It’s time your salespeople faced the facts: eCommerce is not going away, especially in the wholesale sector. In fact, B2B eCommerce sales already surpass consumer eCommerce sales in the U.S. and are expected to grow to $1.13 trillion by 2020, according to Forrester’s forecasts.
If this number isn’t enough to convince your sales staff to embrace eCommerce, remind them that the B2B landscape is changing at a fast pace. Not only is the customer base evolving into a younger demographic of buyers, so is the sales force. These tech-savvy employees grew up in a digital world and want to work in a digital world. Going digital means efficiency for many people, which is something everyone wants – especially on the job. Businesses can’t ignore this technological shift; they have to focus on the needs of their customers, even if that means changing the culture and ideology of their traditional sales force.
Remind you sales force that your online storefront is not designed to take work away from them; it’s there to help make them more efficient, more knowledgeable and more valuable to your buyers. As you build your case for eCommerce adoption, make three requests of sales:
1. Embrace technology
eCommerce, and all the tools that go along with it, simplifies every step of the sales cycle – from developing quotes to following up on order status. Configure-price-quote (CPQ) tools are available with some eCommerce platforms to take the complexity out of wholesale quoting. This high-tech application allows salespeople to create custom quotes quickly and accurately, as well as incorporate multiple configurations and customer-specific pricing.
Another great tool available with eCommerce is a customer portal. While customers appreciate the convenience of having their account information available to them in one reliable place online, sales can also use the portal to stay current with their customers’ orders and account history. If a customer is interested in reordering a product with you, the portal provides the sales rep with product information such as the part number, quantity last ordered, as well as the available inventory. A customer portal offers a wealth of up-to-date information to help sales stay on top of their buyers’ needs and requests.
One of the biggest advantages to eCommerce is the ability to take it with you. With more people doing work outside of the office, mobile shopping has become a must-have for businesses. Sites with a responsive design and a native app ensure buyers have a consistent, user-friendly experience, no matter what type of device they use to shop your site. But sales benefits from mobile, too, because they can reference the latest account information, product data and sales material anywhere, any time. Tablets and smart phones are essential tools for a rep who’s on the move.
2. Evolve your sales strategy
The role of the salesperson has changed. Gone are the days of knocking on doors and manning the phones to find leads, make sales pitches and obtain orders. Reps today must rethink their sales strategy to include a more technological and customer-centric approach. In the modern B2B marketplace, salespeople can still influence buyers’ decisions and shape their experience. Have them shift focus from making a sale to being a consultant who’s seen as a valuable resource for buyers. Take advantage of information available on your site to learn about customer buying trends, new product offerings and industry news. Write company blogs that inform your customers and build trust, and that make your sales staff subject-matter experts. Develop case studies that promote your business, products and services and give your customers a chance to share their success stories.
3. Think like the customer
Now, more than ever, buyers are finding themselves flooded with communications and people wanting their attention. Between e-mails, phone calls and meetings, people are finding it hard to stay ahead. Most of us admit we prefer contacting someone on our terms rather than the other way around. So, instead of sales reps adding to the problem by setting up face-to-face appointments or sending out multiple e-blasts to get attention, have them focus on giving buyers some time back by advocating your website as a reliable source for personalized, comprehensive and relevant information. Make customers aware that your site is a great self-serve option when it comes to researching products, checking order status or placing a quick reorder. Then, be sure they know sales reps are also available to answer questions, suggest custom solutions and assist with orders. The more resources you provide buyers, the more credibility you build. A trusted buyer becomes a loyal, repeat customer and a great advocate for your brand.
Don’t let your sales staff avoid the inevitable. Digital commerce is fast becoming a mainstay of the wholesale distribution market as more and more companies (and salespeople) see the doors it opens and the benefits it brings. From providing a more efficient order management system to improving processes and creating a better buyer experience, eCommerce is a business solution that provides ROI for everyone.