Selling Business-to-Business in China

You can break down business-to-business (B2B) selling in China into the broad categories of products and services. The large product categories of B2B sales in China are

  • Product components
  • Raw materials
  • Capital equipment (such as factory machines and telecom equipment)

On the service side, businesses are commonly selling other businesses the following:

  • Consulting
  • Software/IT outsourcing
  • Financial services

Businesses' purchasing decisions are more complex than consumers'. If you're selling to state-owned enterprises (SOEs), you have to sell at multiple layers of the same organization. That's because SOEs have a number of people involved in making purchasing decisions. Therefore, building good and trusting relationships with these key people is important.

Private companies' purchasing decisions are generally all made by one person — the owner. Don't waste time pitching to middle-level employees. Employees usually have little empowerment in Chinese companies.

In open, competitive industries (such as garment industries), companies are used to and are reasonably receptive to cold-calling. However, in certain industries dominated by large companies that the government highly regulates and protects (such as oil production), you need introductions to get in the door because they operate in a more "members-only" type of environment.

Here are some tips for courting B2B sales:

  • When selling to businesses, have a nice, glossy brochure. Fortunately, you can print them in China for a good deal less than in the West.
  • Chinese companies are open to speaking with your existing customers for references. If possible, make that step easy for them and bring them around to meet some of your customers.
  • The Chinese are beginning to enjoy traveling. Organizing business/leisure conferences for large customers can be effective, and this method is becoming more common.
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