If we look at the large retail company or service provider. They are selling directly to consumers and selling to thousands or millions of them. B2C sales can be thought of as a stream of small events, you can group them into segments, you can plan how big percentage is going to convert, what will be the churn, how many can be sent into A sales channel, and how many into B. All like big relatively homogenous mass of generic ‘sales’, where it does not make sense to think about each sales event as a separate discrete entity.
At the same time, if we think of some companies whose clients are other companies, who are doing B2B, then those sales events often differ one from the another a lot. Especially if the company is selling something relatively large, and is making less than a hundred big sales deals per year. Each sales event has separate long-lasting stages. Finding the lead, writing the proposal, negotiating the deal, writing up a contract, arguing about the details, signing the contract, and so on. And each stage can be unique for the particular client. Each event is very discreet and overall sales are very heterogeneous.
This allows us to think about a beautiful analogy — to think about B2C to B2B sales differences as a Wave-Particle duality from physics, where a specific particle, like a photon, can be measured and understood as a discrete single event, while at the same time stream of such particles can be thought of as a wave, to which completely different laws of physics can be applied.
And while we can measure each subatomic thing both as a wave or as a particle, for practical reasons some are mostly thought about as waves — like radio waves or x-ray radiation; while others are best thought about as particles — like those particles that are not moving anywhere at great speeds or are created once in a blue moon in a large hadron collider.
The same about sales — both types of sales are sort of the same thing, but behaving completely differently because of the way you interact with the sales data and how can you look at each specific sales event to achieve maximum effect when working with the information.
This analogy allows us to better understand that different types of sales can be so different, that it is pointless to apply even the same laws of physics to them. And that becomes very important at the moment when thinking about how to do sales, how to manage a sales team, and how to set goals.
For example, different incentive schemes are created by the management — having the same strategies for motivating B2B and B2C salespeople are probably not going to work, as the framework of their work is completely different. Paying commission to the sales team for large B2B deals might be fine while giving commission to the sales team when dealing with largely automated web sales channels for consumer products, might be completely wrong.
The same can happen when various automated sales processes are adopted into the company. What works for B2C might be completely wrong for B2B and vice versa. Having robocalls or spammy WhatsApp messages to consumers might be a good (albeit deplorable) sales strategy while trying to sell enterprise-grade ERP software by sending automated sales pitches to random people on LinkedIn might be a much less effective approach.
Also opposite is true — if you are building consumer business, then you have to think about sales in a very scalable manner. Approaching each potential customer personally might be a very effective tactic, but it will also be quite an expensive endeavor. And your competition will outrun you.
This also becomes very important when evaluating companies. Applying the same metrics for B2B and B2C companies can mess up your thinking. while consumer-oriented companies can be measured by their monthly or year-on-year growth of customer numbers, some startup who is selling 3 units of some big thing per year should be evaluated completely differently.
Of course, B2B companies who sell, say, coffee to thousands of offices around the country will be more similar in their processes to B2C. Or small companies that sell to other small companies. Or consumer companies that cater to only a select few luxury clients. Or multi-level marketing companies. They will not behave exactly like the wave-particle duality principle predicts, and thus will need to be explored in an individual way. Which, of course, will not invalidate our beautiful metaphor.