A man and a woman stand inside a massive warehouse filled with wooden pallets and shelves of cardboard boxes. The man stands on the left, facing the woman and holding out a clipboard, on top of which is a smartphone. The man is bald and he wears khakis and a pale blue polo shirt. The woman uses one finger to tap on the screen of the smartphone. She has long, curly hair and wears a gray shirt and jeans.
Although paper checks are still widely used as payment in B2B transactions, digitization and payment software are becoming more common. — Getty Images/Charday Penn

The process for completing business-to-business (B2B) payments is often more complicated than that of business-to-consumer (B2C) operations. Additionally, the ever-evolving B2B payment market is only expected to grow alongside advancements in digitization — it’s projected to reach $111 trillion by 2027, reflecting a 27% growth from 2022. Therefore, B2B companies should understand how B2B payments work, including different payment methods and how to accept them.

How do B2B payments work?

As the name suggests, B2B payments are payments made between two businesses — the seller, who provides goods and services, and the buyer, who pays for said goods or services. When the buyer requests goods or services from the seller, the seller must fulfill the request and submit an invoice to the buyer. The buyer must then submit their payment to the seller, who will process the payment. Processing times can range from same-day to several days out, depending on the method.

[Read more: Customers Not Paying? How to Improve Your Collections]

What are common B2B payment methods?

Businesses can leverage a variety of B2B payment methods, depending on the needs of the business and client base:

Checks

Though rarely seen in the B2C market at present, checks remain one of the most common B2B payment methods, particularly among larger enterprises. Businesses typically accept checks as an alternative to credit cards, which often come with processing fees. However, paper checks lack the security measures associated with credit cards and other electronic payments, and they take a significantly longer time to process than other methods.

Automated Clearing House payments

The Automated Clearing House (ACH) is a network that connects all U.S. financial institutions. With online ACH payments, money is transferred directly from the buyer’s financial institution to the seller’s. These payments are considered highly secure and typically do not require additional fees from either party to complete. Electronic checks (also known as eChecks), which function similarly to paper checks, are a common form of ACH payment.

Wire transfers

Wire transfers move funds electronically from a buyer’s bank account to a seller’s account. This process is near-instantaneous, typically within a few hours, though international wire transfers can take longer and come with higher processing fees. Though wire transfers are not a common B2B payment option, they are often used for high-value transactions, particularly in international markets.

Digital payment platforms

Digital payment platforms, also known as digital wallets, allow buyers to make real-time payments by electronically transferring funds between accounts on a website or mobile app. Common digital payment platforms include Venmo, PayPal, and Apple Pay. Though digital wallets offer convenience for both parties, note that some platforms charge transfer fees for sending or withdrawing payments.

Credit and debit cards

Credit and debit cards aren’t just for B2C purchases — commercial credit cards are a common and convenient payment option for B2B transactions. Credit and debit purchases come with additional processing fees; sellers can mitigate these fees through credit card surcharging or by leveraging credit card payment processors.

[Read more: How to Set B2B Customer Payment Terms]

Though rarely seen in the B2C market at present, checks remain one of the most common B2B payment methods, particularly among larger enterprises.

Challenges impacting B2B payment processing

B2B payment processing is often complex, requiring businesses to plan ahead to mitigate potential challenges. Depending on the payment method, B2B payments can come with processing fees or payment delays, impacting a company’s bottom line. Additionally, manually processing multiple transactions and payment types can be time-consuming and more likely to result in mistakes. Businesses must also ensure all payments are secure, as B2B payments are frequently the target of fraud attempts and security threats.

[Read more: What to Do When Customers Don’t Pay]

Benefits of using B2B payment software

B2B payment software can help businesses streamline several aspects of the payment process. These platforms can manage various digital payment methods in a centralized location, resulting in faster processing time as well as improved payment tracking. B2B payment software can also automate bookkeeping and invoicing, reducing the likelihood of human error.

How to process B2B payments

If you’re ready to accept B2B payments for your business, follow these steps to process your payments efficiently:

  • Determine which payment method(s) best suits your business and its clients. If you opt for a payment processing solution, set up any necessary accounts or subscriptions.
  • Establish payment terms, including timelines and any payment plans, with your clients.
  • Create and send out invoices, with itemized information as applicable, to clients.
  • Train your team on how to process and track payments, as well as spot signs of B2B payment fraud.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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