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What is B2B Sales? Definition, Examples, Strategies

Business to business (B2B) sales is the process of selling services, products or SaaS to another business. It’s a challenging sales model that requires a skilled team of salespeople with strong communication and negotiation skills, as well as a commitment to data-driven decision-making.

There are many aspects to B2B sales. It involves everything from cold calling, sales email cadences, scheduling meetings, organising and conducting demos and researching buyers’ pain points and objections.

While the sales cycles are longer and more complex than B2C sales, they result in higher-order values and greater incoming revenue.

This knowledge hub contains a number of resources that provide information and insights into B2B sales.

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What is the B2B sales process?

Discover the best B2B sales strategies for managers and reps alike - press ▶️ to watch Cognism’s explainer video!

The B2B sales process is a structured approach designed to identify, engage, and convert potential customers into loyal customers.

Here’s a detailed breakdown of the typical stages in the B2B sales process:

1. Define your Total Addressable Market (TAM)

Figuring out who you want to target is a vital first step in business sales.

Your TAM measures a lead’s potential and whether they’re worth pursuing. This ensures you don’t waste time or resources chasing the wrong target customers.

You can calculate your TAM manually, but it’s very time-consuming. A better way is to use sales software - did you know that Cognism has a free TAM calculator? 

Click 👇 to calculate your TAM today!

Cognism TAM Calculator

2. Research your leads

For sales success, you need to research your B2B leads.

This means understanding their pain points and offering them a solution they can’t refuse. It also means knowing your product inside and out.

Here are some tips for lead research:

  • Create an ideal customer profile that clearly defines the characteristics of the B2B companies you want to target.
  • Leverage LinkedIn for prospecting - gather information about the company, its key decision-makers and their recent activities.
  • Visit company websites - review their annual reports for detailed information about their business, financial health, and key decision-makers.
  • Stay informed about industry news and trends - identify B2B sales leads that may need your product or service.
  • Research your competitors’ clients to identify potential leads that may benefit from your offering.
  • Attend industry events and trade shows - network with potential customers and gather information about their needs and challenges.
  • Use B2B contact databases (like Cognism!) to find leads that match your ICP.

Cognism is an excellent company research tool - use our platform to find the right companies and decision-makers, ALMOST instantly!

See below for a quick product demo 👇

3. Prospecting

After research comes the prospecting phase.

Here, sales reps utilise strategies such as email marketing, cold calling, and attending trade shows to engage with prospective clients.

The goal is to bring them into your sales funnel.

4. Qualification

You must ensure your prospects are:

  • Good fits for your B2B product/service.
  • Suffering with a pain point that your product can solve.
  • Worth your time as a sales professional!

To figure this out, you must talk to them either on the phone or via email.

You might discover they aren’t interested or that your research was wrong, leaving only quality leads for you to pursue.

Qualification focuses your efforts on leads that have the highest potential to convert, thereby saving you time and resources. Precious things for a B2B sales rep!

💡 Unsure what to ask your potential clients? Check out Cognism’s top sales qualification questions.

5. Proposal and demo

If you successfully qualify your lead, the next stage is to present them with a tailored solution that addresses their needs and pain points.

There are two ways of doing this:

  • Create detailed proposals that outline how your product or service can solve the prospect’s problems and provide value.
  • Showcase your product in a software sales demo, highlighting its features and benefits.

6. Objection handling

It’s a fact of a sales representative’s life - most of your prospects will have objections. It’s your job to have a valid answer to all of them.

Here are some tactics for solving sales objections:

  • Carefully listen to the prospect’s objections to understand their concerns fully.
  • Offer evidence-based responses and solutions to address the objections, such as customer testimonials or case studies.

It’s important to stress that you shouldn’t view an objection negatively; on the contrary, it’s a sign that the prospect is very much interested in your product and is keen to learn more about it.

💡 Need more advice? Check out Cognism’s guide to objection handling.

7. Negotiation

Congratulations! If you successfully handled the client’s objections, you’re one step closer to closing the deal.

But first, you’ll have to negotiate! Talk to the prospect and try to reach an agreement on terms, including pricing, delivery, and other contractual details.

Here are some tips for the negotiation stage:

  • Engage in discussions to reach a mutually beneficial agreement on the contract terms.
  • Be prepared to offer flexible pricing, delivery schedules, or other terms to close the deal.

8. Closing

At this stage, it’s time to finalise pricing.

It’s also the point where you must liaise with the other stakeholders needed to sign off on the deal, such as finance or legal.

💡 Looking for tips? See Cognism’s guide to closing sales deals like a pro.

9. Implementation and delivery

This is perhaps the hardest stage in the process.

You’ve done everything as a B2B sales pro - now your company needs to deliver the product or service and ensure it meets the client’s expectations.

Here’s some advice for the implementation stage:

  • Ensure a smooth onboarding - guide the client through the process of using your product, including setup and training.
  • Provide ongoing support as needed - work with your customer service team to ensure the prospect becomes a happy customer!

The bottom line is:

Successful implementation and delivery are crucial for customer loyalty and retention​.

10. Post-sale support and relationship management

The selling process doesn’t end when the deal is closed!

You must maintain, if not strengthen, your relationship with your B2B customers. Here are some tips:

  • Regularly check in with the client to ensure satisfaction and address any issues that arise.
  • Work proactively to help the client achieve their goals using your product or service.

You might also try gathering feedback from your new customers. Use their insights to improve your products, services and processes.

How does B2B sales differ from B2C?

The main differences are:

In B2C sales, you sell directly to individual consumers. While in B2B sales, you target a much harder demographic - business people, people who’ve done their research and are simultaneously comparing multiple products to yours.

In B2B, there are usually higher price points and multiple decision-makers to engage with. This makes the funnel last a lot longer than that of B2C.

We’ve put together an infographic showing the differences between B2B and B2C sales activities 👇

B2B Sales Infographic

Who conducts B2B sales?

A lot of hard work goes into B2B sales. A business that wants to succeed will need a dedicated sales department to ensure everything runs smoothly, from the initial prospecting to converting a qualified lead into a sale.

Your sales team will likely have the following roles:

  • Sales Development Representatives (SDRs) - junior salespeople who reach out to prospects and schedule meetings or demos.
  • Account Executives (AEs) - mid-level salespeople who are responsible for managing client relationships and closing sales deals.
  • Sales Managers - senior salespeople who oversee groups of SDRs or AEs; their goal is to improve team performance.
  • Director/VP of Sales - the highest-level salespeople who set team strategy and report to the CEO/the board.
  • Customer Success Managers (CSM) - sometimes included in a sales team, CSMs work closely with clients to understand their needs, provide ongoing support and help them solve problems.

There are several ways of structuring your sales team. You could use the assembly line model or you could follow the pod model. It depends on the demands of your B2B business and your sales goals.

💡 Looking for more? Read Cognism’s advice for building a B2B sales team.

What are examples of B2B sales?

Finding the best method for B2B sales depends on your industry, but there are some core activities you should invest in.

We recommend experimenting with a combination of the following:

  • Cold calling - contacting and conversing with leads over the phone.
  • Cold email - sending sales emails to verified lead lists.
  • Social selling - building relationships with leads and pitching to them on social media.
  • Video prospecting - creating and sending personalised video messages to potential customers.
  • Sales cadences - a combination of all of the above.

What are the common challenges in B2B sales?

There’s no doubt, B2B sales can be complex and challenging.

Here are some of the industry’s most common problems, along with some strategies for addressing them:

1. Long sales cycles

B2B sales cycles can be significantly longer than B2C, often taking months or even years to close. This extended timeline can strain resources and delay revenue generation​.


  • Use a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system to track and manage leads throughout the sales cycle, ensuring no step is missed and follow-ups are timely.
  • Break down the sales process into smaller stages and set milestones to keep it moving forward. This helps identify bottlenecks and areas that need more focus​.
  • Maintain regular contact with prospects to keep them engaged and to better understand their evolving needs and timelines.

2. Reaching decision-makers

Due to hierarchical structures and gatekeepers, accessing and influencing key decision-makers in a target company can be difficult.


  • Use a combination of email, phone calls, LinkedIn messages, and in-person meetings to reach different stakeholders (also called multi-threading in sales).
  • Establish a good rapport with executive assistants or other gatekeepers; they can facilitate access to decision-makers.
  • Leverage referrals from existing contacts or satisfied customers to gain introductions to key decision-makers.

3. Complex buying process

B2B buying decisions are often complex, involving multiple stakeholders and detailed evaluation processes​.


  • Map out your target market’s typical buying journey and tailor your sales approach to meet their needs at each stage.
  • Offer case studies, whitepapers, and webinars that address common pain points and highlight your solution’s value.
  • Prepare tailored proposals that address each client’s needs and concerns, making it easier for them to see the value in your offering.

4. High competition and market saturation

Many B2B markets are highly competitive, with numerous companies offering similar products or services. This makes it difficult for new challengers to stand out​.


  • Highlight unique features, superior service, or other differentiators that set your product or service apart.
  • Identify and target niche markets where competition is less intense and your product can have a unique value proposition.
  • Clearly communicate the specific benefits and ROI of your solution to prospective customers​.

5. Maintaining relationships

B2B sales require ongoing relationship management to ensure customer satisfaction and long-term loyalty​.


  • Keep in touch with clients through regular updates, newsletters, and check-ins to understand their evolving needs.
  • Offer robust post-sale support to help clients get the most out of your product or service and address any issues quickly.
  • Implement programs that focus on helping your customers achieve their business goals using your solutions.

6. Customisation and complexity

B2B sales often works with highly customised solutions that can be complex to develop and implement​.


  • Create products or services that are easily adaptable to different client needs.
  • Work closely with clients to understand their requirements; if you can, co-create solutions that meet their needs.
  • Train your sales team to handle complex solutions and understand the intricacies of your offerings​.

7. Price sensitivity and negotiation

B2B buyers are often price-sensitive and engage in extensive negotiations to secure the best deal​.


  • Focus on demonstrating your product’s long-term value and ROI rather than just the upfront cost.
  • Provide options such as volume discounts, subscription models, or performance-based pricing to meet changing client needs.
  • Enter negotiations with a clear understanding of your pricing limits and the value you provide; be ready to discuss terms that work for both parties.

8. Technology and data integration

Integrating technology and data systems in B2B sales can be complex and time-consuming, especially with varying client requirements​.


  • Use advanced sales tools and CRM systems to streamline data management and sales processes.
  • Provide support for integrating your solutions with clients’ existing systems, ensuring a seamless transition.
  • Keep up with the latest technology trends to offer innovative solutions that meet current market demands​.

9. Lead generation and qualification

Generating and qualifying leads in B2B sales can be difficult due to the need for detailed research and lengthy qualification​.


  • Leverage data analytics to identify high-potential leads based on past customer behaviour and market trends.
  • Create a system to score leads based on their likelihood to convert, focusing your efforts on the most promising prospects.
  • Use targeted content marketing to attract and engage potential leads, nurturing them through the sales funnel​.

10. Keeping up with industry trends

To stay competitive, B2B sales professionals need to stay informed about industry trends, technological advancements, and changes in customer desires.


  • Encourage continuous learning and professional development through industry conferences, webinars, and training programs.
  • Invest in market research to stay updated on trends and anticipate future changes in your industry.
  • Regularly collect and analyse customer feedback to identify emerging trends and areas for improvement.​

11. Legal and regulatory compliance

Navigating the complex legal and regulatory environment in B2B can be challenging, particularly for international transactions​.


  • Work with legal experts to ensure compliance with all relevant laws and regulations.
  • Develop comprehensive compliance programs to train your team and monitor adherence to regulations.
  • Keep up to date with changes in laws and regulations that could impact your business and sales processes​.

12. Scaling sales efforts

Scaling B2B sales across different regions or markets involves overcoming challenges like varied customer needs, market dynamics, and regulatory environments​.


  • Create solutions that are adaptable to different markets and can be easily scaled without extensive customisation.
  • Establish local sales teams who understand the unique market dynamics and customer needs in each region.
  • Develop standardised processes and systems to ensure consistency and efficiency as you scale your sales efforts​.​

How do you measure B2B sales performance?

Sales metrics are the key to improving your overall sales strategy. They help sales leaders and business owners measure everything from productivity to success rates and revenue.

We asked our sales directors for a list of their must-track B2B sales metrics. Then, we collected them together in an easy-to-digest infographic.

Click below to see the ultimate key performance indicators for sales!

B2B sales kpis

How to win at B2B sales?

In today’s economy, it’s never been harder to find and engage with B2B buyers.

To win at B2B sales, you need accurate business data - names, job titles, direct dial phone numbers and B2B emails.

Without high-quality contact data, you won’t find the right leads. You won’t know how best to contact them. You’ll miss opportunities and you’ll lose sales and revenue.

Cognism is the leading data provider for B2B. We’ve helped over 3,000 businesses communicate with their dream customers by providing them with accurate, human-verified mobile numbers and email addresses.

But don’t take our word for it!

After signing with Cognism, conversational cloud company Drift saw ROI in under 30 days, booking 70% of its outbound meetings from our data.

Michael Iannuzzi, Drift’s Director of Marketing & Sales Development, told us:

💡 Need more convincing? See how Cognism compares to its competitors.

💡 Read enough? Then head straight to booking your demo.

What is the future of B2B sales?

B2B sales has come a long way since the first publication of the Yellow Pages (1966 in the UK!) to when Marc Benioff introduced Salesforce, the first-ever cloud-based CRM solution. More innovations are sure to happen over the next decade.

With developments in tech, data and AI (including ChatGPT for sales), business to business sales is set to become even easier and more efficient than ever.

We’re also seeing the industry become more and more diverse, especially with women choosing B2B sales jobs.

Keep up to date with the changes by following Cognism’s content! You’ll find unmissable sales content on our blog.

We also run a sales podcast, Redefining Outbound, which you can listen to on Apple or Spotify.

Lastly, don’t forget to follow us on LinkedIn! We publish the best of our content there every weekday 👇

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