The Complete Guide to Efficient B2B Payments
Aug 24, 2022
The B2C payment sector has been disrupted a lot in the past decade: we’ve seen the emergence of PayPal, Venmo, and the like. While we’re turning towards more on-the-go payments there, considerations are different for the B2B payments landscape.
The trend in B2B payments is also going towards more digital solutions, but with different needs and speed: there is also invoicing, accounting, and compliance to take into account.
Cash payments are reducing - especially since Covid-19. Moving towards electronic payments fosters easier, quicker, and more secure payments in the business-to-business industry.
The increase in payment solutions also makes choosing your payment options harder - and even more critical.
Payment solutions are an integral part of the solution towards more efficient payments - which directly influences your accounts receivables (and accounts payable).
What payment solution should you choose for your business?
What are your options in the B2B market in 2022?
Keep reading to find out!
Upflow is a payment collection software that offers multiple payment methods. Our features allow B2B businesses to get paid on time.
Want to find out more about the perfect finance stack for your business? Check out our on-demand webinar!
How to Choose Your B2B Payment Solutions?
B2B vs B2C Payments.
With B2C payments, it’s pretty straightforward. When it comes to business-to-business payment, however, the process becomes more complicated.
For one, there is more volume of transactions. There are also regulations, depending on where your business is based and where it operates in the world.
In the B2B industry, payments aren’t only about payments. Alongside the concrete fund transfers, there is also invoicing, tracking, accounting, etc. Your payment solutions have to meet all these requirements.
Choosing your B2B Payment Solution for Your Business Model.
Various factors come into play when it comes to choosing your B2B payment method:
Your volume and frequency of B2B transactions: small businesses won’t use the same methods as big corporations.
Your payment cycle and payment terms: do you do a lot of credit sales? Do you experience a lot of payment delays? How fast on average do your customers pay you?
Your pricing model: are you a subscription-based business? Do you offer several tiers? A discount for a yearly membership?
Your industry: what are the norms and the rules? Are you considered a high-risk merchant?
Your financial and accounting processes: what are your tax requirements? What guidelines do your teams follow? Which people do they involve?
Each business is unique, and so is its payment solution.
The right solution for you will actually be a mix of several options (cash, wire transfers, payment processing, etc. - we’ll see all of these in detail later) that work together.
Your own combination will depend on your needs and evolve with time. Knowing your present needs as well as considering your future ones is essential.
What are the Most Popular B2B Payment Methods?
Using Credit Card Payments in 2022.
Pros of Credit Cards Payments.
Credit card (or debit card) payments don’t need any introduction anymore. In 2022, their use is widespread. Most businesses have at least a Visa, Mastercard, or American Express to their name. They’re secure and make for easy payments.
They do require you to have a credit card payment page, however, which not every business has - but that payment processors offer.
Your customer can save their credit card information for another time, and also get actual credit to pay your invoices. That’s better cash flow management for everyone involved: they have access to more funds, and you get paid faster.
Credit cards also come with a monthly statement listing all transactions, which facilitates accounting.
Cons of Credit Card Payments.
On the other hand, paying by credit card still requires action from your clients. They may need to find their business credit card, and they might have to wait for a manager’s approval on the transaction.
They also expire, so if not updated in time, the payment won’t go through. For safety reasons, online banks now offer virtual cards that self-destruct after a single use.
If you run a subscription-based business - or if you want to make it easy for your client to buy from you repeatedly - then it’s not ideal.
Using Wire Transfers for B2B Payments.
Pros of Wire Transfers.
Wire transfers are used internationally: which makes it their biggest advantage. Regardless of where your client is in the world, a wire transfer can be sent to your business bank account.
Most wire transfers are done in real-time, meaning they actually arrive in your bank account in a matter of minutes (if not seconds). They can also be automated to happen on a monthly or weekly basis.
It’s a great B2B payment option that’s convenient for everyone, especially if the transaction is time-sensitive.
Cons of Wire Transfers.
Wire transfers do require access to a bank account: online from a desktop or an app, or by calling.
Your clients need to log into their accounts, which in itself can be troublesome, as security has increased over the years (and for good reasons). Then, they have to type your bank number… and that’s where there is a high risk of mistakes.
All in all, using wire transfers requires much human intervention, increasing the risk of errors and payment delays.
Using ACH payments for Your B2B Business.
Pros of ACH.
ACH (for Automated Clearing House) is another form of electronic payment - similar to wire transfers in some ways. ACH funds transfers are regulated by Nacha, a US-based financial institution.
The payment arrives at your company’s bank account using a routing number. It’s generally accepted as the most secure way to send money nowadays.
It’s also free (depending on the bank you use), and easy to track, as you receive a statement at the end of the month listing your transactions.
ACH payments for B2B business make sense, as they’re safe and efficient.
Cons of ACH payments.
There are two big drawbacks to using ACH payments:
They only work in the US. Making a cross-border payment isn’t an option with ACH. If you’re planning on developing internationally, or have noticed a few new clients from different countries, it’s time to add another form of payment.
They take time. Unlike wire transfers, ACH payments aren’t effective in real-time. They are batched to be sent a few times a day, and there is a cut-off time. If you’re past it, the transfer will be sent on the next business day. Depending on your industry and business, that might be too late.
Using Cash in B2B Businesses.
Pros of Paying with Cash.
Cash has been used for as long as money exists. It’s the payment method that is the most recognizable and trustworthy - everybody knows the value of cash.
There is also full ownership that comes with cash, as once it changes hands, it is yours. Your business doesn’t have to rely on a bank account, the Internet, or even electricity.
Everybody has cash and knows how to use it, and most businesses accept it
Cons of Using Cash as Payment Method in 2022.
Handling cash also comes with disadvantages in business-to-business transactions:
It’s difficult to track, which makes following up on invoicing and your accounting more complicated.
It’s not always legal. Depending on where your business is based, there might be a maximum you can accept in cash. For compliance and for safety reasons too, you might not be able to cash in your monthly turnover in cash only. It also carries a bad reputation as some businesses use it as a tax dodge or for moonlighting.
It requires safe storage. If you accept cash in your business, you’ll need to deposit it right away either at your financial institutions or in a safe.
Paying by Paper Checks in 2022.
Pros of Using Checks.
Even if there is a decrease in their use with the rise of online payments, checks remain generally well accepted.
They’re still used by big corporations and administrations - old establishments are simply used to using checks and prefer paying or getting paid this way.
Paper checks are also a physical object, so they convey trust in their value: it is money you can touch.
Cons of Using Checks as a B2B Payment Method.
With the rise of electronic payments, it’s undeniable that checks are on their way out. They’re not as convenient to use, nor as safe.
Checks can easily be stolen or counterfeited. They can also be written without any provision on your client’s account - which means they’ll bounce back. Payment fraud is easier to commit with checks, and it causes a real risk for your business.
Even when everything goes smoothly, you still have to deposit or send the checks to your bank.
In between finding the time to do that and your institution’s processing time, it can be a while before your money lands on your business’ account - not great for cash flow!
Digital Platforms & Gateways to Receive B2B Payments.
Pros of Digital Payment Platform.
Online payment providers (like PayPal or Square - we’ll see more below) are great for B2B businesses.
Payments themselves are safe and easy to make online. A payment platform will actually accept most payment options like a credit card, ACH, or wire transfer.
But their strongest point is that they streamline more than the actual payment: they also help you with invoicing, tracking, and accounting. That makes them great for subscription management.
Payment gateways are designed to optimize payments on both sides: yours and your client’s. They come with an array of features that facilitates your accounts receivable process.
They are a great addition to your finance stack, working in sync with your accounting software, CRM, and even Upflow!
Digital payment solutions are ideal for SaaS businesses that have to deal with a high volume of B2B transactions and a high range of contracts.
Want to learn more about the right finance stack for your business? Check out our webinar replay!
Cons of Using Payment Platforms.
Because of all the features they offer, payment gateways come at a higher price point than most solutions. That’s if you only look at the direct cost: cash is free to use, but the time you’ll spend dealing with it isn’t.
Besides that, they do require your customers to be tech-savvy. If you’re a digital business or a SaaS, that’s already your case. Most businesses now know how to use digital platforms, but it’s still worth mentioning as a potential drawback.
Why You Should Use A Digital Platform for B2B Payment.
As a B2B business, using an online payment solution makes your processes easier. That leads to faster payment cycles and better cash flow management.
Before diving into the most popular solutions on the market, let’s have a look at the precise benefits of using a payment gateway:
Easier to Track Payments.
A payment platform does more than wiring money from your client's bank account to your company’s one. It helps with tracking, analyzing, and optimizing your whole payment process.
Through them, you can track the invoices that have been paid and the ones that haven’t.
You can also easily match each transaction received with a specific invoice, which quickens the cash application process for your accounting team.
It also gives you more visibility over what’s happening in your accounts receivable. For example, some platforms display important metrics like your Days Sales Outstanding, which in turn helps optimize your processes.
If you’re a SaaS business, payment platforms really are a must-have. You need automated billing to be able to cope with your multitude of offers, especially as your client base grows.
Online payment tools streamline your processes and facilitate your subscription management, making offering various plans easier.
Better User Experience.
Because they’re designed to optimize payments, payment platforms tend to offer a great customer experience - from the payment page to checkout. And the easier it is for your customers to pay you, the faster they will.
Everything is thought and made to take your customer from the first page to the finalization of the payment smoothly and efficiently.
They also offer several payment options to choose from, which means you can target a bigger market in a few clicks. As they can save your customer’s payment information, they’re also great for recurring billing.
That in itself is a huge asset because it leads to a lower churn rate! Automating your customers' payments means no more forgetting to update their credit card, or to do a wire transfer. That’s fewer clients you’ll lose involuntarily.
Some payment platforms also trade in several currencies. With PayPal for instance, your customer can pay in euros and you’ll receive dollars in your business bank account without having to intervene. It comes at a price, but it is convenient.
You can easily find and access all your past transactions with an online payment platform. That’s handy for your own accounting, but also to know how much VAT or tax you have to pay.
Online payment solutions generally help you stay compliant with local laws, too. They either have documentation to answer your questions, or an account manager or customer representative to address directly.
The bottom line is: you don’t have to figure it all out on your own. Which, when you’re developing your market nationally or internationally, makes a big difference!
Because all your customers’ payments happen through an independent platform, you don’t have to be in charge of security. Payment platforms have their own security protocols and the official seals that come with them.
Using them conveys trust to your clients. It also means if there is a problem, it’s their job to fix it! You can of course intervene in the process, but ultimately, the technical and safety responsibilities lie on their shoulders - not yours.
The Best B2B Payment Solutions on the Market in 2022.
You now know the main payment solutions for B2B businesses - and why you should add a digital payment platform to your tech stack.
Now, let’s look at the best options on the payment market. Keep in mind that any new tool will have to be integrated into your already-existing payment systems.
It won’t replace your credit card payments altogether for instance, but it will give you a global system to integrate them in. You might end up having a payment process that looks like this:
An online payment page, where credit and debit cards are accepted.
Your ACH and/or wire transfer information included in an automated email that comes with your invoices.
A PayPal account for international clients.
At the end of the day, it’s all about having a variety of payment options for your customers - while not adding to your load when it comes to your B2B payment processing workflows.
PayPal needs no real introduction: they’re a leader in the payments market. Technically, they’re a payment gateway and billing software. That means they do funds transfers as well as electronic invoicing.
Because PayPal is so mainstream - targeting both the B2B and B2C payments - it’s fairly easy to use.
It’s an ideal solution for small businesses just starting out or a startup that doesn’t have a lot of B2B transactions.
Advantages of PayPal:
Your clients probably have an account with them already, and can choose to pay their invoices with:
Their PayPal balance,
A linked bank account,
A saved credit card or debit card.
On your end, setting up an invoice and sending it takes a few minutes. You can see all of them on your dashboard, and even set up invoices before they’re due.
It also conveys trust in your payment process, as PayPal is now a well-known and generally trusted payment platform.
They also allow you to send and receive funds transfers in a lot of different currencies, which means you can do business in all the countries PayPal is accepted.
Drawbacks of PayPal.
PayPal’s convenience comes at a price - and it’s not cheap! We’ll dive into their pricing next, but you can easily find more affordable solutions around.
Depending on your business model, B2B features can be limited too. If your business is already established and you need more advanced B2B functionality (like proper subscription management), you’d be better off with another solution.
PayPal is also known to be hard to reach in case of problems. It’s not unheard of to have them freeze a company’s PayPal funds overnight without warning.
While it’s convenient, PayPal is better used as a start-off point - or for a limited amount of transactions (for example, to deal with your international clients).
Like any financial institution, they do have to be careful about payment fraud and potential money laundering. However, the process to recuperate your funds or even finding someone to talk to can be difficult.
At the time of writing, PayPal has several transaction fees depending on the operation:
3,49% + $0.49 for invoicing.
2,99% + $0.49 for standard credit and debit card payments.
There is an additional 1.5% fee for international transactions.
Stripe is another leader in the B2B payment industry. Stripe Billing specifically helps with B2B payment processing as well as invoicing and subscription management. Because of that, it’s ideal for SaaS and growing startups.
Advantages of Using Stripe Billing.
Stripe’s biggest strength is its powerful API: it can integrate with many other software or SaaS, to form the perfect payment systems.
It’s easy and convenient to set up too, and it has direct integrations with all the major banks and card networks (Visa, Mastercard, etc.). Stripe Billing is a tool that can grow with you throughout the years.
You can use Stripe to support your various subscription plans like tiered offers, usage-based plans, monthly membership, etc.
Drawbacks of Using Stripe Billing.
Any business can use Stripe - which is great! But since it is tailored to such a big audience, it can lack some advanced functionality you might need for your company.
If you’re a SaaS or B2B eCommerce in full growth for example - it’s not the best option for you.
If you’re looking for a solution that works for retailers just starting out, on the other hand, it might be just the right fit! We’d recommend Stripe Billing specifically to: a small SaaS or one-stop-shop who have simple billing needs.
All in all, it’s a great payment processor starter that might fit your current needs, but bear in mind that if things go well, you’ll need an upgrade soon.
Stripe Billing has 2 sorts of transaction fees, depending on your plan:
Pay-as-you-go: 2,99% + 30cts per transaction.
Enterprises: on quotation.
Square is another popular FinTech actor. They facilitate B2C payments as well as business-to-business ones.
For B2B, they advertise themselves as payment solutions for small, medium, and large businesses. With Square Cash and Square Invoicing, you can send invoices and request payments.
They’re the right option for companies who want an online payment page for their customers to land on.
Advantages of Square.
Square is well-known by B2C and B2B clients alike. Like PayPal, there is a high chance your clients already know how to use it.
It’s also very convenient, as you can quickly create a unique username for your business to be paid on their app. That comes with its own online payment page, where your clients can pay via credit or debit card.
On the invoicing side, the big plus is that you can set up automatic payment reminders to be sent for your outstanding receivables. They also offer payroll functionality, so you can have it all in one place.
Drawbacks of Square.
Square Cash only allows your customers to pay with a credit or debit card - not through a bank account. If a business doesn’t have a card set up, it simply won’t be able to use it.
It’s also not cost-effective: with pricing similar to PayPal, it’s not the best price/value ratio in the payments market.
Lastly, and as stated before, it doesn’t offer advanced features. It’s ideal for one-off payments, but it might not be enough for your specific business - especially if you’re subscription-based.
You’ll have to choose one of their plans: free, Plus ($29/mo) or Custom (on demand) to have access to Square.
On top of that, you pay transaction fees, which are split into different categories depending on how your customers pay:
Card present (in-person payments): 2.6% + $0.10 per transaction.
Card not present (online payments like eCommerce API, checkout, or electronic invoicing): 2.9% + $0.30 per payment.
Keyed in (manually entered credit card info): 3.5% + $0.15 per payment.
QuickBooks is an accounting solution as well as a payment gateway, under the name QuickBooks Payments. It’s ideal for small businesses based in the US who already use - or plan to use - Quickbooks for their accounting.
Advantages of Quickbooks as B2B Payment Processor.
Quickbooks for payments works like Square or PayPal, so it’s fairly easy to set up and manage.
You can send invoices to your clients through their online platform. You then receive real-time notifications when their invoice is paid.
It also offers split payments to your customers, which is a win-win for your cash flow and your clients. Plus, it’s automated, so you don’t have to manually keep track of it.
Drawbacks of Quickbooks as B2B Payment Processor.
QuickBooks is an accounting software first and foremost. Regardless of its latest development, it’s been designed to do accounting and it’s what it does best.
And as an accounting tool, it’s better suited for small businesses. Once you start growing, NetSuite is the tool you want to consider.
It’s also best to use QuickBooks in the US and Canada because it’ll help you stay compliant with the local financial rules. If you’re out of North America, then Xero makes more sense.
QuickBooks transaction fees are based on how your customer chooses to pay their invoice:
Bank transfer (ACH): free.
Credit card: 2.9% + $0.25 per transaction.
These are starting points, as you can get a discount on these rates if you subscribe to their monthly plan ($20) or accept more than $7,500 B2B payments every month.
Different factors come into play when it comes to choosing your payment solution: the volume and frequency of your transactions, your pricing model and terms, your industry, and your current payment process.
Your perfect payment solution is actually plural: in 2022, you need to be able to accept various forms of payment in your business. That means using different payment tools in your finance tech stack!
It’s up to you if you want to accept credit cards, wire transfers and ACH, paper checks, cash, and/or online payment processors. Each comes with its pros and cons.
Using an online B2B payment solution optimizes your payment process. With it, you can accept and track your payments more easily, but also be compliant and secure while offering a better checkout experience to your clients.
PayPal, Stripe, Square, and Quickbooks are some of the leaders in the B2B payment landscape. Each functions differently, although they all offer payment processing and invoicing as a minimum. Transaction fees and functionalities vary, and they cater to slightly different markets.