How to accept B2B payments: What businesses need to know

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Saiba mais 
  1. Introdução
  2. Types of B2B payments
  3. How B2B payment processing works
  4. Challenges with B2B payments
  5. B2B payment processing best practices
  6. How to accept B2B payments
    1. The process of accepting B2B payments
  7. How does Stripe help businesses process B2B payments?

B2B payments are transactions between businesses that involve the exchange of goods, services, or information. Compared to customer transactions, these payments usually involve larger sums of money, longer payment terms, more complex contracts, and multiple stakeholders—which can slow down the completion of the payment. Both the payer and the payee must manage compliance and security issues, which adds to the operational complexity of these transactions. Because of these challenges, B2B payments may require specialized software or payments platforms. In 2023, the value of the global B2B market was over $26 trillion.

Below, we’ll walk through what you need to know about B2B payments: the different types of B2B payments, how to accept them, and how to mobilize your strategy with precision and accuracy.

What’s in this article?

  • Types of B2B payments
  • How B2B payment processing works
  • Challenges with B2B payments
  • B2B payment processing best practices
  • How to accept B2B payments
  • How does Stripe help businesses process B2B payments?

Types of B2B payments

Like many other types of payments, B2B payments don’t use just one payment method. As technology has ushered in an ever-expanding variety of payment methods, B2B payment methods have diversified as well. Here’s a quick look at some of the main types of B2B payments:

  • Wire transfers
    Wire transfers are direct transactions between bank accounts and are often used for large, time-sensitive payments. They are fast and reliable, but they can be expensive, with fees ranging from $15 to $45. Both parties need to share financial information to initiate the transaction.

  • ACH transfers
    ACH transfers, or Automated Clearing House payments, are electronic funds transfers well-suited for small- to medium-sized transactions and recurring payments. They are less expensive than wire transfers but take longer to process, usually two to three business days.

  • Paper checks
    Despite increasing digitization, paper checks continue to be a common method for B2B transactions: more than two-thirds of respondents to the Association for Financial Professionals’ AFP 2020 Survey were still using checks to make the majority of their B2B payments. While checks do offer a paper trail, they come with risks, such as the possibility of a check bouncing. Manual processing can also introduce delays and administrative costs.

  • Credit cards
    Credit cards are convenient for instant transactions and are generally used for small- to medium-sized payments. Businesses often bear the cost of fees for this convenience. Because of fees and transaction limits, credit cards are rarely used for large transactions.

  • Peer-to-peer platforms
    Peer-to-peer platforms such as PayPal facilitate both domestic and international payments. They allow quick transactions without requiring either party to share banking details directly. Fees are transaction-based and can vary depending on several factors.

Other digital platforms, such as Square and Venmo for Business, provide quick transactions and varying fee structures. They often include extra features such as inventory tracking and invoicing capabilities, which appeal to smaller businesses.

How B2B payment processing works

We can break down B2B payment processing into several key components:

  • Contract negotiation and establishment
    Before any payment can occur, both parties must agree on terms and conditions, including price, payment methods, and timelines. Contract negotiations lay the groundwork for the entire payment process, spelling out expectations and creating a legal foundation for the business relationship.

  • Invoice generation and delivery
    Once services or goods are delivered, the seller usually creates an invoice outlining the cost, payment terms, and other important information. The seller sends this invoice to the buyer, often via email, though some businesses may still use traditional mail. Digital invoicing systems have gained popularity for their ability to speed up this step.

  • Invoice reconciliation and approval
    After receiving the invoice, the buyer’s accounts payable department will review it to confirm that it corresponds to the contract and the goods or services received. Once approved, this invoice is scheduled for payment. Modern accounting software can automate much of this process, though human intervention is often needed for verification and approval.

  • Payment execution
    Here, the payment takes place, which can happen in various ways, such as wire transfers, ACH payments, credit cards, or paper checks. Each method has its own set of advantages and disadvantages, such as cost, speed, and level of documentation provided.

  • Transaction verification
    After the payment is made, it’s customary for both parties to go through a verification process. The payer will confirm the payment has been debited from their account, while the payee will confirm the receipt of funds. This step often involves coordination between accounts payable and accounts receivable departments.

  • Recordkeeping
    Proper documentation is key for compliance, auditing, and potential dispute resolution. Both parties will update their accounting records to reflect the completed transaction, ensuring everything lines up for future financial assessments.

  • Compliance checks
    Often, compliance checks are carried out during the payment process to verify that all activities adhere to relevant laws and guidelines, especially when the payment involves international transactions or industries with strict regulations. Failure to complete these checks could result in legal repercussions.

  • Dispute resolution
    Should discrepancies arise, such as short payments or payment delays, a formal process is initiated to resolve the issue. This may involve reviewing contracts, invoices, and payment records.

Through these stages, digital platforms and software systems can provide automation, security measures, and ease of tracking—helping businesses develop an effective B2B payment process.

Challenges with B2B payments

Managing B2B payments demands a multifaceted strategy that addresses data inconsistencies, compliance, costs, and liquidity, among other factors. Each of these areas is ripe for technological intervention, whether through application programming interface (API) integrations, real-time monitoring tools, or automation software. While there is no one-size-fits-all solution, a combination of these tools can help ease the complexities of B2B payments.

  • Inconsistencies in data synchronization
    One of the biggest challenges of managing B2B payments is data synchronization. When businesses operate with different enterprise resource planning (ERP) and transaction systems, the inconsistencies can lead to processing delays—or worse, errors in invoicing. API integration can mitigate these challenges, allowing different systems to communicate more effectively.

  • Compliance complexity
    Managing compliance—whether that’s tax codes, trade sanctions, or cross-border transaction fees—within a complex and ever-changing regulatory environment can be a time-consuming process. And the penalties for lapses can be severe, as they impact not just a business’s bottom line, but also long-term business relationships. To stay ahead, businesses should implement real-time monitoring and automated compliance.

  • Cost management
    Processing fees can take a big bite out of profits. Whether you’re dealing with bank fees, currency conversion fees, or charges from payment gateways, costs can accumulate fast. By renegotiating terms and shopping around for more favorable rates, it’s possible to exert more control over these expenses.

  • Payment terms and their impact
    Payment terms can have a significant impact on your liquidity. Although extending more generous payment terms might make you more attractive to buyers, it can also stretch your resources thin. Similarly, pushing for quick payments could strain—and ultimately disrupt—your supply chain. Striking the right balance requires a close look at your finances and, perhaps, even some predictive modeling.

  • Reconciliation struggles
    Manual reconciliation is another area vulnerable to inefficiency. When payments don’t automatically match invoices, the manual labor required to reconcile them negatively impacts productivity. One way to fight this is to use automation tools that can match payments to outstanding invoices.

  • Multicurrency and cross-border challenges
    Dealing with multiple currencies can complicate matters even further, and exchange rate fluctuations can affect both pricing strategies and profit margins. Sophisticated currency management systems that lock in rates or offer real-time conversions can provide some degree of predictability here.

B2B payment processing best practices

Here are the strategies that can optimize your B2B payment processing:

  • API-first integrations
    When your payment processing system communicates fluently with your other platforms—whether that’s inventory management, accounting, or customer relationship management (CRM) systems—your job becomes infinitely easier. APIs can transmit real-time data between platforms, making discrepancies rare. And when discrepancies do occur, they’re easier to spot. This keeps your business agile, helps you catch errors quickly, and minimizes the manual work that reconciling mismatched data demands.

  • Real-time compliance monitoring
    Compliance can make or break a B2B operation. Real-time monitoring can flag inconsistencies and issues instantaneously, making it easier to stay compliant and saving you from unpleasant surprises such as legal penalties and other complications.

  • Detailed cost auditing
    When it comes to dissecting transaction costs, transparency is key. Every processing fee, gateway charge, or any other cost associated with payment should be documented carefully. Routine cost auditing allows you to identify where you can negotiate better terms or switch to a more favorable payment setup.

  • Payment terms optimization
    Every business wants to get paid as quickly and easily as possible, but aggressive payment terms can sometimes backfire and cause strain in business relationships. On the other hand, long payment terms could hurt your working capital. Analytics can help you find the sweet spot—perhaps Net 45 instead of Net 30 or Net 60. Using predictive modeling, you can better anticipate how changes in payment terms can impact different aspects of your business, from liquidity to supplier relationships.

  • Automation for reconciliation
    Manual reconciliation can eat up more hours than many businesses can afford. Automated solutions can match invoices to payments received, flagging inconsistencies for review and saving you and your team from time-consuming tedious work.

  • Multicurrency options
    If your business crosses borders, you’ll need to deal with multiple currencies—and exchange rate volatility. Some businesses choose a multicurrency bank account, but there are also specialized currency management systems that allow you to lock in favorable exchange rates for a set period. This can give you predictability in an otherwise volatile setting.

  • Transparency with suppliers and customers
    Transparency creates trust. If suppliers and customers have access to real-time data, they can catch and address issues more quickly. This doesn’t mean revealing your entire playbook, but strategic sharing of payment timelines, processing statuses, and other transaction-related data can go a long way in building resilient relationships.

  • Regular audits
    This involves checking your payment records against bank statements and accounting logs, and flagging any discrepancies. It’s not uncommon for companies to discover they’ve been losing small amounts of money consistently over time due to simple errors—something an automated system won’t necessarily catch.

Focusing on these best practices can help your business elevate its payment processing capabilities, making operations more agile, compliant, and cost-effective. But these aren’t one-off solutions: when done right, they are part of a comprehensive strategy that evolves with your business.

How to accept B2B payments

Before you begin accepting B2B payments, it’s important to conduct an exhaustive evaluation of your business needs. This involves several key elements:

  • Transaction partners
    The first step is identifying who you’re doing business with. Are these small enterprises or massive corporations? This matters because larger corporations often prefer payment methods such as electronic funds transfer (EFT) or Automated Clearing House (ACH), while smaller businesses might prefer credit cards.

  • Preferred payment methods
    Different industries have different payment norms, and understanding these differences can help your business succeed. For example, in the software-as-a-service (SaaS) industry, subscriptions and recurring payments are standard, and these methods require specific capabilities in your payment system.

  • Transaction volume
    The volume and frequency of transactions can influence the choice of payment processing provider, and also the level of automation you’ll need. If you’re processing thousands of transactions per day, automation isn’t just a convenience—it’s a necessity.

  • Cross-border transactions
    If you’re dealing with international partners, then currency conversion, international fees, and compliance with foreign tax laws become immediate concerns. You’ll need a payment processor capable of handling multiple currencies and remittance information.

  • Assessing payment processing options
    Once you’ve got a clear picture of your needs, it’s time to weigh your options for payment processing providers. Here’s what to look for:

    • Features and scalability: While providers like Stripe offer a wide range of features, such as subscription billing and multicurrency support, it might not be a one-size-fits-all. Check if your chosen platform can scale with your needs, especially if your business has high growth potential.
    • Fee structure: Transaction fees are just the tip of the iceberg. Dig deeper to uncover monthly fees, setup fees, and any other hidden charges. This affects your bottom line directly, so it’s worth doing a full cost-benefit analysis.
    • Security and compliance: Data breaches can spell doom for any business. Make sure your chosen provider complies with industry standards for data security—for example, Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliance for credit card transactions.

The process of accepting B2B payments

Once you have chosen your provider and set up your system, you’re ready to start accepting payments. Here’s a closer look at how that works:

  • Invoicing
    The first step in getting paid is an accurate, detailed invoice. Where possible, automate your system so it includes line items, taxes, and additional charges without needing your input. Some payment providers offer dynamic invoicing, which means the invoice updates in real time as elements change. This provides both you and your customer with an up-to-the-minute view of costs.

  • Bookkeeping and accounting
    Once you have received the payment, the transaction details should automatically flow into your accounting software. If you integrate your payment provider and accounting software, this can be automatic. Real-time synchronization can eliminate human errors and save you valuable time, especially at scale.

How does Stripe help businesses process B2B payments?

Despite the B2B payment sector’s massive volume and continuing growth, the infrastructure that supports this sector has often been outdated. Here are the ways Stripe addresses this challenge:

  • Invoicing modernization
    Traditionally, businesses start their accounting processes with paper invoices. This method can lead to errors and uncertainties in revenue forecasts. Stripe has developed online invoices that integrate with a built-in electronic payment system. These invoices adapt to the preferred method and language of businesses and adhere to local regulations.

  • Bank transfers
    Stripe introduced a new version of bank transfers in 2022. This system leverages virtual bank account numbers (VBANs) to ease reconciliation, and simplify refund and return processes. It also syncs well with other systems such as invoicing and subscriptions. Companies that use this feature have reported a decrease in manual intervention in their payment processes. For example, the cofounder of Yorlet—a property management software company—estimated that this new type of bank transfer saves the business 1.5 hours a week due to reduced manual reconciliation.

  • Recurring payments
    Many B2B transactions, such as monthly subscriptions, are recurrent. While many businesses wish to simplify these recurring payments, setting them up with traditional methods requires intricate processes. For instance, before conducting ACH direct debits, businesses have to first verify their customers’ accounts, which can be time-consuming.

  • Stripe Financial Connections
    This feature simplifies the verification process for businesses, allowing them to establish direct online connections with their customers’ bank accounts. More than half of Stripe users prefer using Financial Connections over traditional microdeposits for this purpose.

  • Collaboration and integration
    Stripe works with various companies—including the global communication platform Zoom—to help them process payments via ACH without the wait typically associated with microdeposits, which is a boon for each business and its development teams.

By addressing challenges in the B2B payment sector and providing businesses with tangible solutions, Stripe is creating a more programmable—and profitable—future for B2B payments.

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