Picture two different salespeople, Ryan and Reana. Ryan works on the sales floor of a novelty electronics store and sells eerily lifelike sleeping puppy dolls that breathe (for legal purposes, I can’t actually link to their online retail page, but they exist and are terrifying; look them up.)

Reanna works at a wholesaler that distributes those dolls to retailers like the store Ryan works for. Ryan and Reanna are essentially selling the same product. They’re both peddling unsettlingly realistic toy dogs that never wake up (at least not when people are in the room).

Though they’re both selling the same product, Ryan is engaging in a type of sales known as B2C while Reana is engaging in one known as B2B.

In this article, I’ll explain what B2C sales are, the difference between them and B2B sales, and offer some tips to help make your B2C sales processes more effective.

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Consumer Sales

The term consumer sales may seem self-explanatory, and in fairness, it kind of is. The phrase means exactly what it sounds like: sales to consumers. There’s no semantic trickery or wordcraft at play here.

It wouldn’t be entirely unreasonable for you to believe the term could be a sufficient explanation of itself in itself. You might even think this topic doesn’t warrant its own section in a blog post. 

But the term actually provides a fair amount to unpack. The operative word in consumer sales is "consumer." That’s where things can get a bit complicated. What, exactly, is a consumer? What factors make that concept unique enough to distinguish consumer sales from other types of sales?

A consumer can be defined as an individual customer purchasing a good or service for private use — outside the context of business arrangements. Consumers purchase things like automobiles, clothing, meals, gym memberships, video games, and streaming subscriptions to suit their personal needs or interests.

Another term for consumer sales is B2C or "business to consumer." B2C businesses sell goods and services for individual use or consumption. The alternative to the B2C model is B2B. B2B stands for "business to business" and involves sales of goods and services between companies, specifically tailored to help with business operations.

Distinguishing the two sales models from each other can get complicated in some cases. For instance, individual clothing manufacturers can be B2B and B2C simultaneously.

When a clothing brand acts as a wholesaler and sells its clothing in bulk to a department store, it’s B2B. But that same brand could also sell items individually through its own eCommerce site. In that case, it would be B2C. 

There are other examples where the line between B2B and B2C can be blurred or confusing. One interesting case study is the entertainment industry — specifically the movie business.

It might seem like movie studios are B2C entities. They produce and sell content that individual buyers ultimately pay for and consume. Though that may be the case, there are several intermediaries — like retailers, movie theaters, and broadcasters — movie studios channel their content through before it reaches audiences.

In most cases, an individual consumer can’t buy a ticket to a movie directly from the studio that produced it, making the vast majority of movie studios B2B entities.

B2C Sales Tips

1. Understand who you’re selling to

Have a solid picture of your target demographic when devising your B2C marketing and sales strategies. You’ll waste a lot of time, effort, and money trying to indiscriminately appeal to anyone and everyone. Do some research, understand your customer base, and develop detailed buyer personas.

As per HubSpot’s own definition, a buyer persona is "a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers."

For instance, if you knit and sell kitten sweaters, you may notice that 50-to-70-year-old cat lovers from rural areas make up a significant portion of your business. Use that information to develop a buyer persona specific to those qualities.

That base is probably going to gravitate towards a different brand of sales than young professionals in their twenties. Make sure you understand who you’re appealing to and tailor your messaging and sales pitches accordingly. For more perspective on buyer personas, check out this article.

2. Establish rapport if you’re selling face-to-face

If you’re going to be personally interfacing with your customers, you’re going to need to put them at ease and earn their trust throughout the sales process. You’ll have to understand their needs and sell on that basis. 

B2C selling is personal. You’re convincing a single consumer to spend their own money to accommodate their individual needs. That means you have to make them have a personal stake in your pitch and messaging. The best way to do that is to let them know you’re invested in their best interests.

Offer thoughtful insights, direct your conversations without dominating them, be authentic, and do what you can to make your customers understand that you have both the know-how and genuine desire to solve their problems with your product or service.

For a more in-depth look at needs-based selling, this article

3. Bolster your eCommerce presence if your business is online

If you expect most of your business to be conducted online, you should be aware of the figure known as your eCommerce conversion rate: the ratio of the total number of people who make a purchase on your site against the total number of site visitors you have.

That figure is the most crucial metric in determining the health of your online business and the efficacy of your online messaging. Having a great product or service is one thing, making it readily accessible and attractive for purchase is another.

To improve your B2C sales online, you should look into taking steps like putting explainer videos on your product pages, giving your visitors a clearer set of product images, or adding web chat features that allow customers to ask product questions online.

It can only help to take these kinds of strides. Giving your prospective customers a smooth, accessible user experience on your site is a great way to improve your online B2C sales.

For more advice on how to improve your eCommerce conversion rate, check out this article.

4. Follow up with and delight both new and existing customers

When you land a new customer, send an email to let them know you appreciate their business. Assure them you’ll be there for them from then on out and make a point of addressing any issues they may have with their purchase. 

In that same vein, pay special attention to your existing customers. Let them know you’re still thinking of them well after you’ve earned their business. Consistently reach out to them without badgering them. Carefully scheduled emails and promotions to your previous customers can pay off in spades.

Turning one time buyers into repeat customers leads to excellent ROI, and turning repeat customers into brand evangelists is even better. They’ll tell their friends and family about how awesome your product or service is. That means free promotion.

All this information speaks to one crucial fact about B2C sales — bolstering your service infrastructure and outreach strategies is essential to fulfilling your company’s potential.

B2C sales can be tough to identify and even tougher to master. That being said, there are some helpful sales tips and tricks you can use to ensure that you get the most out of your B2C business.

Keep them in mind, and you’ll be able to push all the unspeakably creepy, presumably sentient sleeping puppy dolls your business can stock.

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Originally published Jan 13, 2020 10:09:00 PM, updated January 14 2020

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Sales Strategy