There is B2B, I2I and O2O. Here’s how to understand the terms and the concepts.

While the terms B2C and B2B are familiar to you, you might wonder what i2i and o2o stand for.

These terms add an interesting twist to the concept of B2B selling. The first term, i2i picks up on the fact that in a B2B environment people buy from people and not from organizations. The term i2i (individual to individual) expresses just this. An individual at the customer organization buys from an individual of the seller’s organization. This situation actually implies a relatively simple deal structure.

We consider a deal to be complex when several people in the customer organization are involved in a purchase either through a formal buying roles or an informal influencer role. When there are several individuals on both sides of the deal (seller and customer), we describe this as an o2o configuration. The term o2o (organization to organization) stands for an orchestrated group of individuals in the customer organization buying from an orchestrated group of individuals of the sellers’ organization.


o2o in action

A key part of the process is orchestration. This means that the people in the customer organization follow a buying process and their counterparts in the seller’s organization follow a given sales process. The two processes and teams come together by matching the sales process used by the seller organization with the buying process used by the buyer organization.


Individuals in the organization

Within the o2o sale there are clearly individual people working and making decisions. Yet the buying and selling processes outlined above do not indicate which individual at the seller’s organization is to talk to which individual at the customer organization. In addition, the people involved may well change as the sale progresses. For example, at first there is a need to determine whether there is a mutual interest in pursuing a potential opportunity. As the deal moves ahead different individuals in both organization are called upon to continue coordinated dialogues in an attempt to move a deal forward towards a buying decision.

We are thus faced with two critical questions:

  • Which person / people from our side should we be sending out to talk to the customer’s organization?
  • Which person / people in the customer’s organization should we be trying to reach?


o2o = utopia ?

The key of the answer to these questions is in Relationship Management and understanding the power structure within the customer’s organization. The insights we need concern things like formal and informal reporting lines, and influential players and their motivations. We also need a system that codifies existing personal relationships. Yet such a system can only be effective if there is a willingness within the seller’s organization to share contact data. For many seller organizations, this is still utopia. Everybody considers the relationship as a personal ownership. A change management process is therefore needed which is usually federated by a relationship management charter defining rules of how shared information is to be exploited.

So, o2o selling can only be effective if we have a codified system to capture relationship intelligence and influence management, governed by a relationship management charter.  We then need to invest in tools which support o2o selling in an effective manner.