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Day 178 – B2B versus B2C

I had an interesting conversation recently with a friend of mine, and it made me think about how in marketing world, people tend to divide B2B from B2C, and how loud some coaches became in teaching the differences between both.

Let’s start from the beginning, shall we? Not everyone immediately knows what B2B and B2C are. These abbreviations are a fancy way of translating the approach to sales and marketing, in two contexts, Business To Business and Business To Consumer, respectively. In short, if you are in business of selling tools, services, and products to other businesses, corporations, and you’re focused on reaching and dealing with some internal purchasing department or person within other business, you are basically B2B. On the other hand, if your main focus and model of selling is to reach directly individuals, be it on the street, in the shops, or online, etc. you are B2C. Simple is it?

Now the approach to both is somewhat dividing. Most of the schools of marketing differentiate significantly between both, and the methods you should use when dealing with each of the contexts separately. More controversial, and new schools have the other interesting vision, albeit they definitely recognise caveats between both types of selling.

I’m no sales person, at least not professionally. One can question this, when considering that we are all salesmen, good or bad, conscious or not, we do selling all the time. We sell our attitude, character, opinions, vision, etc. by negotiating through life and work events, not even thinking it is indeed a “sale”. I do not consider myself a salesman professionally yet, because I do not hold any position that would designate me specifically to this type of work, nor I have experience in any job with such title, but yes I did selling like every one of us on a level described before – average Joe, go through life selling of my ideas, and my character towards others so they accept, and trust me to do things for them.

Now back to difference between B2B and B2C. While there are obviously slight differences to how sale in those two contexts works, e.g. in B2B you might go through the Procurement and Purchase Order process, while in direct consumer sale you might only deal with simple receipt, and no hassle beyond accepting payment, and recording it for later tax return.

…but in the core of any of those methods or contexts, there’s one common theme, which seems to be forgotten. It all boils down to a human being. Regardless if it’s a business or individual, we still deal with a person. Conscious entity, with mind and body, with life behind the scenes, with pros and cons of our existence, driven by heart and soul (whatever we consider it to be). This tells me that in essence there’s no real difference, or at least there should be no difference in empathy, approach, and dealings with the other party. It is not so clear when you are being taught sales and marketing. Unfortunately, most of the time, the focus is on mind tricks, trends, manipulation, and the process is described like a competition or battle, rather than some agreement, exchange, trade and making the other life better.

I think the last element is key here – making other life better.

We lost ourselves in the world of producing a lot of crap, useless and doubtfully beneficial services and products. Selling them to reasonable human is hard, for a reason, because if it’s something that does not speak to the person buying it, it doesn’t make their life easier and better, then they don’t want to be sold that thing. Then it becomes a battle indeed. On one end we have a person who needs to sell, because otherwise they won’t earn money, and their life will be harder – on the other side, we have a person who doesn’t want the product or service, because it brings no value to them, and they don’t want to lose money, because… surprise, THEIR life becomes harder. Sales become offensive, and that’s when psychology enters the stage, the tricks, and mind games start to play significant role, and weaponised knowledge of salesmen gives them advantage, over regular person. That person becomes a potential victim, not the beneficiary. Someone unprepared for that fight, never trained to use any of those weapons, or how to recognise them, never trained to use any defence mechanisms, so they try their best. Some people are well raised, and have some of natural skill to defend themselves, for example because they had merchants in their family, or were exposed to such environment more and like sponges, absorbed a lot of these defensive (and offensive) mechanisms, unconsciously.

Most don’t. Statistics around marketing, and sales prove that majority of people are sold products quite easily, even though the product itself gives them vague to zero happiness, benefit, and value. Look at sales of different technology gimmicks, weird toys, and subscriptions to services offering purely entertainment on a low level, or worse, service that is at best patchy and does barely what it says on the tin.

Back to bottom line now. Whenever you sell something as a product or service, or you are simply trying to convince somebody to something, without any ill will or agenda. Remember that the other person is… well, a person. They have their life, their problems, and their own set of challenges, like you. Think about it before approaching them, and ask yourself questions like:

  • do I make their life easier?
  • does my product or service actually benefit them?
  • if I was in their place, would I buy it, am I solving potential problem there?
  • would I happily use it for my own good, without regret?

If you do ask yourself these questions, and without marketing materials, and other well tailored pitch copies, can answer it with resounding yes – please do sell. They likely need your product, and you might really change their life for good. Make them feel good, by not manipulating them, but really showing them that you understand their position. Listen and learn, and if they correct you, to the point where you see that you weren’t in sync with their needs, don’t push. You are actually better admitting that you misread their requirements, and it indeed might not be the time and place for them to buy it. Thank them, and ensure they remember you this way.

You might not sell it this time, but what you actually get back is more valuable than that single stupid sale. You gained trust of other human being. You made them feel understood, which is probably the best thing you can give to a person. Now they really know you, see you, and treat you as a person to remember. The first moment they come across the need for your product, or someone else that needs it – they will recall you, and you only. Because of what impression you made, and how you made them feel.

It might not pay back short term, but the value long term is something you cannot evaluate in usual terms, it’s much more than some sales index, or marketing bluff. You made yourself a fan, a groupie of sort. They will not only recommend you, but likely spread the word about this experience, because it’s so refreshing to not be pushed by salesperson, and even shocking – to be understood.

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