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What Is B2B Sales?

Find out what is b2b sales and get more information to better how a startup founder can understand what is b2b sales.

Table of Contents

In its most basic form, understanding what is business to business (B2B) sales is when one business sells something to another business.

Most technical Founders have a bad impression of sales. The term “Sales” has a bit of a reputation issue. A lot of people see sales as that “used car salesman” who will do anything to get you to buy - untrustworthy and sleazy. But that’s not what it is. Sales in the B2B world is different; it’s very much about helping customers.

Buyers are too sophisticated to be tricked into buying, and the actual buying process at many companies requires too many boxes checked to pull a fast one. This is why it’s critical to understand how sales works. Without having a clear understanding of B2B sales, you’ll feel discouraged. And if you feel discouraged, you will not want to put the effort into B2B sales. Without sales, your startup dies.

Salespeople seek out prospects, also known as potential customers. Potential customers have a problem that they may or may not be aware of, and a salesperson will help them to resolve that issue. For example, a company may have a manual accounting process that takes 20 hours a week to complete and is riddled with errors. Those errors cost the company time and money. If you developed software to automate that process and eliminated the human errors, you would have a solution well aligned to be purchased.

Be a Consultant

As a non sales Founder, if you think of sales differently, it will help you succeed as a B2B salesperson. A good salesperson will come in and act as a consultant. They’ll help the customer figure out what is the best solution for the problems that they have. They’ll help them understand what the impact of the pain or problem is, what happens if this problem goes away, how they’ll benefit, what the cost of inaction is, and more. They’ll be seen as a trusted advisor who educates the customer. With good questions, a salesperson can help the customer understand the problem or problems they currently have. And with the properly aligned solution to the problem, the salesperson will be able to get the customer to buy their product. Remember, being good at sales is really about helping the customer and acting like a consultant.


Side note - If you haven’t, you should have done customer research before you started building a product or attempting a sale. You can actually sell before you build a product but I don’t want to go off on too much of a tangent! (Suggested reading:  The Mom Test). With your customer research completed, you should have a good idea of the types of companies and job titles you want to book meetings with. Don’t worry, we’ll talk about how to get meetings with these companies later on.

Here’s an effective message to send when doing customer research

Hey (name),

I’m trying to better understand how (job title) (problem you think you solve for.)

We don’t have anything to sell but we want to make sure we’re on the right track

Your experience at (companies) would help us cut through the fog. Happy to share what we learn from other (job title)

Open to chatting? Either way, thanks for your consideration.


Works well for customer research. Easy to personalize too.


Remember, you’re helping companies solve a specific problem, and you’ve developed a solution to solve that problem. Sometimes the problem you solve is not going to be a priority for the prospects you target. Companies have tons of problems. Large companies can have hundreds, maybe thousands of problems. In a perfect world, the problem you are solving is a priority to that company. If the problem is not considered a priority, then you’re going to have a challenging time getting the customer to buy. Not all problems are created equally; some companies have much more important issues to solve. Sometimes you need to focus on different markets where the problem you can solve is a priority. And sometimes others will not be clear on the importance of solving the problem. This is where being a strong salesperson can make a difference.

If you didn’t like the consultant analogy, you can also think of yourself as a business doctor. A very basic example would be you go to the doctor because you have back pain. He asks you questions about your pain, what caused it, etc. He may examine you and send you for an MRI. When the MRI comes back, he’ll now have enough info that he has spent time collecting to make a diagnosis and prescribe a treatment that is aligned with the problem.

He has invested time learning about your pain, you view him as trustworthy and credible, and you feel based on his explanation and how he’s answered your questions, confident that surgery is the best solution. Alternatively, if the pain is not bad, the MRI looks fine, the doctor is unable to collect enough to make a diagnosis, or you don’t find the doctor to be trustworthy or credible, you’re not going to have back surgery. You’ll either do nothing or go see another doctor.

As a Founder selling, you’ll diagnose the problem your prospects have, and help the customer understand the impact, what happens if your solution is applied, what happens if it isn’t, and how their future state will be changed compared to their current one. Often, customers do nothing, so it’s important that you are able to communicate effectively, helping them to better understand the cost of inaction.