In 2015 Forrester predicted the “Death Of A (B2B) Salesman”. The report predicted that 1million B2B sales representatives would lose their jobs between 2012 and 2020. Two years later, they took another look at how business to business (B2B) sales have evolved.
The key factors they identified included B2B buyers wanting to do their own online product research – up by 15% since 2015 – and their continuing preference for online self-service. However, they also highlighted the importance of a highly skilled sales team.
Rob Williams, CEO of Williams Commerce says: “There’s no doubt that the B2B sales role is changing, but in a very positive way. It’s being up-skilled to provide expert product advice and to deliver solutions. This new type of consultative salesperson can seamlessly step into the online sales process when customers need more information and advice. They can complete the process for them or let them continue to place the order themselves. This hybrid approach to B2B sales ticks a lot of boxes for buyers.
“There’s also a lot of basic information processing that can now be dealt with online, taking away the need to speak to an order taker, for example. This means that these employees can focus on more productive activities. The quality of the transaction will also be improved because human errors are reduced.”
Low value, low risk items are low-consideration purchases. The key issues might include price breaks and product availability, for example. For these types of purchases the buying decision is likely to be straightforward. A properly configured ecommerce process with access to previous buying history, preferences and product availability information can probably deliver most or all of the information needed to complete the purchase.
For high-consideration purchases there are likely to be at least three people involved in the decision and the requirements could be very complex. This is where the expert sales partner is going to add real value. Buyers can seamlessly move from self-service to speak with a well-trained and well-informed professional who can help to specify requirements, identify concerns and deliver solutions to their customer’s needs.
Creating value through data
An online ordering portal like Cloudfy can provide full integration with warehousing and enterprise systems to create an end-to-end business solution. That improves customer service and provides useful metrics about how customers behave.
Rob Williams continues: “With the advances in machine learning the website is not only becoming the company’s best new salesperson but also the route to invaluable information about customer preferences, trends and new sales opportunities.
“Your customer service staff, field-based teams and marketing professionals can use this information to create meaningful segments and personalised customer experiences. They can develop sales leads until they are ready to place an order or talk to a salesperson. They can also identify touch points where product information, troubleshooting advice and videos will improve the customer’s journey and highlight be best places for sales professionals to intervene proactively.”
Goodbye to printed catalogues
An ordering system like mSeller provides another step in the digital empowerment of your sales team. Your sales personnel can throw away their printed catalogues and present your product range directly on an iPad. It’s easy to navigate and showcase your special offers and your full product portfolio. Orders can be placed in real time and can link straight to back-office systems like Sage or Navision.
So, as ecommerce streamlines the buying process in some areas, new levels of complexity elsewhere mean that expert salespeople will always be needed. Instead of declining, Carson Conant of US sales engagement specialists, Mediafly, says that
the number of consultative sales representatives could actually grow by 10% by 2020.
If you’re interested in digitally empowering your sales team get in touch today.