However, the B2B market is radically changing. Increasingly, business buyers prefer shopping and ordering online. And the development of Amazon Business and other innovative B2B ecommerce sites is forcing heretofore successful manufacturers, providers, and vendors to change.
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How can a B2B firm transition into ecommerce? How can it affect its sales staff?
It’s not an either-or scenario. Ecommerce does not eliminate or reduce the need for sales people. It is, rather, a tool that could increase the amount your salespeople can market and increase their ability to compete. Actually, in my experience in implementing B2B sites, I have never seen a company downsize its sales team due to ecommerce.
Integrating Ecommerce with Sales Personnel
Obtaining support for ecommerce from a revenue division depends upon how you approach it and communicate it. Start by explaining how ecommerce can make it easier for sales workers to do their tasks and for your company make more money.
Here are a number of common problems and possible solutions.
Sales commissions. If commissions are a very important part of your group’s compensation, they are jeopardized by online sales. One solution is to give your salespeople bill for sales placed by their accounts online. The ecommerce site becomes a tool where salespeople can take and process orders easier and quicker than before. Furthermore, customers typically enjoy the benefit ordering what they want, when they want it. Together with your company could get more orders through up-selling associated goods while customers are on your site, bringing more commissions to the sales staff.
Efficiency. An ecommerce site make salespeople more efficient. By allowing them to log in, they can:
- Position orders on behalf of customers;
- Give special pricing to customers;
- Assess on inventory and availability;
- See a customer’s order history;
- Check on order status for a customer.
Wigwam Socks is a customer of my company. Wigwam constructed a B2B web portal for its reps, letting them place orders on behalf of customers and check on the status of orders placed via the site and offline. Reps can provide customers with special pricing and conditions throughout the online portalsite, and keep shopping carts for orders that haven’t been put.
Wigwam Socks, a Sheboygan, Wis. manufacturer of high quality socks, has an online portal where sales reps can place orders on behalf of customers.
Wigwam’s sales reps have the ability to appear offline and online order statuses throughout the ecommerce portal.
Simplified quoting. For complex products and for non-public pricing, a website can simplify the quoting process. Allow clients to answer questions which guide them to appropriate products. Show alternatives to clients and allow them to choose what they want. Customers can build their own quote and send it to a salesperson to follow up. Supporting product information and technical specifications can help customers decide, and might also assist reps in the sales process.
Eaton, an energy management provider, allows buyers to customize hydraulic products online. Buyers can then download or print the specifications to share with their distributor.
Communication and lead generation. B2B buyers like the net. But they also enjoy communicating with a real person, even if it isn’t on the telephone. A live chat service on a B2B site can help. It enables clients to have questions answered quickly, in real time.
Another effective method to promote B2B sales reps is with direct grading, wherein you score and monitor a visitor based on her actions on the site. This could be integrated with customer management applications to reveal which prospects or clients are interested in your products, particularly substantial dollar products.
Lead scoring is a part of marketing automation platforms, such as Pardot, Eloqua, and Marketo. These platforms also allow automatic emails from their salespeople to prospects, based on the prospects’ behaviour.
In brief, a B2B ecommerce site can help sales teams, not compete with them. The simple truth is that B2B companies that aren’t using web-based tools to support their sales teams will lose out to rivals that are. Younger buyers and sales people will come to expect the ability to use the web to place orders, look up information, and interact with your company.
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