Why? Because even B2B buyers are humans, and humans love pretty things. 😍
You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression, so make your first shot count.
- Be sure to include at least one product video: Videos improve lead generation and improve your audience’s understanding of your offering(s) to boost conversions.
- Create helpful content for each stage of the buyer’s journey: Not everyone who visits your store is ready to buy straight away, so consider all the concerns a potential customer might have and then use your content to reassure and support them. For example, to reduce a B2B buyer’s reluctance to buy a product in a complicated niche, you could throw in:
- A free eBook that provides strategies to win in their marke
- A tutorial video series if your product is complicated to use
- Blog posts answering specific customer concerns
- A frequently asked questions page that clarifies your audience’s most pressing questions
- A weekly newsletter that lays out top tips on how to use your products
Craft an irresistible offer 😍
In the B2B space, competition is tough.
When building your B2B buying process, take time to craft an offer your customers can’t say ‘no’ to.
To achieve this you could:
- Assess the offers and promotions your competition provides
- Look through reviews to uncover customer desires
- Tweak your findings and work them into your product and store to build a superior offer.
Let’s say after completing this process, you discover your competitors’ customers are frustrated that they can only purchase a specific product in single units.
From this observation, you could bundle your product at a discount and push it in your marketing to attract these dissatisfied consumers to your store. It’s win-win.
Sell the end result in your copy
B2B stores are notorious for their robotic, sales-y product descriptions.
Some even copy and paste the specifications they get from their manufacturer onto their store and call it a day, leaving money and opportunities on the table. (If this is you, don’t worry! We’ll get you on the straight and narrow in just a second 😅).
Instead of focusing on product features, position your copy to sell your product’s benefits and stress the life they (or their customers) will have with it.
For example, say you sell industrial lawn mowers targeting self-employed landscapers:
👎🏼 Avoid honing in on the blade type or set components as these are features.
👍🏼 Instead, highlight how your industrial lawn mower will slash their work time in half, giving them the ability to take on more work to grow their business or work on other important tasks.
Show off your wins
Clout is a selling point, especially in the B2B buying process.
To ensure your business turns heads, showcase the following selling points around your store:
- Certifications and awards
- Reviews and testimonials
- Press releases and honourable mentions
- High-profile influencer collaborations
When you showcase your wins and are transparent about your terms, you position your brand as an honest, respectable authority in your niche — which definitely bolsters your sales.
Certain things are deal-breakers for B2B buyers too. These include:
- Payment methods
- Delivery times and prices
- Quality control
If you can optimize these areas profitably, it can be the difference in securing sales that would have otherwise gone to your competitors.
Make it easy for potential B2B customers to reach you
There are few things more annoying for a B2B buyer than finding a great product but not being able to contact the supplier. It’s one of the top ways to turn a hot lead ice cold. 🥶
To reduce friction in your B2B buying process, provide multiple ways for your potential buyer to get in touch with you, like:
- Social platforms, e.g., Facebook, WhatsApp, Line, WeChat
- Website contact form
4. Facilitate the Entire B2B Buying Process Online
Unlike retail, purchasing, quoting, negotiation, sampling, and deposit-taking are part and parcel of the B2B buying process.
Some marketplaces have all the tools you need to get on with serving B2B customers, but if you choose a platform that doesn’t have these tools, or if you have a custom-built eCommerce store, it’s a good idea to integrate solutions like:
- Sales software with a quoting system or ability to integrate one
- Customer service management software with ticketing capabilities
- Finance and client management software, i.e., Invoicing, CRM, accounting
- Secure payment portals with security certificates and split payment capabilities
- Cart abandonment and referral software (for your website only)
This tech stack will shorten your sales cycle and remove fiddly annoyances that get in the way of conversions. Plus, it’ll skyrocket your growth by helping you capture, nurture and close more leads in your business. Just be sure to account for the transaction fees you need to pay your chosen platforms.
5. Establish a Post-Sale Communication Loop with Your Customers 🔄
Without constant feedback from your customers, it’s near impossible to improve your products in a way that satisfies their current needs and wants.
To make sure your customers get everything they need from you could:
- List your store on review sites like Review.io and Trustpilot to jumpstart conversation between you and your customers and try to respond to comments.
- Use survey software like Survey Monkey to help you request the lowdown from your audience on their experience with your store and products.
**Pro tip: Incentivise and promote your surveys to get a higher response rate.
Once you have your review and survey channels in place, set aside time each month to harvest the information and take action on your findings to optimize your store continually.
And, that’s it! You now have a B2B buying process that’s a force to be reckoned with. 💥
But don’t stop here. Aim to make improvements in each stage as your store grows and your customer relationships mature, to ensure you stay on the pulse of your customers’ needs.
Must-Know Bonus Tips to Fuel Your B2B Buying Process
To give you a final push in freeing your B2B buying process from a retail buyer’s mindset, it’s time to create a game plan that’ll give you the structure needed to stay on-course.
Here are some important bonus tips to consider:
Map out key dates and craft a timeline
Before you jump into contacting suppliers and finalising orders for your B2B buying process, it’s best to know your stock requirements in advance. Put together all the times throughout the year you’ll need stock and how much you’ll need.
You’ll need to include:
- Peak periods unique to your niche
- Estimated restock dates for existing items
- Key eCommerce dates e.g., Black Friday and Cyber Monday
- In-store promotions and events
Once you have all the info, here are the steps to take:
- Work backwards to figure out when to order stock for each of these dates to ensure it arrives in time.
- Try to include a 2-week time buffer to account for any delays. This will also give you more negotiating power as you can buy in bulk out of season before you need the products.
- Use a supply chain management solution to build accurate stock predictions, manage stock orders, and manage shipments.
Create supplier outreach templates
It can be a time-consuming process to find and test new suppliers. Make the process easier and smoother with outreach templates for each product type you sell, and ensure they include some basic information about your store and position.
Then jump into details like:
- Product name (and photos)
- Lead time required
- Any product modification request
- Packaging requirements
- Desired shipping method
- End location for shipment
Create manufacturing guidelines
It’s easy for information to get lost in translation when working with suppliers overseas. Even when you work with domestic suppliers, data can be lost or forgotten when scattered in various emails and documents. To avoid this issue, set out standard operating procedures for your manufacturers to follow for duties like:
- Product packaging (internal and external)
- Outer Labelling and packaging requirements for shipping
- Shipping requirements, e.g., by sea only with heat-cured ISPM-15. standard wooden pallets.
It takes effort to put these documents together. But getting it right can save you a ton of headaches in the long run. Plus, it’ll get everyone on the same page and avoid frustration and costly errors, which can damage your supplier relationships and profits.
And if you suddenly have to change suppliers, you can significantly reduce your new vendor’s learning curve with these simple documents.
Future-Proof Your B2B Buying Process With the Right Tools (and Funding)
It’s easy to default to traditional methods of B2B buying because there are so many experts, use cases, and strategies out there.
But if we’ve learned anything over the past few years, it’s that online eCommerce is the future, even in the B2B space. So, if you want to become the dominant player in your niche, your B2B buying process should reflect this digital shift.
Embrace technology, the right marketplaces, and social media to push your business forward — and if you hit a cash flow snag, look for the right kind of working capital to ensure long-term success in your B2B buying process.
Does your B2B buying process need a revamp? Discover how SellersFunding can help.
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