9 Selling Styles in Today’s B2B Market (and How to Choose Yours)


9 Selling Styles in Today’s B2B Market (and How to Choose Yours)

It’s amazing to think back on how drastically B2B selling has changed over just the last 7-10 years.

Consumers are more informed than they’ve ever been. Communication, marketing, and sales channels are continually multiplying.

The pandemic rapidly accelerated a remote work culture and “contactless” purchasing process.

Just as the marketplace evolves, so must B2B sellers. It seems like every day a new blog post is published touting the latest and greatest sales technique.

Then, weeks later, a study is released revealing that this bleeding-edge tactic is now officially dead in the water and already replaced by the next one.

It’s tough to keep up and stay educated, especially when you’ve already got a full plate of tasks for driving deals forward.

In this article, you’ll learn:

  1. In-depth details on the types of sales styles used in the B2B market
  2. The most common markets in which these styles are leveraged
  3. How to know which of these styles is right for your workflow

Without further ado, let’s take a look at 9 major selling styles that define today’s B2B sales landscape.

Transactional sale

Simply put, transactional selling is all about making a quick sale. Here, clients and their pain points take a back seat in favor of short-term wins (rather than ongoing customer service).

Here, sales and marketing teams take advantage of discounts and promotions to increase the number of transactions.

The buyer usually spends little time in the sales funnel. This is partly because the purchase decision is often made by one person.

Examples of transactional sales

Most low-ticket retail purchases are transactional sales. Whether that’s purchasing furniture from a decor store or tools from a hardware store.

Nine times out of ten, consumers make these transactions without the aid of another human. Their need is simple, and the solution is obvious. No seller intervention is required.

While transactional sales are most common in B2C verticals, a B2B example would be a business purchasing computer equipment from a computer retailer. Or productivity software like Microsoft Office from a trusted brand like Microsoft.

Transactional sales are “common sense” sales that require little to no additional education before a purchase.

Transactional sales can be made through face-to-face and remote channels. From a physical store to a website, through a social network, or by phone.

Solution-based selling

Solution-based selling is sometimes often confused with consultative selling. But there are some distinct differences. So, what is solution-based selling?

Solution-based selling consists of focusing on problems identified by clients and offering a product or a combination of products and/or services as a solution.

With solution selling, sales reps don’t focus on selling a certain product or service to the client (at least, not directly!).

Solution selling is useful in complex contexts, where the product is only part of the complete solution to the customer’s problem. In general, the complete solution is only evident at the end of the process.


Examples of solution selling

Examples include the design and installation of a large software application, the development of an engineering project, or the construction/installation of production equipment to increase the output of a manufacturing plant.

Markets this style works well in

  • Health care
  • Construction
  • Engineering
  • Manufacturing
  • Software-as-a-service (SaaS)

Consultative selling

Consultative selling is solution-based selling’s close relative.

The consultative selling strategy is an approach of consulting and advising prospects to create a closer and deeper relationship, as well as really understanding their pain points.

The difference between consultative selling and solution-based selling is subtle, and the two borrow a lot from one another.

While solution-based selling is all about taking the focus away from the product itself and making the sale all about alleviating the client’s pain, consultative selling focuses more on asking questions, listening, and acting as a “guide.”

The end goal, of course, is to lead the prospect to your product as a final solution.

A consultative sale consists of the following stages or phases: inquiry, listening and analysis, and solution presentation.

Consultative selling examples

Consultative selling is used for example in automobile sales. The seller asks the prospect what type of cars they are looking for and will make suggestions based on the buyers’ needs.

Markets this style works well in

  • Construction
  • Manufacturing
  • Healthcare
  • Real estate

Provocative selling

Provocative selling is a type of sale strategy that involves “provoking” the prospect to make a purchase decision. The term “provoke” may conjure up images of the aggressive sales tactics found in films like Glengarry Glen Ross, but that’s not what we’re after.

Provocation in this context means highlighting and aggravating a pain point that the prospect doesn’t currently feel.

Provocative selling is all about helping a complacent prospect see why they shouldn’t be satisfied with the status quo.

Here, the most important competitor the seller faces is not another seller with similar products. His toughest opponent is the client’s belief that he doesn’t need anything.

The main approach here is to show the prospect all the inefficiencies and waste in their current workflow; to help them “feel” the pain point that your product or service solves.

Provocative selling example

Examples of provocative selling involves warning a client of an impending risk if a decision is not taken.

Markets this style works well in

  • Insurance
  • Risk management
  • Tech and automation
  • Investment

Collaborative selling

Collaborative selling involves bringing multiple stakeholders in to find the best solution for your prospect.

Rather than going in head-on for the sale, you seek a more side-by-side collaborative approach, even bringing in leaders of other departments to best understand their pain points and how your solution fixes them.

Collaborative selling examples

Many large-scale SaaS companies must adopt a collaborative selling mindset, especially when their solution touches all aspects of an organization.

For example, if you’re selling a risk management software, you’ll need to collaborate with multiple prospect stakeholders to deliver the best customer experience.

The IT team will need to know the technical details. The system administrator will need to understand how it affects their workflow. The end-users will need to be happy with the UI and UX of the software.

Perhaps you’ll even need to consult the legal team so they can best understand how your solution helps mitigate risk.

As a general rule, the bigger the sale (and the more departments it touches), the more collaborative you’ll need to be.

Markets this style works well in:

  • Healthcare
  • Retail
  • Any organization with lots of departmental dependencies

Social selling

Social selling is where the seller uses social media to connect with potential customers, spark interest in the brand’s products or services, and develop a lasting relationship.

Social selling focuses on creating relationships, not transactions. To do this, a selling business has to create a business strategy around virtual communities, make the product available, and produce relevant sales content.

It should be noted that this strategy requires time, money, and familiarity with the digital channels favored by leads and the target market.

Examples of social selling

Some social media selling techniques include sharing relevant content, making direct interactions with buyers and potential buyers, and personal branding.

Examples of B2B products sold on social media include Hubspot, Shopify, Zoom, Adobe, etc.

Markets this style works well in:

  • Software as a service
  • Financial services
  • Telecommunications
  • Healthcare
  • Automotive

Partner selling

Partnership selling is a strategy that a company uses to make a prospect part of the sales process. This type of selling style is a sneaky way to quickly build customer loyalty with the service or product provided.

Partnership selling makes the buyer/client feel the unique experience of being part of the company.

Partnership selling examples

Examples include content sharing strategies such as guest-posting, contribution articles,  between a brand and a niche website, magazine, newspaper, or social media page.

Markets this style works well in

There is hardly any market that partnership selling isn’t suitable for. But it’s most suitable for markets such as:

  • SaaS products
  • Marketing and sales
  • Information services
  • Retailing

High-Pressure selling

High-pressure selling techniques involve leveraging fear, greed, and pride to aggressively push prospects to make a purchase.

While this technique is sometimes used by unscrupulous salespeople, it does work for legitimate businesses as well.

High-pressure selling only works with certain personalities. It requires the perfect blend of charisma, psychology, talent, and some craftiness.

This “black hat” strategy isn’t focused on customer retention, uses inflated past performance, manipulative talks, and making big promises. The goal is to put pressure and create an urgency when the buyer sees no need to buy right away.

We’re not saying it’s never okay to apply a little pressure. “Sprinkling” your existing style with a bit of high-pressure selling is okay. Just don’t go overboard, as it can immediately shut down prospects or cause them to put up walls of resistance.

Examples of high-pressure selling

High-pressure selling examples are found mostly in sales and marketing catchphrases. Who has never heard the sentence “I only have 2 left in stock” or “Hurry, while stock lasts”?

Hardball high-pressure selling is also found on the web with the urgency of hotel rentals (“only 2 rooms left, 1 person is currently looking at this reservation…”).

There are also online plugins that actually render fake “countdown timers” for which deals are valid, pressuring the user to take action.

In B2B sales, high-pressure selling usually involves the sales rep using scarcity as a scare tactic. Another strategy (which also overlaps a bit with provocative selling) is to overemphasize the detrimental effects of not purchasing, such as a loss of revenue or reputation.

Markets this style works well in

  • Retail
  • Telecommunications
  • Real estate
  • Marketing and sales

Insight selling

The term ‘insight’, in psychology, refers to the perception of reality or what an individual feels within. So why is it used in B2B marketing?

Insight is a deep feeling or belief held by the target market. It can be described as a perception, an expectation or a deeply rooted desire or need in the subconscious of consumers.

This feeling acts as a motivation for purchasing behavior and savvy sales personnel can leverage the insight marketing style to define an offer or build a sales strategy.

Example of insight selling

Insight selling is the new solution selling. It involves combining a deep understanding of customers’ business problems and emotional intelligence to establish trust and rapport with buyers.

Examples of insight selling include using emotional insights, symbolic insights, and cultural insights.

A real-life example of insight selling is when a food business uses consumer insights to find the right flavors.

Markets this style works well in

  • Food and beverage
  • Cosmetics
  • Marketing

Which selling style is right for you?

Truth be told, there is no single selling style that you can apply to all circumstances. In fact, a true sales pro must be familiar with all these styles.

Think of them as tools in your toolbelt. When you have a prospect that’s plagued by uncertainty, you may need to apply a bit of pressure. When you have a highly-informed prospect, you may need to be more collaborative.

Complacent prospects may require some provocation to feel their pain points. And the list goes on.

Here are some other factors to consider as you weigh which selling style is right for your particular context.

1 Customer culture

The customer culture here involves identifying the customer type, what they do, what their needs are, and the level of purchasing power.

This information can help determine if prospects are ready and capable of investing in new offers proposed by sales representatives.

Obviously, if the prospect isn’t a decision-maker, no amount of pressure will seal the deal. You’re a collaborator and a partner trying to convert this prospect into an internal advocate — so sell accordingly.

2 Customer Industry regulations

Management-based, performance-based, and industry-based regulations in the prospects’ location all influence a buyer’s process, and should thus inform your selling style.

3 Your company culture and brand image

Company culture involves all the formal and informal systems of a brand that create an experience for customers.

For example, a company like Zendesk has a very collaborative, friendly presence on all of their outward-facing properties. Their web copy is informal and approachable, their brand colors are warm and inviting, and their collateral is full of happy, smiling faces.

If they adopted a high-pressure, aggressive selling style, that would cause a lot of cognitive dissonance in the prospect, and likely a poor experience.

Your brand doesn’t just end with your website — it colors everything you do, including how you sell to prospects.

Wrapping Up

As the saying goes, if all you have is a hammer, everything is a nail.

If you try to shoehorn any single style into all selling scenarios, you’ll likely fail. These styles are best utilized as tools in your toolbelt. Each should be applied differently in particular scenarios (sometimes even multiple styles in a single sales interaction).

Which you choose depends upon the type of customer you’re speaking with, your brand, and the current sales stage of your prospect.

The forward-thinking sales rep will master all of these styles and be ready at a moment’s notice to deploy them in the appropriate situations.

By Accent Technologies

6th July 2022

Supporting Selling Styles the Accent Way

No matter what selling style you chose for your team, having tech that can support the process and reskill your sellers is critical.

Accent Technologies AI-driven guided selling works with you to provide guard rails for your team. Create custom verifiers or playbook-style recommendations to coach your reps through your process.

Leverage AI-driven recommendations to ensure your reps are delivering the right content, to the right buyer, at the right time. To learn more, contact us today to see a live demo with one of our solution consultants.