Published On: Mon, Aug 15th, 2011

B2B or not 2B

By Gerald Sherman

Business-to-Business selling, is just what the name says; it is business that occurs between two businesses.  In the real world Business-to-Business selling (or B2B for short) is far different than Business-to-Consumer selling or B2C. In B2C the transactions are relatively quick compared to the long-term personal relationships that are involved in B2B selling.

B2B introduces additional complexity into the scene because you are selling, not to a consumer, but to a corporate client. This type of customer is unique – the individual who’s buying the product/service will not personally be using it. And while the client has personal taste that guides them along the purchasing process, ultimately they represent the needs of an entire business.

The B2B client acts not only upon the needs and likes of their own, but also upon the requests and directions of the executives, marketing, and sales staff of her/his company. So when the client considers making a purchase, they of course want to like it personally.

However, they commit to buy the product/service primarily to satisfy the needs and wants of their target customer and depend heavily on what management and the marketing staff will feel is marketable.  The client’s main consideration is that the product/service will be a benefit for the business.

The B2B salesperson that “brings in the business” is highly regarded by management.  Such a successful B2B seller is not considered “overhead” but rather, for management, that salesperson is a walking “cash register.”  Bringing in the business is the key to the future of the business and therefore those salespeople who can get new accounts and expand the business are often assigned to bigger accounts or given larger territories and many times promoted to managerial positions.

In terms of job security, the successful B2B salesperson develops strong business relationships with key clients, and as a result gains a high degree of indispensability.  Management doesn’t want to lose key customers. However, no matter how many clients you have, being reliable and honest are two requirements to keeping one’s job. Becoming a successful B2B salesperson can lead to management positions.

In B2B selling, the seller has fewer clients and fewer transactions; therefore it opens the door for the seller to spend longer periods of time with the client, thus making it not only feasible but also necessary to establish a long-term relationship with them. We find that in many cases both client and seller are personally involved in the building of the business relationship. More time is spent in solving problems and reaching objective and goals. B2B selling is the platform for something that requires old-fashioned personal selling.

By “old-fashioned” personal selling – which applies in retail sales in many cases as well – we actually mean the time-tested fundamentals of personal selling, which never change:


  • Acting with integrity at all times
  • Maintaining a positive attitude
  • Developing a friendly relationship with the client (but not the slap-on-the back kind!)
  • Genuinely liking people, or what we call being a people person
  • Relating to a diversified audience
  • Developing a partnership with the buyer
  • Keeping focused that each transaction has to be to the mutual benefit of the both seller and client
  • Keeping a deep interest in developing profits for the client’s company
  • Being knowledgeable about your service/product as well as the client’s business.

We have an increasingly global market and B2B selling has an important role in it.

Excerpts from the book, The Real World Guide to Fashion Selling & Management, Gerald J. Sherman & Sar S. Perlman, Fairchild Publications, Division of Conde Nast, (N.Y.).


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