Top Industries for B2B Sales
While publicly available data that identifies the top 3-5 B2B industries with the most effective sales efforts and financial investment in their sales force could not be located, the team was able to identify sources with some helpful insights. We identified the B2B technology, eCommerce, and logistics/shipping industry as successful, growing industries. And, for each of these industries, we located some useful information about their investments in employees (mostly related to the technology and logistics industries).
Industry #1: B2B Technology Industry
- Using the metric of brand value (financial value), in 2018 BrandZ the largest industry represented among the top 20 B2B companies were from the technology industry. 80% of those companies were U.S. based (i.e., Microsoft, IBM, Accenture, Intel, Oracle, Cisco, Adobe, and Salesforce).
- The majority of B2B sales, according to Online Finances, takes place online, requiring businesses to invest in technology that supports this reality, including AI, customer relationship management (CRM), IoT, cloud computing, mobile applications, and Software as Service (SaaS).
Investment in Sales Force
- B2B technology companies are the most represented segment of the B2B industry on the Forbes list of the 10 B2B companies with the best customer service experience, a metric that includes investments in employees. That is, B2B technology companies invest in the overall employee experience to become "experiential organizations" that improve the culture, technology, and physical environment of the workplace.
Industry #2: B2B E-Commerce
- The U.S. Chamber of Commerce reports that by 2021, B2B eCommerce total revenues will reach $25 billion a year.
- Online Finances reports that the majority of B2B buyers place orders through digital channels, e.g. email, websites, or mobile apps.
Investment in Sales Force
- Inc.com reports that the revenue growth for Costco--a leader in B2B eCommerce--can be attributed to its investments in employees, creating an excellent culture. Forbes also includes Costco as one of the top 10 B2B companies investing in their employee experience.
Industry #3: Logistics
- The B2B logistics industry is also projected to continue growing in tandem with B2B eCommerce; a USPS white paper reports that nearly half of the entire shipping/logistics market is B2B.
- Three logistics companies (out of 20) make the BrandZ 2018 top B2B brand (value) list; two of those companies are U.S. based (FedEx and UPS).
Investment in Sales Force
- FedEx also makes the Forbes list of the 10 companies that provide the best customer service--in part because of employee investments.
The team first searched for industry reports that identified industries with the largest market share in the U.S. B2B sales landscape. Unfortunately, the reports we located were behind pay walls at sites like digitalcommerce360, Forrester, and Statista. The general information offered about these reports did not identify market share or trends in the different B2B industries, but rather the projected total revenues of B2B sales in the U.S. over the next few years.
The team then attempted to triangulate information about the industries with the most effective sales within the U.S. B2B landscape by searching for industry reports, white papers, business journal articles, and news sources that ranked the most successful (revenue) companies. We located an article that ranked the 20 best global B2B brands--ranked by brand value (financial value). This source helped us approximate what the top industries were in the U.S. insofar as we used this data (with other data points to be discussed below) to segment the B2B into different industries such as oil and gas, technology, and logistics.
Next, the team started to narrow the search to the U.S. B2B technology industry, and we located a recent Forbes article that ranked the top 10 global B2B companies that invest in employee experience/build an "experiential organization." This article also pointed our team toward a Harvard Business Review article underlining the important relationship between investing in employee experience (culture, technology, and physical environment) and profitability. We then began to build our list of the top U.S. B2B industries (profitability and employee investment) by identifying companies on the Forbes list that overlapped with companies on the BrandZ rankings. This enabled us to identify both technology and logistics as top U.S. based B2B industries meeting both criteria.
We located a third industry--eCommerce--from another source we located (in our above search for more information on the U.S.-based B2B technology industry)--providing statistical insights, drawn from a variety of industry reports, on B2B sales. This reporting, on Finances Online, pointed out the necessity of businesses (in the U.S. and globally) to move toward eCommerce. In fact, the excellent performance of the U.S.-based B2B technology industry is driven largely by buyer preferences (that is, buyers from other businesses) to purchase goods and services online. To gather some further insights into the eCommerce industry, we located reporting on Amazon (which is ranked 5th overall in the Fortune 500), providing more general insights into the current and future market share in the U.S.
We attempted to find reports or white papers that analyzed the B2B eCommerce industry investments in their employee sales force, however, we were only able to find sources that compared Costco's investment in employee culture (in general) to Walmart and Amazon's. The sources with insights into Costco were focused, more importantly, on the B2B eCommerce side of their business.
Of all the three industries we identified above, based on the criteria of profitability and sales force investment, the data for eCommerce was weakest. To put this differently, eCommerce does seem to be one of the most profitable industries in the U.S. B2B landscape but not necessarily leading in financial investments in their sales force.