For many businesses, securing timely payment from clients can be a significant achievement in and of itself. However, there’s more to B2B payments than being compensated for the goods and services you provide to other companies. For instance, how you manage B2B payments can impact how quickly they are processed and how long it takes to receive funds.
Fortunately, digital innovation within the payments industry has made it much easier to send and receive B2B payments. This efficiency has streamlined payment processing and allows businesses to better manage their cash flow. So, how can you leverage these modern payment solutions to benefit your small business?
Use this guide to get a better understanding of current B2B payment options and learn the best practices for accepting and managing these payments. For information on a specific aspect of B2B payments, use the links below to navigate to the section you need.
- How do B2B payments work?
- B2B vs. B2C payments
- Common B2B payment methods
- Steps in the B2B payments cycle
- How to set up a B2B payment system and process B2B payments
- Challenges associated with B2B payments
- How to process B2B payments with QuickBooks
Generally, B2B payments are made once the goods or services are delivered. This is commonly referred to as billing in arrears. When a client requests goods or services from your business, you’ll fulfill the order and send an invoice. Once they receive the invoice, they’ll have a certain amount of time to make their payment—which is based on your payment terms. Once payment is submitted, you’ll process that payment. You may have to wait several days for funds to be available, based on the payment method.
Depending on your relationship with the client, you can set payment terms like their billing cycle and how much they can receive on credit. Consider factors like whether they’ve purchased from you before, their creditworthiness, and the details of the transaction.
The most notable difference between B2B and B2C payments is the payee. B2B payments are payments made by one business to another. These businesses could include startups, retailers, e-commerce companies, corporations, and any other type of entity. B2C payments are consumer payments made by a customer to a business. Consumers are individuals who are purchasing goods or services from a company for personal use.
Some other key differences include:
- B2B payments are more often used for recurring purchases, while B2C payments are typically for one-off purchases.
- B2B payments are processed based on billing cycles and often involve invoices, while B2C payments are usually processed immediately.
- B2B payments typically involve multiple departments within both businesses, while B2C payments are completed in one step.
Offering as many B2B payment solutions as possible is best when trying to grow your business because it makes things easier for buyers. Here are some of the most popular B2B payment methods:
While checks may be becoming a less common form of payment for B2C transactions, they’re still fairly common for B2B transactions. However, paper checks are far from being the most convenient method of payment. Checks are often thought to be a workaround to avoid credit card processing fees; however, there’s a cost for accepting checks as well. If most businesses you work with pay with a check, these costs can add up quickly.
Another thing to consider about accepting checks as payment is that they are less secure. Checks are a major source of fraud because they lack the security measures of cards and digital payments and can be easily faked or replicated.
Automated Clearing House (ACH) transfer is an electronic payment option that transfers money directly from the payee’s financial institution to yours. ACH transfers can take up to three days to complete. However, ACH payments are highly secure and can typically be completed at no additional fee to the buyer or seller. E-checks are a common type of ACH payment.
Credit and debit cards
Most companies have a business-only credit card for expenses. Credit cards are an easy way to make payments both in-person and digitally. Credit cards also provide a simple way to track monthly transactions on the billing statement. Accepting all major credit cards—Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover—will make buying your product easier at checkout and help you close more sales. Another great thing about credit card payments is that businesses tend to spend more when using them.
Clients may also use what’s known as a virtual card, which has a temporary credit card number and is designed for safer online payments.
Wire transfers electronically move funds from a buyer’s bank account to yours. This process is generally faster than an ACH transfer, allowing for real-time payments because funds are transferred via a financial network. Wire transfers are typically completed within a few hours, taking up to one business day at the longest.
Keep in mind that international bank transfers can take longer and incur higher payment processing fees.
Over the last few years, digital solutions have grown significantly, thanks to innovations in payment processing and fintech, as well as the rise of eCommerce.
Unlike B2C payments, B2B payments aren’t completed immediately. Instead of one step—swiping your card or submitting payment for the goods or services—B2B payments are more involved.
Here are the basic steps necessary in the B2B payments cycle:
- You set payment terms for the buyer.
- The buyer sends you their order request.
- You fulfill their order, delivering the goods or services they’ve requested.
- You send them an invoice for those goods or services.
- The buyer submits their payment.
- Your business processes their payment internally.
Once the payment has been processed, the funds will become available to you. For recurring orders—say those that occur on a monthly basis—the process will continuously repeat itself.
Many small business owners forgo setting up a B2B payment processing system because they perceive it as a daunting task with little reward. However, setting up a B2B payment system is well worthwhile—especially given that modern software solutions make it as easy as possible.
Ideally, you want to find a way to streamline your B2B payment system to process payments efficiently. Digital payment processing solutions like pay-enabled invoices make it easier for clients to submit payment online and for you to process payments internally. Beyond ease of use, having a secure payment gateway is also essential if you want your buyers to feel confident making online payments.
To set up a B2B payment system and process B2B payments more efficiently, you should:
- Find a payment solution that works for your needs—QuickBooks Payments has been designed with businesses like yours in mind.
- Sign up for an account and purchase a subscription if necessary.
- Integrate your business and client data.
- Train your team on how to use the system to process and track payments.
- Add links for making payments through this new payment system to your site and invoices.
- Begin processing payments through your new payment system.
As you know, B2B payments are complex. Understanding the challenges associated with managing payments from your clients can help you get ahead of them, and help you choose a payment system that works for your business. Here are a few of the common challenges that impact B2B payment processing:
B2B payments are often subject to security threats and fraud attempts. According to the Association of Financial Professionals, over 80% of businesses were affected by attempted or actual payments fraud in 2019. While payments security has improved significantly in recent years, cyberattacks have also become more sophisticated. Choosing a secure payment processor can help mitigate the risk of fraud.
Longer billing cycles
Most B2B payments are processed based on a consistent cycle. Payment cycles can be as short as 30 days or even as long as 90 days; research by QuickBooks indicates two-thirds of small business owners wait at least 15 days to get paid, on average. Not only that, but B2B payments are touched by many more hands as they are funneled from the sales department to accounts receivable and accounts payable. In contrast, B2C payments typically complete over a short period of time, with one transaction clearing before the next begins, making B2C payments relatively simple in comparison to B2B payments.
Because of the extended billing cycles associated with B2B payments, a business will often manage more than one B2B transaction at a time. This can result in challenges associated with processing, tracking, and reconciling many payments in different stages of the billing cycle. Keeping track of outstanding invoices and your books up-to-date is key to ensuring you get paid on time.
Businesses in certain industries may be limited in payment processing options due to privacy restrictions. Depending on the payment options available, this can significantly slow down the payments process.
There are numerous payment providers, from Stripe to PayPal to Venmo, but not all providers are created equal. QuickBooks Payments is designed to make processing payments as easy and efficient as possible for your small business. QuickBooks Payments is fully integrated with our accounting software, so you can accept payments and manage your books all through one platform.
QuickBooks uses automation to streamline workflows for accepting B2B payments. When you use QuickBooks Payments, processing B2B payments becomes much easier. Here’s what you’ll need to do:
- Connect QuickBooks Payments to your other QuickBooks products. If you don’t already have a QuickBooks account, sign up and integrate your business and merchant data.
- Turn on payments for your online invoices.
- Send the invoice for the order. You can also set up automated invoicing for recurring orders.
- Your client pays the invoice online. When you receive an online payment, it will be automatically processed and recorded.
- Once the payment is processed, QuickBooks puts the money in your bank account.
With an online payment processing solution like QuickBooks, the repetitive but time-consuming tasks associated with accepting B2B payments are handled for you. By leveraging this payment platform, you can better use your resources and focus on growing your business.
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