B2C sales isn’t easy to understand, because B2C salespeople are all around you doing a lot of different things. They might be your favorite tech at the Apple store, your mom’s favorite travel agent, or the person who helped you get into college.
Whether you’re trying to figure out which sales job is right for you or understand how the sales industry works, this post can help you out.
In this article, I’ll explain B2C sales, cover the difference between B2B and B2C sales, and offer some tips to help make your B2C sales processes more effective.
What is B2C Sales?
B2C stands for business to consumer. B2C sales is the sale of products or services to individual consumers, through a third-party website, in-person, or online.
What is a consumer?
A consumer is an individual customer purchasing a good or service for private use.
Consumers like you buy a range of things for personal use, like:
- Gym memberships
- Video games
- Streaming subscriptions
There are many different ways that businesses sell to consumers. B2C businesses include:
These include retailers like Nike who sell their branded products directly to customers. It also includes stores like Target that sell their own products as well as products from other brands.
Sites like Amazon and Etsy are B2C businesses that sell products from a range of brands to consumers.
Hotels, colleges, and gyms use B2C salespeople to encourage users to buy and continue using their services.
Sites like Adobe, Microsoft, and Spotify sell subscriptions to individual consumers.
In B2C sales you might be selling a single product or many products within a single category. Or you might work with a brand like Amazon that sells many different kinds of products.
B2C sales roles sell for direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands. They also help B2C sellers who work with other businesses before they connect with their customers.
B2C ecommerce is another popular sales spot. Per Statista, the estimated value of retail ecommerce will be over $1.3 trillion by 2025.
B2C sales includes:
- Retail employees at your favorite shop
- Service professionals like those in the health and beauty industries
- Real estate agents
- Sales professionals at local hotels, colleges, and restaurants
But because marketing plays such a big role in B2C, sales in B2C are often overlooked. Instead, B2C sales is often defined in comparison to B2B sales.
B2B vs. B2C Sales
B2B (business to business) salespeople sell products and services to other businesses. In B2C sales, you sell products and services to individual consumers. B2C sales solve a problem in a consumer’s life with a product. B2B sales solve a business problem or help an employee excel at their job.
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 (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, but Ryan is in B2C sales, while Reana is a B2B salesperson. How are their roles similar, and how are they different?
There are many overlaps in B2B and B2C sales. In fact, many businesses have both B2B and B2C sales teams within the same organization.
For example, a hotel will have a B2C sales team who works with individual or small groups of travelers to book travel and events.
At the same time, their B2B sales team will work with corporate groups to negotiate rates. This team may also develop wholesale relationships with booking agents and travel agencies.
There are also similarities between B2B and B2B sales. To be effective in sales you must:
- Develop a strong relationship and clear communication with your marketing team
- Have a clear understanding of your business’s sales process and strategy
- Know how to analyze and use consumer data
- Encourage consumers to promote products after purchase
- Understand and develop customer service skills
- Offer multi-channel service and engage with consumers where it’s most convenient for them
Though there are many ways these two approaches to sales are alike, let’s talk about some key differences.
The Difference Between B2B and B2C Sales
Value per Customer and Purchase Risk
B2C products and services often have lower prices than B2B products. This is because many B2C products involve one-time quick purchases and it doesn't always take a salesperson to close a deal.
B2B products are often expensive, so ongoing relationships that build trust are important. B2B consumers usually want to know the return on investment (ROI) and lifetime value (LTV) before deciding to limit their risk.
Number of Stakeholders
A B2C customer will usually navigate the buyer’s journey on their own. For expensive purchases like a car or home, they may consult with partners, friends, or family.
But B2B sales will work with a larger number of stakeholders. During the sales process, B2B sales may need to sell their products and services to many people in an organization.
This might include:
- Department leaders
- Subject matter experts
- Policy experts
B2C consumers may rely on reviews but they often make quick purchases, especially in retail. A B2C buyer journey may also include a lot of marketing before they show up on a lead list.
Social channels, affiliates, or ads can impact their decision before they have a conversation with B2C sales.
But B2B sales have a longer path to purchase. A typical sales cycle might include lunches, pitches, product demos, and more.
That said, both B2C and B2B sales may need to do a post-purchase follow-up. And with the increase in SaaS, ecommerce, and subscriptions, a flywheel model for sales may be the best option for both sales models.
A B2C buyer is often resolving an urgent need. Because of this, B2C sales are often emotional or on impulse. So B2C sales reps often need to compete with word-of-mouth, habits, cravings, and advertising to get a consumer to switch brands.
B2B purchases present more risk to the business. They often have the potential to disrupt systems and processes that the business relies on. To convince a range of stakeholders, facts are usually the most effective strategy.
For expensive or long-term purchases, like choosing a college or planning a wedding, B2C consumers may approach the buying process more like B2B buyers.
Most B2B buyers are purchasing on behalf of their business. This means that a committee makes most decisions, not the people who use the product.
Because of this, a B2B salesperson may need several different strategies for selling a single product.
B2C buyers are buying for themselves. This means that sales strategies will target the individual and the needs that they share in the moment.
Number of Leads per Salesperson
B2C sales may have a base of millions of potential customers. Sales and lead volumes are high, but the leads aren't always the right fit.
It's often a B2C sales job to identify the right leads, and time management is key. The more time you spend on a lead that won't close, the less likely you are to meet your sales goals.
In B2B, there is usually a smaller number of potential business leads, and salespeople spend more time with each lead. This is great because they know how to focus their sales efforts.
But it‘s a challenge because the long cycle and defined lead pool give competitors more chances to break in before you close a sale.
Influence of Discounts
Because most B2B buyers are purchasing on behalf of their company, they have a budget to work with and usually an internal approval process. This might mean a slow timeline, but less interest in discounts.
But a B2C consumer is usually buying with their own money, so they tend to be more invested in discounts. This is especially true in industries where discounts are the norm, like travel and hospitality.
Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)
Most of the customer acquisition cost in B2C goes toward marketing. That said, B2C sales in industries like travel and education may have a higher CAC.
But in B2B sales, the high price point and low number of quality leads usually demands a higher cost of acquisition.
Check out this post on the differences between B2B and B2C marketing if you want to learn more.
B2C sales is usually less complex than B2B. This is because B2B salespeople are working with experts in their industries and selling complex products and services.
While B2C sales is also complex and can require years to learn, there is less risk in most B2C purchases. This creates less need for a high level of sales experience. Check out this article if you want to learn more about rocking the B2B sales process.
How different are B2B and B2C sales really?
The creator economy, startup boom, and rise of B2B ecommerce have blurred some of the lines between B2B and B2C sales in the last several years.
Consumers today have more direct access to products and services than ever before. Some B2B businesses have struggled with the shift to online sales and having less control of the sales process.
At the same time, many startups operate on the emotions of a smaller group of individual leaders. These businesses may make quicker and more emotional investments than businesses of the past.
These shifts mean that both B2C and B2B salespeople need to be flexible and ready for change.
Whether your sales reps are selling cars, houses, and gym memberships, B2C engagement depends on what is being sold and who is selling it.
But there are a few common challenges in the B2C sales process that you can tackle to improve engagement.
Prevent lead leakage.
Because B2C salespeople get leads from a variety of sources, they run the risk of losing leads quicker than they can contact them.
For example, an online lead may be easy to convert, but a drop-in or offline lead may get lost in the shuffle of everyday tasks. Check out this resource to make the most of your sales pipeline.
Nurture leads at every stage of the buyer's journey.
The high volume of incoming B2C leads makes it difficult to keep nurturing leads who are further down the pipeline. Time management and prioritizing is essential. These skills can help you keep quality leads engaged and assess whether incoming leads can return value.
Keeping your notes in a single system like the HubSpot CRM platform makes it easier to create and review notes, then quickly return customer calls.
Adding a CRM can also help your business collect more reliable data to update your outreach strategies.
Know your product.
Many sales reps stop learning after their initial training. But continuous training is important for salespeople to set expectations for consumers. Product knowledge is more than closing a deal, it's about delighting your customers.
Let’s talk about how to excel at B2C sales.
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 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, say you knit and sell kitten sweaters. You may notice that 50-to-70-year-old cat lovers from rural areas make up a significant part of your business. Use that information to develop a buyer persona specific to those qualities.
That base is probably going to gravitate toward 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.
Pro tip: Use the Make My Persona tool to create custom buyer personas for your target products and services.
This tool helps you create your own unique buyer personas. A persona can help you remember important details while you’re working with customers.
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 and 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.
Pro tip: For a more in-depth look at needs-based selling, check out this article.
3. Bolster your ecommerce presence if your business is online
If you think most of your business will happen online, you should be aware of the figure known as your ecommerce conversion rate. It’s 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:
- Adding explainer videos to your product pages
- Giving visitors a clear and attractive set of product images
- 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.
Pro tip: Business analytics can help you add urgency to your favorite selling points. This quick free analytics course can help you use your consumer data for more effective selling.
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 contact 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.
Pro tip: This article offers tips on how to delight your customers, with a ton of examples to inspire your consumer outreach.
B2C Sales Is More Than Numbers
It’s about bolstering your service infrastructure and outreach strategies to fulfill your company’s potential.
B2C sales can be tough to identify and even tougher to learn. That said, there are some helpful sales tips and tricks you can use to make sure that you get the most out of your B2C business.
Keep these tips in mind, keep learning, and try to forget about the creepy sleeping puppy dolls.
This post was originally published in January 2020 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.